Long and winding road leads to veterinarian’s practice

  • Tuesday, February 26, 2013

As a 17-year-old boy I exited Auburn University’s College of Agriculture perplexed and confused. I had just informed the Dean with excitement in my voice and conviction that he too would be excited for me, that I wanted to be a farmer. He responded with two questions. “Is your dad a farmer?” “No,” I said. “Do you plan to marry a woman whose dad is a farmer?” “I don’t know,” I said slowly. “Well then you aren’t going to be a farmer.”

It is strange how someone you have just met can crush you with only a few simple words. God had a different plan for me and the Dean at Auburn knew it. I remember walking down the endless concrete steps that led out of his office and saying to myself, “Now what?”

Growing up in the suburbs of Augusta, Ga., I found my way out to the country every time I could. I occasionally spent time with Dr. Justin Butler on his father’s dairy farm in Saluda. This outdoor life spent with animals was inspiring and adventurous. So as a teenager I found my way into training horses. It was those days out in the field on the back of a strong and often wild beast we call horse, that confirmed my desire to be outside and with animals.

After returning to Augusta from my visit with the Dean, I spent some time with an equine veterinarian, Dr. Haden, in the race town of Aiken. It was incredible what this vet was able to do with these athletes. Dr. Haden could watch a lame horse trot and identify what leg and joint was painful. Then he could pass a tube up a horse’s nose and draw fluid out of its stomach.

It was just incredible. I wanted to do it too.

This experience led to working with Dr. Dick Gayle in a small animal practice, I was blown away by his ability to evaluate a dog that had been vomiting and find a sock in the intestine. Then he would perform surgery, remove the sock and the dog was like new again. I knew I could do this too.

It was clear, I wanted to be a vet. In 1998, I was accepted to Auburn University’s College of Veterinary medicine. I was certain that four years later I would be in Kentucky working on famous race horses.

Once again I was wrong.

Clinical rotations started my third year and it was dogs and cats of which I couldn’t get enough. From emergencies to surgery to oncology and ophthalmology, I loved every minute of it. There was something amazing about seeing the joy that people got from their furry family members. I now had the ability to heal that family member and it was exhilarating.

So here I am, waking up each day excited about going to work. Excited about healing pets. Excited about seeing the joy that these pets bring their owners.

(Dr. Jay Goldsmith is a veterinarian and owner of Park West Veterinary Associates, a Mount Pleasant veterinary hospital.)

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