How to Ensure Your Pet is Taken Care of After You Pass Away

Submitted by Sarah Kessler

The death of a cherished pet affects almost everyone, eventually. Rats, mice, reptiles, dogs, and other animals all age faster than people.

As a pet parent, you may be ready to lose your animals before they end up losing you. But what might happen if you get sick or pass away before your companion?

There are many things you can do to ensure your pet is taken care of after you pass away as a caring pet owner.

The greatest thing you can do for them is to make sure they continue to receive high-quality meals, toys, and endless cuddles. As cherished family members, pets deserve to be cared for in the future.

To help you get started, we’ve included a few ideas below.

Identify an emergency caretaker

Choose at least one, and ideally two or three, trustworthy friends or family members who could look after your animals while you’re away. These aren’t necessarily the ones who will take your pets in as their own forever. Instead, they’ll take care of your animals until they find new, long-term residences. Make sure to select those who are totally capable of handling the task.

As an alternative, the emergency caregiver could care for your pets in your home you while you’re away. They need to reside close by and be able to carve out time in their schedule in case of an emergency.

If something were to happen to you, the emergency pet sitters you select would agree to take care of your animals in an emergency. They should be able to access to your house and have detailed instructions for pet care.

Give them your veterinarian’s name, the best method of payment you have for any planned veterinary care, and any plans you have for finding a permanent home for your animals.

Enlist Your Friends and Family

Invite your friends to make similar arrangements for their pets as you plan for your pets’ care after your passing. Asking a friend to look after your pet temporarily can be made simpler by planning ahead together. In exchange, you can provide the same assistance that they provide to you.

You can make a document outlining each person’s responsibilities for emergency pet care if you’re in a group of three or more friends. It should also indicate any permanent arrangements for your pets, as well as each person’s veterinarian information.

Create a Written Notice

As soon as you’re aware of your emergency carers, make a wallet-sized alert card. Anyone who looks in your wallet will notice the card and know who to call if something were to happen to you.

The same card can also be displayed prominently in your home, such as on your refrigerator.

The names and contact information for your emergency pet caregiver(s) should be included on the emergency notice. Along with the name and contact information of your veterinarian, it should also contain instructions on what to do with your animals right away (such as placing your dog in her kennel with food and water, for example).

Select a Long-Term Residence for Your Pets

You’re in luck if you have a friend or relative you can completely rely on to take care of your pet or dogs. It’s possible that this individual is the same as your emergency caregiver, who looks after your pet right away when you pass away. They might be someone altogether different, such as someone who is too far away to serve as an emergency caregiver.

Consider how the person has interacted with your pets in the past before selecting a permanent caregiver or guardian for your animals. Examine their views on pet care and euthanasia to see if they coincide with your own.

While you can leave instructions for your pet’s care after your passing, you have little influence over the choices that caregivers make after you’re gone. It’s crucial to pick someone who shares your ideals for providing care.

Rehome Pets After You Pass Away

You can offer your temporary caregiver instructions to find your animals’ new owners if you don’t have the ideal person to adopt them permanently.

Finding the ideal home might take weeks or months, which is an added responsibility. If you decide to use this approach, make absolutely sure your emergency caretakers are prepared to go above and above.

As an alternative, you might donate to a “pet retirement home” or animal sanctuary to make sure that they would care for your pet when you pass away.

But first, make sure you visit and believe in the company. Inquire about their pet care practices and what might happen to your pet if the group ran out of money and had to close.

Add Your Pets to Your Will

Together with your friends and family, you can commit in writing or verbally to taking care of each other’s pets in the event of a death. However, until it is stated in your will, nothing is final.

Listing temporary caregivers in your is not required. They’ll have to intervene before anyone has a chance to carry out your instructions. However, you must include the ultimate adopter of your pets, as well as any other bequests you make in your will.

Adopting a Pet from a Deceased Owner

As was already noted, collaborating with friends and family can make drafting a care plan for your pet easier. You might find yourself temporarily or permanently caring for a friend’s animal companion along the way.

To ensure that you and the pet’s owner are on the same page regarding the pet’s care, you should have a lengthy conversation. If the person passes away before you get the chance to inquire about the pet and how to care for them, you will have to make your best effort.

Sarah Kessler is a writer at, an end-of-life planning website with free resources and information on how to estate plan and honor loved ones’ final wishes.

Stop. Let’s talk about communication within our profession.

Submitted by Shyla Heagy, RVT

There are somethings you should consider before you communicate with someone in the veterinary community. We communicate daily at work and in our personal lives. How you communicate in your personal life and in your profession can be very different but should be treated the same. There is a level of professionalism required when communicating within our profession. You must be mindful of the professional/private friendships that form and when and what is appropriate to discuss within work life matters. Those friendships that are with colleagues can seem to form a grey area around where to draw the line. So do not consider it a grey area at all, being a part of the veterinary community, we are professionals. Even when we are not at work or not speaking with a fellow veterinary team member, we should be upholding professional communication that is courteous and we should avoid being slanderous. Our personal behavior does reflect on who we are professionally as well as it effects the public’s perception of the veterinary community. The SVMA and SAVT hold its members to a high standard of professionalism, compassion, and good character. This is reiterated in the Bylaws, which should be read and understood before considering entering the profession to strive towards maintaining a high level of excellence. Following the Bylaws allows its members to be united and more consistent in how they conduct themselves.

In our Bylaws and Veterinarians Act of 1867 there is a standard in which we are to treat others in the veterinary community and how we are to uphold the professionalism for the good of our associations. We need to be able to communicate within our profession for the good of the animals. This is stated in the following Bylaw Section 12.3 h) Members shall communicate with each other to ensure health and welfare of any animal or group of animals. When communicating concerns in a professional manner there are a few things to consider. Are you speaking to the appropriate person about the matter and is your context professional? If there is conflict you should consult with an employer, supervisor, manager, or someone with the SAVT or SVMA to see if the issues can be resolved. They can guide you to the proper proceedings and offer you an outside view. If it is about another clinic do not contact them directly, speak to the SVMA. If something is bothering, you do not publicly or privately contact people about conflict because it can be received negatively. Many things can be taken out of context, if you feel you need to speak to someone there are options for counselling services available through our association. You can speak about your thoughts and issues without it being made public because it would confidential. Practice Standards Section 5g F: Members individually and collectively, shall uphold the integrity of the veterinary profession and must maintain the trust of their clients and society through exemplary standards of clinical practice and conduct including competence, accountability, honesty, fairness, compassion, and confidentiality.

With social media being so prevalent it is easy to make communication unprofessional. Social media can aid in helping you professionally with your business and the profession. It can also cause a lot of upset and be used inappropriately without thinking of the consequences. It can be used to showcase your staff, represent your clinic, educate the public, familiarize the public to the roles of the people in the veterinary profession and make people aware of the services available. These would all be considered appropriate and professional uses for social media if done right. There are many risks and consequences of unprofessional communication in a public forum.

A written complaint can be submitted against you to the SVMA through the Professional Conduct Committee. If the Professional Conduct Committee thinks the complaint is unsubstantiated then it is dissolved and there is no further investigation with the complaint. However, if they find the complaint to have validity, this complaint must be sent to the accused member themselves. That member has the right to respond to the complaint, this is when the member can give a written explanation and submit any other documents about the complaint. If the Professional Conduct Committee finds just cause for the complaint it allows the process to continue. The Professional Conduct Committee will review the complaint and investigate it as they see fit.  The Professional Conduct Committee uses The Veterinarians Act 1987, the SVMA Bylaws and Practice Standards to guide them with the complaint. If the matter can be settled by the Professional Conduct Committee, with the Alternate Dispute Resolution process, then the accused member is not sent to the Disciplinary Committee. If both parties do not agree, then the case is sent to Disciplinary Committee which either investigates, dismisses the case, or forwards the case to the Disciplinary Committee. The case goes to Disciplinary Committee hearing in which the final decisions are made. If the member is found guilty of professional misconduct or incompetence, there are several consequences that can happen to the member.

Depending on the severity of the complaint the member is disciplined in a variety of ways:

• The member may have to take certain classes or courses related to the reason they are being disciplined

• The Disciplinary Committee can also make any other order that they find appropriate such as writing an article on the matter

• Limitations in what they can do and how they must do it, but can continue to practice

• Receive medical treatment

• Suspension for a certain amount of time

• Fines at the discretion of the Disciplinary Committee

• License revoked

In conclusion if you need to communicate with someone in the veterinary community, take a step back and think first especially if you are upset. Think about how you can professionally deal with the situation.  Talk to someone who is nonbiased and reach out if you need to. Talk to a counselor or someone that works with the SAVT or SVMA someone that would keep it confidential. Use the counselling services the association offers us that’s what it’s there for! We all chose this profession for a reason, and we have that in common, we should always be working together to become stronger. It should be that we are building each other up not tearing each other down. We all know mental health is of high concern in veterinary medicine. We are here to serve animals and their welfare. This can take a toll on people in this field, so be kind to one another use the care and compassion we joined this profession in the first place with to help animals.  

The Power of Prebiotics

Maintaining a healthy digestive system can be particularly challenging when it comes to our canine companions. Dogs engage with most things using their mouths, and unfortunately this means that even the most well-mannered pets can be exposed to unexpected digestive disturbances.

A balanced digestive system is a central part of canine health, and this relies heavily on the healthy flora that reside within the gastrointestinal tract. This normal, healthy flora plays an important role in good digestive function, helping dogs to get more from their meals and developing a stronger, more resilient gastrointestinal system.

Just as your dog requires a healthy diet, the healthy flora that reside in the gut also need a source of sustenance to grow and flourish. MSPeubiotic® is unique in its ability to resist breakdown through the digestive system, travelling all the way through to the hind gut where it is fermented by the flora that reside there.

This natural source of pure prebiotics doesn’t contain any preservatives or additives, and can be given to dogs of all breeds, ages and sizes. Adding MSPeubiotic® to your dog’s diet is a simple, convenient solution that can help…

  • BALANCE GUT FLORA: Maintain an abundance of healthy flora and improve overall gut health.
  • BETTER NUTRIENT UPTAKE: Enhance the absorption of vitamins, minerals and nutrients from the diet.
  • REDUCE ODOR AND FLATULENCE: Improve fecal consistency and reduce fecal odor and flatulence.
  • HEALTHY SKIN & SHINY COAT: Improve the condition and quality of the skin and coat.
  • SUPPORT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM: Support healthy immune function and help dogs recover from illness faster.


The world is a big place for your youngest patients, who may also be your most adventurous and mischievous! Puppies and kittens frequently get themselves into a world of tummy troubles and require extra support. The challenge is that these patients also have unique needs based on their age.

Did you know that growing pets go through what is termed an “immunity gap” between 4-12 weeks of age? This is a vulnerability window when maternal immunity starts to fade, but self-made antibodies are not fully protective yet. Every chance we get to support rapid immune development is a chance to ensure a healthy pet!

What if you could offer these patients the following, with one simple solution?

  • Healthy growth via a high energy formula with specific nutrient levels
  • Appetizing textures including rehydratable kibble, to help with hydration and weaning when needed
  • Immunity support through special nutrients such as beta glucans
  • Microbiome support to promote a healthy digestive tract

NOW YOU CAN, with the FIRST and ONLY Gastrointestinal diets formulated specifically for puppies and kittens. Available in both kibble and canned formats!

Submitted by Erin Hendrickson, RVT

Top 5 Tips for Holiday-Proofing the RVT

Submitted by Shannon McCallion, RVT & SAVT Financial Officer

Typically, at this time of the year, we are inundated with blogs and posts about holiday-proofing for our pets.   They, unfortunately, are necessary; we are all familiar with the “He got into the chocolate/turkey/cookies/garbage” or the “she looked so cute playing with the tinsel/ribbon/ornament” preceding the emergency apomorphine and charcoal treatment or the emergency surgery.   So, here is another list, with a twist – I’m calling it the TOP 5 TIPS FOR HOLIDAY-PROOFING THE RVT. 

  1. Let’s just start with the obvious one.  Chocolate.  “I can resist anything except temptation”.  Mr. Wilde must have been talking about a veterinary clinic around December -it is everywhere!  All those ‘just a little something to say thanks’ baking and treats from clients and vendors just keep coming!  There is chocolate everywhere you turn.   Even the staunchest ‘you can never have too much chocolate’ lover can get sick this time of year.  The toxic dosage of theobromine for humans is 1,000mg/kg of body weight, but ingest sufficient amounts of cocoa and you may find yourself with sweating, trembling and severe headaches, while all that fat and sugar can lead to diarrhea, weight gain and tears.  Try to eat at least one balanced meal a day.  And no, that doesn’t mean chocolate in both hands!  And while chocolate comes from cacao, a tree, making it plant material, it does not qualify as a salad.
  2. Inclement Weather.  While you are not likely to be going on many road trips during this pandemic, even a short errand run can be hazardous if you aren’t properly prepared.  Everyone in the vehicle should be dressed for the weather.  Wear your boots, even if they make you walk funny.  Put winter tires on the vehicle, keep the gas tank full, and carry an emergency kit that includes water.  It’s important to hydrate before you go outside; eating snow never provides enough hydration, and there is always the risk of the hidden yellow stuff! 
  3. Physical Exercise.  One of the easiest things to do to stay healthy this holiday season is to take a daily walk.  It helps to reduce stress, digest food and promote peristalsis, burn off extra calories and it gives you an excuse to get out of the house without breaking the social distancing rules or the wallet.  Or try tobogganing, skating or cross-country skiing.  And the mask helps to keep your nostrils from freezing together!
  4. Stress.  The ‘happiest time of the year’ paradoxically, can be the most stressful.  While the pandemic reduces the number of social events to attend and restricts the number of people invading your territory, even the presence of your family can get to be too much when it is constant.  Add the pressures of decorating, baking, shopping for presents and connecting with family, all while social distancing and it’s understandable that you might want to slink away and hide.  Make sure you have a quiet place to retreat to for a bit, just for you.  If all else fails, lock yourself in the car with some of that chocolate and tell your family you are checking the theobromine content in case of a toxic overdose!
  5. FUN.  Probably the single most important thing to remember this season, and where we can truly learn from our furry, four-legged family members, it that there is ALWAYS time for fun.  And anything can be fun and provide joy if you approach it with an open heart and endless curiosity.  So, take a cue from the smartest family members: stick your head out the car window and embrace the weather, say a happy hello to everyone you pass, roll around in the snow for a while, then curl up in the warm spot with your favourite people and give yourself a well-deserved treat.  The true spirit of the holiday season is found in our relationships and the time spent with those we truly love.
Shannon McCallion, RVT

The Scenic Route Still Ends Up In The Right Place

Submitted by Daniel O’Hara, Second Year VT Student at Sask Polytechnic

Like a number of people who become RVTs, my initial dreams and aspirations when I was younger were to become a veterinarian. The thought of become a tech never crossed my mind at first, and so I explored some other career paths when the length of schooling to become a vet discouraged me from taking that route. Nothing I tried felt like the right fit however, and I started to consider becoming a vet tech as an option when going back to the drawing board.

Even at the point where I initially toyed with the idea, I didn’t fully understand the role of an RVT in practice. As I started to look into it more, it was enough to make my decision to pursue becoming an RVT a concrete one. Doing my volunteer hours to prepare for school, school itself, and working as a Tech Assistant on the weekends have all reaffirmed that decision as the right one to make and given me a new level of respect for all of the RVTs out there. Until the last couple of years I hadn’t realized how much they truly form the backbone of veterinary medicine.

Coming back to school again as a mature student with post-secondary experience has felt like a boon to this point in my education. Although in a way I feel as though I wasted the years before applying to the Veterinary Technology program, it also has given me a solid foundation to work from. I came into the program knowing how I learn best, how I need to study, and with a hunger to succeed that I hadn’t previously felt. The program has still been a challenge and there’s more to come yet, but I appreciate rather than regret the time it took me to start on this path.

The farther along I get in the process of completing my education, the more my time in practice and on the board of the SAVT makes me proud to have chosen to join the ranks of this profession. There’s a plethora of experienced RVTs on the board and in the province that are more than happy to share tips and tricks they’ve learned over the years and answer questions students and recent grads have. The SAVT has also shown lots of support for students throughout the chaos Covid-19 has caused with our education. It’s encouraging to have those reminders that as students we’re a welcome and wanted addition to industry in the future.

Despite the challenge of the program, and the extra challenges that the current pandemic has added on to an already difficult program, I couldn’t be happier with my choice to go down the path of becoming an RVT. I’m excited to continue forward, especially with practicums coming up in the new year. Looking ahead, I’m excited to get the chance to do more in a clinic setting and the opportunities for further learning and improvement that come along with that. It finally feels as though we’re more or less in the home stretch of the program, and I’m excited to see what the future holds after graduation and the VTNE.

Pictured above is Daniel O’Hara

Kudos Goes To..

The SAVT is excited to launch our Kudos Program! This program allows anyone (RVT, DVM, Manager, vet team member, or the public) to submit a kudos to be shared with them and the veterinary community. These kudos can be thank yous or celebrations for something that has been done or accomplished by that individual. These thank yous and celebrations do not have to be veterinary related if there is something that they’ve contributed to in the clinic or the community that you think should be recognized. The Kudos Program is an opportunity to recognize the hard work and dedication of veterinary professionals in Saskatchewan. There is no maximum to the number of kudos that you can submit however they may not be released and shared all at once.

Below are the kudos from the last month!

Kudos goes to Lauren McLoughlin, RVT from Shelby Riess, RVT. “Lauren and I went to tech school together & have been inseparable ever since. After graduation Lauren & I both got a job at the same veterinary clinic, we both eventually went on our own way to separate clinics. When a position opened up at Lakewood Animal Hospital she was the first person that popped into my mind as I knew she’d be a great asset to our team. Lauren is so compassionate, caring and knowledgeable. She goes above and beyond everyday for her patients. Lauren a great leader and mentor. We are so lucky to have her apart of our LAH family.”

Kudos to Charlotte Timoshuk, RVT from Dr. Charlotte Williams from Hooves and Paws Veterinary Clinic. “Charlotte Timoshuk has worked in practice 15 years as a technician. She answers the phone perfectly, remembers everybody?s name and does excellent work in everything we ask her to do . Recently we have new technicians? in training in our office she shown us she does not mind sharing her knowledge and experience with others. We have celebrated with her privately but want everyone to know how much she is valued and appreciated.”

Kudos goes to Mackenzie Ripplinger, RVT from Dr. Barbara Eatock. “Mackenzie is a new technician who has amazing technical skills already. She is smart and eager to learn. She has been a great addition to our clinic!”

Kudos goes to Jennifer Ford, RVT from Wascana Animal Hospital. “Jenn is a fantastic ambassador for what a Registered Vet Tech should aspire to! She not only has amazing technical skills, but has wonderful communication abilities with our clients and other team members. Jenn is a team player, a very hard worker and a joy to work with. Especially during the challenging times of COVID, she continued to exemplify dedication to her role. We love her and are so blessed to have her as part of our work family!”

Kudos Goes To..

The SAVT is excited to launch our Kudos Program! This program allows anyone (RVT, DVM, Manager, vet team member, or the public) to submit a kudos to be shared with them and the veterinary community. These kudos can be thank yous or celebrations for something that has been done or accomplished by that individual. These thank yous and celebrations do not have to be veterinary related if there is something that they’ve contributed to in the clinic or the community that you think should be recognized. The Kudos Program is an opportunity to recognize the hard work and dedication of veterinary professionals in Saskatchewan. There is no maximum to the number of kudos that you can submit however they may not be released and shared all at once.

Below are the kudos from the last month!

Kudos goes to Brittany Hunt, VT from Janine Kernaleguen, RVT VPM, both from Gateway Veterinary Services in Melfort, SK. “Brittany has been an important part of our care team since she came to us 4 years ago. She has the unique ability to step in and help in many areas to handle billing, inventory, front desk, large animal herd programs, reminders, client communications, take histories, restrain patients and support our technical team. She is a trusted face to our clients and never backs down from a challenge. Having her on our team has been essential to us working through the ups and downs of inventory changes and fluctuations these past 2 years as it has not always been easy. Thank you Brittany for everything you do for our team!”

Kudos goes to all the RVTs at VCA Central Animal Hospital from Kenzie Makowsky, RVT! “The RVTs and support staff at VCA Central Animal Hospital are amazing! Every time I visit with my fosters, or my own cat, they go above and beyond to make us feel welcome and well taken care of. They are such a fun, friendly and knowledgeable group. You can clearly see that they are true animal lovers by the way they still get so excited to see all the baby cats! Most notably, they have done an amazing job in keeping things running smoothly during these difficult COVID appointment times. This can’t be easy and they deserve huge credit. Thanks for always being so nice to us.”

Kudos goes to Crystal Wintonyuk, RVT, from Dr. Tracy Fisher. “Crystal is amazing! She does so much for the clinic and the other staff. An amazing leader and highly skilled RVT! Words are not enough!”

Kudos goes to Leigh Luker, RVT from Dr. Melissa Smith. “Leigh will be celebrating her 20 year anniversary of employment at Bellamy Harrison Animal Hospital in December 2020. She is a ‘veteran’ of life in the trenches in general practise and has helped mentor numerous vet students, technician students, high school volunteers and new grads over the years. She has enjoyed caring for many pets and family members over their lifetimes. Her experience and dedication make her a valuable part of our team. We wish to extend congratulations to Leigh on this momentous occasion and thank her for her grit, tenacity and hard work.”

Pizza Oven

Submitted by Darlene Ford, RVT, RVTTC Director

It was a difficult decision deciding on this topic. Something I am passionate about of course. People, animals, travel, art, the outdoors? In the end it was the journey of making the best Italian pizza in Dixon, Saskatchewan.

8 years ago my family—husband and two sons, then 16 and 13—travelled for nineteen days on our own in Italy. We really only had one mishap: in Naples waiting for the 1:41pm train in the station on platform three. At 1:38pm a train arrived. Being from Saskatchewan we all thought “Oh, look it’s a few minutes early.” Having only STC buses in our travelling past that could have a twenty-minute variation in arrival time it seemed a safe bet to embark on this offering. We board the train and are happily discussing amongst ourselves how excited we are to be going to Sorrento and Pompeii. Another passenger on the train, and you are now going to think I am making this up for dramatic effect but I swear it to be truth. A man in a trench coat and fedora (I swear!) looked at us and said “No Sorrento.” Four pairs of eyes widen. What? This train doesn’t go to Sorrento? Again, “No Sorrento,” also no English. He pointed to the route map on the train wall and we realize we have boarded the wrong train. At this point I must say that our Italian was also frighteningly close to zero as well. With the kindness and help of a young man and only words none of us understood we made it on the correct train and on our way to Sorrento where we truly fell in love with pizza.

The pizza in Italy varies substantially from north to south. The southern variety has a thin crust with big charred bubbles on the edges. Very few toppings. It is chewy and has some crunch at the same time. It is delightful. We came home wanting more.

After talking about it for years, three years ago we hired a potter and kiln building friend to make us a wood fired pizza oven in our yard on the farm. Our oven has a stone base so an iron frame needed to be welded to support the weight of the rock plus the oven. It took just over two weeks to complete the actual building of the oven portion. The structure itself is a beautiful addition to the yard even when not being used.

The first fire in the oven has to be slow and long to cure the mortar. Five hours later we cooked the first pizza. The oven was so hot (well over 1000 degrees) that in 45 seconds it was charred and pretty much inedible. How the fire is burnt and maintained is very important. We have discovered (after much trial and error) that 900 degrees is best. At that temperature it takes approximately 90 seconds to cook a pizza and the crust is a perfect emulation of that Sorrento goodness. This brings me to the next very important element: the crust. It is critical to a good pizza and again after trying numerous doughs I have discovered that buying OO flour imported from Italy (of course, they knew all along!) Slow fermenting the dough refrigerated overnight gives the most authentic bubbly crust. I have yet to perfect the dough throwing in the air to shape it technique but I continue to practice. Maybe one day!

It has taken us almost a decade. Yet on summer evenings with friends gathered, music, eating, drinking and enjoying life in general the pizza of our memories crosses the pond and nestles into our little Saskatchewan farm. The journey has been a grand one and very much worth the effort.

Piggy Tales

Submitted by Jennifer Epp, RVT & SAVT Past President

Pictured is Jennifer Epp, RVT and her children.

As a child, growing up on a dairy farm, my dream was not unlike many other little girls, I was going to be a Veterinarian!  I remember following my dad and the herd health Veterinarian around, watching, learning, and helping with whatever I could, and if I was lucky enough to go with, to watch one of our cows get an LDA (Left Displaced Abomasum) Surgery.  Upon graduation from High School, that was the plan!  I did not enter University, and chose to take a year, which turned into two, before returning to school.

During my second year, post high school, my Mom told me about the Animal Health Technology Program.  This was in the late fall of 1991, and I truthfully had NO IDEA what she was talking about!  I had never heard of this program before, nor did I know of anyone who had ever gone through it!  As I’m sure many of you will agree, as a young adult, we NEVER think our Mother’s could be right about something!!  So to appease her, I contacted SIAST, and sure enough the course existed!

Next step – application!  Back then, you mailed everything and had to wait, and wait, and wait for a response!  I was so excited about my potential career, and when the long awaited letter arrived, I was placed on a Waiting List!  Talk about disappointment!  I still continued on, earning my volunteer hours at the vet clinic, and dreaming, and waiting anxiously for a spot to open up!  In July, I started calling weekly, to see if by chance I had gotten in, finally (maybe they got tired of me calling), in the middle of August I received word I was accepted!

The fall of 1992, I started the course – and really was unprepared for all of the work ahead!  I studied hard – and in 1994, I was chosen to be the Distinguished Graduate of the Animal Health Technology Program, and I received the SAHTA Bursary.  This led to my first term on the SAHTA Board of Directors, where I served for 5 years!

After graduation, like most of us do, I started work in a Veterinary Clinic with grand illusions that I would be utilized as the newly graduated Animal Health Technologist that I was.  That I would do blood work, assist in surgery’s, etc, etc, etc.  You have to remember, that back in 1994, the Veterinary profession was very male dominated – and sadly I was often seen as more of an assistant, rather than an AHT.  It was not uncommon for two of the Veterinarians to be doing regular surgeries together, and I was left doing laundry, cleaning kennels, etc.  So after only 4 months of working as an AHT, I decided I was going to go back to University, become a Veterinarian, and then I would graduate, have my own clinic, and treat my future AHT employees with the respect they so deserved!

Well fate so to say, had different plans!  Shortly after I made my decision to return to school, I met a young cattle farmer at the vet clinic, who I started to date.  I did return to University, however after only a month I left!  Sometimes I think that if I had not met him, I might have stuck it out longer, however, every person I turned to for advice  – advisors in the Department of Agriculture, and at the Vet College – all kept saying the same thing “You won’t get in, you will never make it.”  And my emotional and mental health all believed them, so I dropped out of university, and less than a year later I married that cattle farmer.

Through our early years – I did work at a vet clinic – and then was fired “for speaking my opinion on a course of treatment.”  After this I worked various jobs – not related to my field of education, before ending up at Western Canadian Beef, where I started out as a Meat Inspector, and then moved on to work in the lab doing Quality Control.  Both of these utilized many of the skills I had learned – and the lab work especially was very fulfilling, and then one day I found out I was pregnant, and after my maternity leave, I did not return to work for several years.

Together with my husband, we welcomed 3 beautiful children – and I was blessed to be able to stay at home, helping with the purebred Charolais cattle we raised.  It may not have been glorious, but being able to work outside – teaching my children how animals should be raised, treated and cared for, is nothing I regret!  Many of you will remember the fateful events of 2003 when BSE hit!  Suddenly our livelihood was worth nothing!  And in the spring of 2004, it became evident I would need to return to work to help subsidize the farm, but more importantly to feed and clothe our children.

I sent off my resume to Big Sky Farms, which was a hog barn 50 km away from our farm.  Within a week, I had an interview, and was hired part time, to work in the farrowing department in a 6,000 sow barn. This was a commercial herd – so all animals were basically destined to be bacon!  After about 4 months, I transferred to the nursery barns – which was 4 barns on one site, housing roughly 24,000 weanlings.  Again I was only part time, as my baby was only 1 1/2 years old, and I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my children.  After about a year – I started working full time at the nursery barn, and within a few months was promoted to the Nursery Manager.  Never in my wildest dreams growing up, did I imagine that I would be working with pigs, let alone managing a barn!  After 2 years of managing the Nursery Unit, an opportunity came up to manage the Sow herd – so I jumped at it!  I now had a responsibility of managing a herd of 6,000 sows, and leading a staff of 22 people!  I will never forget the words of my first production manager, he said “If all you had to do was look after the pigs, your job would be easy, it is the people that give you the problems.”  And right he was!  The pigs, most of their issues can be fixed with proper ventilation, feed, water and the occasional veterinary care, things are pretty simple!  The staff on the other hand, that is a whole other story!

Here is a little known fact for you, when I was in 4-H, I was on the provincial judging team that went to Agribition, and it was for judging pigs!  I used to be teased about this amongst the dairy kids, but I used to say that underneath all of the extra skin of that pig, is the same frame that we want in our dairy cows!  To this day, I still look at my sows and think of them like my dairy cows – if they don’t have a good set of feet and legs, properly positioned underneath, how can I expect her to perform!

I digress, I managed the farrowing barn down south until July of 2012,  At the time, my husband had left over 1 1/2 years earlier, and I was still living on the farm with my in-laws up until this point.  It was a very tricky situation – and mid July of 2012, my employment with Big Sky ended.  Shortly after we had the auction where we sold all of the farm equipment, and the cattle had all been sold the previous year.  This now allowed me to look for employment elsewhere, and start a new life for my children and I.

I sent in an application to Fast Genetics.  I knew they were a purebred pig company, but was not really sure where they were!  The day after my interview, I was offered the job – but before making this life changing decision, the kids and I drove up to Spiritwood, to check out the town, and see if it was some place we might like to live!  That first trip, we even managed to squeeze in looking at a few houses – and all felt that yes, this was a beautiful place that we might like to try out.  Long story short, within a time frame of 6 weeks from leaving my previous job, we packed up what had been my life for 17 years, a house was bought, and we moved 500 km away!

For the past 8 years, I have managed a “daughter” nucleus unit.  We breed, farrow, and sell purebred gilts to customers across North America.  The barn I manage now, is only 1,200 sows – however, the degree of detail that is needed daily is sometimes unbelievable!  At birth, every piglet is weighed, teats are counted (yes even the males), they are tagged with a distinct numerical ID, that is entered into a database where everything can be tracked.  Prior to this, every sow is selected to be bred to a specific boar, so that her offspring can reach the best genetic potential possible.  In July of 2015, the majority of the shares were purchased by a company out of Texas called Sexing Technologies.  They are well known in the cattle world for producing sex sorted semen – so that you can choose the offspring you prefer.  This however, has never been done in the pig world at all!  We are on the cutting edge of technology, and it is truly exciting to see how the company has grown, and achieved mini milestones along the way.

I guess what I am trying to say is don’t overlook any potential career opportunities.  As that little girl growing up, I thought I knew what I would do!  Never, did I imagine, that I would work with pigs, let alone manage a barn!  I will leave you all with a quote – it is a wall hanging that I purchased the day after the farm auction, I was at a very low point!  Every day after, I would look at it and “Believe!”

Believe.  Life is too short to wake up with regrets, so love the people who treat you right and forget the ones that don’t.  If you get a chance, TAKE IT!  If it changes your life, let it!  Believe Everything Happens for a Reason!

This hangs in Jennifer’s home!