The only thing I ever wanted to be was a veterinarian. When I was in fifth grade, my favorite Christmas present was a science experiment kit with a microscope. (I’m sure all the chemicals are now illegal because I could blow things up – and did – with a parent’s supervision, of course.) And nothing was safe from being magnified with the accompanying microscope: salt, sugar, lettuce, hair, fiber, skin cells. And blood, which my brothers generously donated for a peek.
We had more than the usual specimens for that microscope as time went on. Moving to what was then a rural area, my brothers worked to help rehabilitate wounded animals. Dad used to say he never knew what he’d see when he opened the garage door each evening. There was a giant turtle with a cracked shell, a raccoon, a red fox, rabbits, and once, in a cage created from the window screens, a slithering mass of snakes.
In high school I was diagnosed with animal dander allergies. All animal dander. I was devastated. The doctor said there was no way a human body could be desensitized to all animal dander at once, so I’d never be able to be a veterinarian. We kept our dog and it took years of shots and drops, but I’m no longer allergic to dogs, cats or rabbits. (My guess is I’m not allergic to any other animal with dander either.)
But I do see the wisdom in choosing another career path. I don’t think I’d do well with owners who didn’t treat their pet with properly. It’s not a good way to keep a client coming back if that pet would run into trouble again.
I became a journalist instead, a great fit for a natural storyteller. It’s a career that inspires my passion in many ways. For years I was able to write a weekly column called View from the Zoo for the Sunday Magazine at the paper where I worked. Once a month I’d be treated to a special behind-the-scenes tour with a zookeeper to learn about the life, social instincts, habitat, gestation period and other interesting tidbits for a month’s worth of columns.
While we always had dogs growing up, I got my first cat, Regan, in college. He was followed by another male, Corrigan, a three-legged diabetic cat. But that’s a story for another day.
– Marylynn G. Hewitt