PAWS Magazine


Issue 46, Summer 2000


Wildlife Vet intern

by Dr. Sophia Papageorgiou

I had the honor of being the first PAWS Wildlife Veterinary Intern, and hope we’ve all started a tradition for a worthy position here at PAWS. At the close of my internship I have a moment to reflect on the past one year and three weeks that I spent ‘living’ at the center. For someone who has wanted nothing more than the honor to be a zoo and wildlife veterinarian and care for wild animals, this year has fulfilled a lifelong dream, and assisted in launching my continued career in wildlife veterinary medicine.

June 1999 saw me giving bear cubs ringworm baths dodging Animal Planet cameramen, and treating bumble lesions in Red-tailed Hawks. It was an intense way to begin my internship. The most phenomenal experience was performing my first anesthetic procedure on a Bald Eagle. The days were long, tempered, gratefully, by the lengthy daylight hours here in the Northwest.

Dr. Huckabee mentored me, yet allowed me to contribute, ‘spread my wings’ so to speak, to the cases that presented at the wildlife center over the year. I was allowed to use treatment protocols from my recent small animal internship to treat some of the wildlife patients. The past year was marked by cases with a variety of successes and less exalted outcomes, but I always learned with each animal for which I cared. Dr. DeGhetto returned in April and with Dr. Huckabee continued teaching and mentoring me for the remainder of my time here. Together they make a great team to teach wildlife medicine to young veterinarians pursuing this specialty and I was fortunate to learn from them both.

Releasing animals provided the tonic for persevering during difficult cases and many of the overwhelming days at the wildlife center. Memorable release moments included rounding up Black-tailed deer and releasing them west of Olympia, applying the radio transmitter and releasing the Bald Eagle near the Skagit in December. And no release experience is complete without a 31-hour drive to California to release two black bear cubs! Participating in animal releases gave me the greatest feeling of accomplishment—it’s simply unexplainable.

When time permitted I enjoyed organizing and presenting training sessions for the staff as well as on-the-job training for them. The training proved fruitful, as staff was able to more effectively assist during emergency procedures on numerous occasions. I also worked closely with the veterinary students that came to PAWS for intensive training in wildlife medicine. The opportunity to teach opened a new venue in my veterinary career and I grew professionally, realizing I was capable of training and teaching.

It was a great feeling working in a facility where a great number of the staff share common goals for conservation, wildlife rehabilitation and habitat preservation. PAWS provided a good foundation for us to pursue and implement these goals. It took a bit of time, but I also got to know some of the volunteers and enjoyed working with some of them during their very generous time spent at the center.

It is very difficult to eloquently express what this internship has meant to me. I have accomplished a great deal this past year which includes: learning intensely about wildlife veterinary medicine, teaching staff to enable them to perform their responsibilities more effectively, making great new friends with common interests, and living and exploring in a beautiful area of our country.

I want to sincerely thank Drs. Huckabee and DeGhetto for all their patience teaching me wildlife veterinary medicine and treating me like a colleague this past year. And a special thank you to the staff members who taught me a great deal about natural history of passerines and seabirds that expanded my knowledge in natural history of these animal families. My wish for the next intern is that she will enjoy the intensity of the work as much as I did and learn even more.

I say farewell but not good-bye, and wish all at PAWS fun and success in the extensive animal saving endeavors undertaken every day. PAWS Wildlife Center will hold a special place in my hear complete with all the joy, laughter, sad moments, thrilling accomplishments (did someone say common goldeneye?), successes and a sense of belonging that I experienced this past year.

Sophia Papageorgiou, DVM

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