Helmut Schmidt, Published December 02 2011
NDSU teams up with rescue groups to offer collaborative care for critters
Ydstie spent part of her Friday morning in a North Dakota State University surgical suite, neutering a fluffy golden tan and white male tabby, anesthetized and sprawled out on an operating table, still sleeping off the loss of his tomhood.
With the success of the operation, the second-year vet tech student was one step closer to getting a bachelor’s degree, and the tom – a shelter rescue – was a step closer to finding a new home.
“I think it’s fun. I love every experience,” Ydstie said. “I think it’s awesome that we can help control the pet population.”
Ydstie and the kitty are part of the NDSU Veterinary Technology program’s partnership with two Fargo-Moorhead animal rescue groups: 4 Luv of Dog Rescue and Cat’s Cradle Shelter Inc., (an offshoot of Minn-Kota PAAWS).
The rescue groups pluck stray or abandoned cats or dogs from area pounds and then bring the furry orphans to NDSU for checkups, vaccinations, neutering and spaying, minor medical care, implanting identification microchips, and short-term housing.
In the two years 4 Luv of Dog Rescue has worked with NDSU, the group has saved money and sheltered more dogs, said founder Kish Hilmert, who is also an NDSU vet tech alumna.
“Having the extra amount of space, it’s invaluable,” she said “Every week, there are more dogs in the pound. If we don’t have to pay a daily boarding fee, it’s very, very helpful. It’s really beneficial for the dogs, the community and the students.”
Similarly, Carol Stefonek of Cats Cradle Shelter said the vet tech program is the cat’s meow.
“I just can’t tell you how happy we are” since Cat’s Cradle started working with NDSU this fall, Stefonek said.
The cats get in-depth care thanks to the diagnostic equipment, laboratories and X-ray machines available at NDSU.
That care becomes an “NDSU stamp of approval” and makes the animals more desirable for adoption, Stefonek said.
From NDSU’s perspective, the wide range of animals brought in by the rescue groups provides a more “real-world” learning experience for the students as they go through their clinical practicum classes.
Charlie Stoltenow is the NDSU Extension veterinarian and director of the program, and Sarah Wagner is the program’s chief veterinarian. With three veterinary technologists, they shepherd 56 sophomores and juniors through the four-year program.
Both say the program is a “win-win” for the university and the rescue groups.
“One of the strengths of the program is the hands on. … They (students) love it,” Stoltenow said. “By the time they come out of here, they do (various procedures) over and over and over.”
The rescue groups pay the costs of any medical care, he said.
Unlike the docile beagles NDSU used to breed to help students hone their skills, these animals come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments.
“Some of our students are 95 pounds, and they have to handle a 95-pound dog,” Stoltenow said.
Jenny Hieb was learning just that.
Sitting on the floor of the NDSU veterinary center, Hieb was cradling a young black Lab named Buckley, determined to wriggle away from his “treatment.”
As Hieb gently but firmly hugged the squirming hound, Nicole Olson practiced bandaging one of his hind legs.
“It just teaches us how to handle animals,” Olson said. “I like it. You get different temperaments, different backgrounds, different sizes, different varieties.”
A few feet away, Natalie Albrect was clipping the nails on Shadow, a young tabby who was spayed on Wednesday.
“She’s healthy,” the sophomore proclaimed, after giving her a checkup.
“These are good animals, Really good,” Albrecht said. “They get lots of work.”
Wagner said the students not only learn how to treat the animals but how to handle them in a shelter situation.
“For the animals, it’s great. They get socialization, they get a lot of exposure to people,” she said.
Animals with serious medical issues – such as a dog that recently needed knee surgery – are treated by veterinarians at local clinics, she said. But they can recover at NDSU.
The NDSU program, which is in Robinson Hall on the west side of the campus, typically houses 16 dogs, up to 24 cats, six birds and nine rodents. Two ponies stay at the NDSU Equine Center, said Stacey Ostby, a veterinary technologist and lecturer.
The dogs have an outdoor run and kennel. There’s a separate area for cats to prowl outside and a room where they live as a colony, climbing, scratching and generally doing whatever they want, Ostby said. All of them have beds and toys, she said.
The students are also the daily caregivers for the animals, Ostby said.
“It really adds to the compassion,” and they get to fully know each animal’s health, she said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583