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Blog Chapter 1
Dream Team

Have you given any thought to whom you would like to work for or with? When asked, most people simply say they want a job in such and such profession/industry. If you are going to have a job or a self-employed business, why not plan who you work with?

For the self-employed, who would you like to have on your dream team? Is there someone you have encountered that you believe would make a contribution to the success of your team? Someone with whom you would enjoy sharing ideas and working side by side?

So, what are you waiting for?

For the employed, whom would you love to work for on a daily basis? Is there a practice, clinic or teaching hospital you would like to join? Would it mean moving from your current location? Would working for this other organization help you grow and reach for self-fulfillment?

So, what are you waiting for?

Take steps today and every day to put yourself in a position to make the necessary changes leading to the team you want to have or be part of. Set your vision and then back it up with action. Make a game plan and execute it!


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Naysayers

"It can't be done."

"No one will buy it."

"I just don't want to see you get your feelings hurt."

"Why in the world would you want to do that?"

"I have your best interests at heart."

"I hope you don't mind me offering a suggestion."

"I think it's cute that you want to try."

"Great idea!  Do you have a backup plan?"

"Don't you think it would be a good idea to go to a 2 year college rather than apply to…"

Sometimes our ideas, passions and interests bring the naysayers out of the woodwork!  Ignore them!  An opinion is often something said out loud that shouldn't have been!  

Move boldly forward.  


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Constructive Criticism

Not everyone appreciates being told what they are doing wrong or what they could be doing better. Especially, if the criticism is unsolicited!

Personally, I appreciate the feedback. I appreciate it so much, I actually ask for it from those I respect and know that I can count on for an honest appraisal. I am very careful whom I ask for feedback. They must be people of integrity with a good perspective of value. For example, I would not ask someone who lacks great people skills if mine were any good. I would not ask someone who has recently filed for bankruptcy whether or not I am making good financial decisions. I only ask those with results or a perspective I respect.

I definitely have some things to work on, so I asked one of my staff recently how I was doing as a supervisor. I specifically asked him because I knew I could trust him to be objective and honest. He trusted me enough to make some excellent points sharing his perspective. He gave me some food for thought. I will check back with him in a couple of months to see if I have managed to make any improvement.

Remember, constructive criticism is valuable as long as the source is credible. Seek out credible sources. If you ask, be prepared to act on the information!

Onward and Upward!


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Where Are We Going as a Profession?

I have been a Veterinary Technician for 30 years now. I have watched the profession grow from glorified kennel assistants to a valued profession based in science.

It has been exciting to watch the profession grow. It has also been frustrating at times. I can see where we are headed and wish we could get there faster! You see, patience is not one of my virtues.

Whenever I begin to feel frustrated by our progress, I stop and reflect on how far we have come in the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. I watch Japan and several other countries take the same steps we did as they move forward. I have begun watching as countries in Africa, China, and Mexico take their first tentative steps toward developing the Veterinary Technician field. The ripple effect is spreading around the world. It is so exciting to see the world recognize the need for and the value of Veterinary Technicians!

For those of you too young to remember, there was no such thing as a “Veterinary Technician” 35 years ago. Oh, there were veterinary assistants, but no defined profession. The vet assistants often were kennel staff or receptionists who were asked to restrain an animal or monitor anesthesia without any clear understanding of what they were doing.

Veterinarians began to ask more and more of this staff eventually providing them with on the job training and education. In the late 60’s the first schools started providing a limited curriculum for veterinary assistants as part of the agricultural science programs. In the early 70’s “Veterinary Technician” and “Veterinary Nurse” were first recognized as a legal designation in Canada, the UK and the USA. We were on our way!

Where are we going from here? The future looks very exciting to me. Specialties are developing as more and more of you strive to grow and improve yourself, thereby influencing the profession. Veterinarians are becoming more and more dependent on what we contribute to the hospital and in research. As a friend of mine always says “It is all good.”

I look forward to the next 20 years as I think our profession will grow so much faster now that we have momentum. I have high hopes because of the caliber of people joining the profession.

It is you who make the difference. It has always been you.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Why Did You Become a Veterinary Technician?

Recently, we asked you why you became a Veterinary Technician. I was not surprised to find that your reasons were not selfish. You spoke about passion for the work and wanting to grow and improve yourself. And, you spoke about contributing to others, animals and people alike. This is part of the reason I am so proud to be part of this amazing profession – the people! You are my inspiration. You are my hope for the future of our profession.

Here are some of your reasons for joining the profession.

AM - So I could understand why things were done and help people with their animals =]

JAH - I'm going to school to become a Vet Tech because I have always had a natural connection with animals. I have a huge passion for helping them and educating people about how to help and care for them. I want to do something for a living that I truly love and that helps others!

HLM - I was not sure what I wanted to do. I first went for Equine Science, but at the school I found out about Vet Tech and then transferred to SUNY Delhi in NY for Vet tech. I have been a tech for over 10 yrs. I wanted to do the Wildlife Rehab also, but have not had the time. I actually went back to school to be a special education teacher for elementary and have a Jack Russell as a Therapy dog!!

CB - I wanted to be a vet since I was a kid going to my Godmothers farm with cows, horses and dogs everywhere. When college time came I was told women really aren't vet's, secretarial is much better. Yea, sitting behind a desk all day, fun. NOT. While I do still sit behind a desk part of the day, I still get a visit from a furry friend and a look of love you just don't get in a regular office. I love what I do, and can't imagine doing anything else. I started out in an Animal Shelter and moved on to Animal Hospitals from there. The rest, as they say, is history.

MH - Wildlife rehab. Wanted the skills to do more.

HH - Being an RVT is my 2nd career. I had been an executive secretary for 8yrs. I HATED sitting in front of a computer all day when I discovered that I could get PAID for my passion to take care of animals (an interest and talent possessed since I was a little girl). I began my journey to become a licensed vet tech at age 30 with a 5-year plan in place, and achieved that goal w/in that time frame. Unlike some other techs, I NEVER think about leaving this career field. I am content with my salary and live a comfortable life, and enjoy the intangible benefits, as well.

TK - Because I love puppies and kittens. It's definitely a labor of love. To care for the pets who cannot speak for themselves and cannot tell you what is wrong. You are not only in the medical field but also a detective at times.

LRK - I was in school on my way to being a vet. Went to Walt Disney World on a college internship...worked as a "conservationist" and "exhibit guide" for African Animals and the vet procedures...long story short, I realized that I loved being in between animals and people, sharing knowledge and educating others.

RG - I had always wanted to be a Vet. However, situations in my life made me run off that track. By fate or luck I ended up being fired from one job - only to see a "help wanted" sign on a vet's office on my way home. I applied, was hired, and realized I'd finally "come home." 5 years later I took the VTNE, passed, and got a wonderful job at a large specialty/ER clinic. The past 2.5 years have only cemented my passion and love for this career. I love science and medical things and I love animals. What a perfect career choice for me! :)

LT - Ever since I was little I dreamed of helping animals. I went to school and took the VTNE and have been registered for 1 1/2 years now. I love the feeling of seeing a sick pet get better and seeing a client so grateful for helping a member of their family! I love what I do so much and couldn't imagine doing anything else!!

YT - Because it is a right place for me.

GM - been around the racetrack and training center scene. Gives me a better understanding and respect to learn about the vet side of the equine industry

DG - My Mom was an RN. I knew from a young age, I wanted to work with animals. I have been a Tech for the last 25 yeas and would not change it. I love what I do, and believe we make a difference. It is not all about the medicine. You have to have compassion and nurturing to make our furry patients better too!!!

You are most welcome to add your reasons in the comment section. We would love to hear from you!


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Thankfulness

This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the USA. In grade school, we were taught that this is the day the Pilgrims celebrated surviving in their new country. Over the decades, it has become a rather commercial day all about over-eating, watching football, planning shopping strategies for Black Friday and having the day off work. We tend to turn much of what is significant into something rather base. Sad, but true.

For me, giving thanks or gratitude is not a once a year event. I know many of you feel the same way. We have much to be grateful for all around the world if we only look.

I am grateful for many things. Some of them might seem small and hardly worth noticing, let alone giving thanks, but I beg to differ. It is the “little” things that carry the most weight. So often we take the little things for granted. How often are we grateful for the simple act of breathing? How about the sound of the kids playing in the backyard? Or even that there are kids in the backyard? When was the last time we noticed that we can smell coffee or walk on our own from room to room? When was the last time we expressed gratitude for the roof over our heads or the food in our belly?

Here are a few of the things for which I am grateful.

  • The sound of my husband snoring. Yes, I am grateful for his snoring because his snoring reminds me he is alive and well. As does the mess he leaves in the bathroom sink, the newspapers strewn about the house and his greasy handprints on the hood of my car.

  • My grandsons fighting. Five years ago there weren’t any grandsons. Now there are three healthy, happy little tornados that have stormed into our lives. I'm very grateful even when they are fighting, crying and generally causing trouble. As a matter of fact, I actually find myself smiling when they are at their worst. They add spice to our lives.
  • The arthritis in my hands. Oy vey! Yes, I am grateful for the pain. You see, the pain means I still have my hands. Don’t get me wrong, I would not mind if the pain went away. However, it is a reminder that things could be worse, to be grateful for what I have.
  • The people in my life that drive me nuts. There is no doubt I am grateful for their presence! You see, they are teaching me patience, acceptance, and compassion. Without them, I seriously doubt I would grow and improve myself.
  • Dog poop in the kennel. I know this sounds weird. However, from my perspective, no dog poop would mean there was no dog. I have tried going without a dog before. Not willing to try it again! Hence, I am grateful for dog poop. And, no I don’t want any of yours, so please don’t bring it over here!
  • My business partner, Kacy. Where do I start? This woman exemplifies patience, kindness, integrity and a whole host of other attributes I am grateful for every day. I am extremely lucky to have her in my life. When I grow up I want to be just like her!
  • VetTechLife.com Most definitely grateful for the community at VetTechLife.com! I have learned more about the world, the veterinary technician profession, and people by spending time with you than I have learned in a long time. Your generosity, talents, compassion, and passion are amazing! Vet Techs Rock!

I could go on and on, however I would rather hear about the things you are grateful for today and every day.

What are you giving thanks for this year?


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Seamus

Years ago, a beautiful 3 year old Irish Wolfhound by the name of Seamus was referred to us for renal disease. On presentation, he was extremely depressed, walking down the hallway slowly, as if each step took extreme effort. His head hung low and he would not respond to attention from anyone, including his beloved owner. His lab work indicated fairly early disease so his depression was confusing. There appeared to be no reason for him to act so ill.

A peripheral IV catheter was placed and fluid therapy begun. Medications were selected and initiated. Seamus was bedded down in a roomy quiet run with 4” of comfy soft blankets. Within a few hours of receiving therapy, his lab work improved significantly. Fantastic!

Unfortunately, he was even more depressed. It took two people working together to encourage him to get up and walk outside to urinate. He barely moved as he walked down the hall. With a huge sigh, he shuffled outside, urinated and, without encouragement, headed back to the door of the hospital. This was one seriously depressed dog! He really had us worried.

Through the night, Seamus’s lab work continued to improve and yet his condition continued to decline. By the time I returned at 7am he was so profoundly depressed we couldn’t even get him to pick up his head let alone stand up. His blood pressure and heart rate were below normal. His body temperature was slightly under normal. For some reason we were losing him and we couldn’t figure out why.

Seamus’s veterinarian agreed with us that Seamus was dying and there just didn’t seem to be a reason. She called the owner. “I am so sorry Anne. Seamus is failing and I can’t seem to figure out why. Please, would you come in right away to say good-bye?” Listening to Anne’s response, Doc’s face looked surprised. Anne said something very odd – she told Doc “Ask Seamus if he wants a cookie”. Doc figured the owner was in denial, so she explained once again all the details of Seamus’s declining condition. Once again, Anne insisted “Ask Seamus if he wants a cookie!” In exasperation, Doc asked me to do as the owner requested while Doc stayed on the phone with the Anne.

I picked up a really big dog cookie and went to Seamus with sadness. I knew something was really wrong and a cookie was not the answer. When I reached Seamus I called softly, “Hey Seamus, want a cookie?” Nothing. No change in respiratory rate. No sign he even heard me. I tried again a little louder. Still nothing. With sorrow, I knelt down next to him and stroked his head. “You don’t want a cookie, do you boy?” Darned if that dog didn’t sit right up and wag his tail, looking at me eagerly for a cookie!

What in the world!?!  I ran to Doc. “Doc, Seamus is not only eating his cookie, but he is standing wagging his tail!” Doc told the owner who was still waiting on the phone. Seamus’s owner started laughing. “He is an Irish Wolfhound, for goodness sake. The Irish are always melodramatic, but Seamus will never turn down a cookie. There isn’t anything wrong with him. He is just being woeful!”

So, Seamus was just a melodramatic pooch. He recovered nicely over the next four days and went home with Anne to live another 7 years. Learn something new every day!


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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What really improves our lives?

I am one of the last people to jump on the technology bandwagon. Not because I don’t like technology. I am just confused about what really helps, and what just complicates life. Oh, I admit that a cell phone is convenient and now can do everything except the laundry. Of course, a good deal of the time, they don’t have a decent signal. Nook is a fun way to download and read great books. Unfortunately, the Nook has a number of flaws that frustrate all of its early adopters. The computer is so versatile I can’t imagine doing without one. However, I am almost convinced they are actually alien beings sent here to drive us crazy with their many hiccups and viruses.

So, if even technology adds to our daily challenges with frequent failures, what can we truly count on to improve our lives without breaking down or requiring anti-virus software?

Here are some of the things I can count on 100% of the time to improve my life.

  • A spectacular sunset.
  • The sound of the ocean.
  • The smell of a baby’s hair.
  • The first daffodil of the season.
  • Roses blooming in my yard.
  • Watching puppies play.
  • The sight of my grandsons peacefully sleeping.
  • Watching my husband walk across the farm.
  • Time around the dinner table with my entire family.
  • The smell of cypress trees after the first rainfall.
  • Watching a cat sleep in the sun.
  • Red tail hawks gliding overhead.

Feel free to add those you can count on.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Unmotivated?

I have been a supervisor for a very, very long time. Longer than some of you have been alive! Does that mean I know it all? Absolutely not! In fact, the only thing it means is that I have had more opportunities to fail forward. I am still very much a student of leadership and management. Please note that I have separated leadership and management as two areas of study. There are managers who are not leaders and there are leaders who are not managers.

I think one of my greatest challenges as a supervisor has always been the unmotivated staff member. I am so passionate about our profession that I find it difficult to relate to someone who is in the profession but is not motivated.

How do I deal work with a staff member with an “I don’t care” attitude? Here are some of the steps I may try.

  1. Involve the employee in planning and problem solving.
  2. Make sure they understand the goals and responsibilities, their roles and performance standards.
  3. Be sure that objectives, expectations and standards are clear.
  4. Give them regular feedback about their performance. Genuinely seek out opportunities to praise their work.
  5. Praise their initiative, ideas, and good work if they genuinely feel positive.
  6. Focus on the positive benefits of them successfully doing the assigned tasks.
  7. Create new motivators for successful accomplishment.
  8. Point out the negative consequences of them continuing to act apathetically.
  9. Reflect a positive “can do” attitude.
  10. Demonstrate personal flexibility and adaptability

Keep in mind that you can’t change someone else. An unmotivated staff member will remain unmotivated no matter what you do if they don’t want to change.

Present the opportunity to change. Support the change necessary. However, do not try to carry or change the person. If you have worked with them in good faith and they still do not improve, cut your losses and help them understand it is time for them to move on.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Body Language

We have all attended meetings as part of our profession. I have physically attended too many to count. Notice, I said physically. I hate to admit it, but I was not necessarily mentally present at all of them! Can you relate?

Our body language speaks more loudly than our verbal communication. Almost every facet of our personality is revealed through our appearance, body language, facial expressions, posture and movements. It is a mistake to think we can influence people just by being articulate. Studies indicate the majority of our communication comes across in our appearance and body language. In fact, non-verbal communication comprises up to 93% of our message.

What does our body language include? It includes attire, tone of voice, hand position, arm position, tapping toes, jiggling leg, glancing at a cell phone, eye contact, posture, etc. Our choice of clothing, hairstyle, accessories, briefcase, physical behavior and our appearance all send a strong message.

When interacting with others, it is very important that we send the right signals. Always look attentive and interested in the conversation and the speaker(s). Sit upright. Look directly at the speaker, not at your cell phone or out the window. Place your hands folded on the desk/table top or palms flat on the table. If standing, leave your arms hanging loosely at your sides. Folded arms can be perceived as off-putting or defensive. Arms behind your back are perceived as disinterest or even disrespectful. Glancing at a cell phone or (gasp!) text messaging during a conversation is very disrespectful. Essentially, these actions tell the speaker “I am really not as interested in what you are saying as I am in the person on the other end of my cell phone”.

A classic mistake is avoiding the other person’s eyes or glancing away frequently while you are speaking. This is perceived as a lack of honesty. Once honesty is in question, the conversation is over, even though you may continue to talk.

The most important thing to remember is that non-verbal messages are five times stronger than verbal. When the verbal and non-verbal messages are consistent with each other, the listener believes the message. True communication takes place.

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Sticks and Stones

“Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

I don’t believe this old childhood rhyme for a minute. Just as sticks and stones will leave a bruise or mark on the skin, words will injure the spirit. Words can warm someone or burn. They can’t be retracted and hurtful words probably will be remembered for a very long time.

Be a finder of good. Shine a light on others. Be a source of encouragement. Never be the source of negative comments, sarcastic humor, or unsolicited criticism.

This is true even for the words we speak to ourselves. What we say when we talk to ourselves is more powerful than anything anyone else can say to us. The trick is to replace negative self talk with positive.

Here is the challenge:
Each time we have a thought, it creates an electrochemical pathway in our brain. Each time we repeat the same thought it travels the same pathway. Each repetition digs the pathway a little deeper. Creating a new thought about the same subject takes conscious effort. We can’t just tell ourselves we aren’t going to think negatively. We have to replace the negative with positive to create new pathways in our brain.

Words have power. Choose your words carefully. Dale Carnegie once said “Any fool can criticize, condemn or complain and most fools do.”

I recommend if you find fault, lose it.

Which House Do You Live In?

"I got two A's," the small boy cried.
His voice was filled with glee.
His father very bluntly asked,
"Why didn't you get three?"

"Mom. I've got the dishes done!"
The girl called from the door.
Her mother very calmly said,
"And did you sweep the floor?"

"I've mowed the grass," the tall boy said,
"And put the mower away!"
His father asked him, with a shrug.
"Did you clean off the clay?"

The children in the house next door
Seem happy and content.
The same things happened over there,
But this is how it went:

"I got two A's," the small boy cried,
His voice was filled with glee.
His father proudly said,
"That's great! I'm glad you live with me!"

"Mom I've got the dishes done!
The girl called from the door.
Her mother smiled and softly said.
"Each day I love you more."

"I've mowed the grass." the tall boy said.
"And put the mower away!"
His father answered with much joy.
"You've made my happy day!

Children deserve a little praise
For tasks they're asked to do.
If they're to lead a happy life,
So much depends on you.

Badger Leionnare
(If you know the author, please have him contact us - we would like to thank him for the poem)

There are many books and research papers on this subject. I recommend reading “What to Say When You Talk to Yourself” by Shad Helmstetter as a good place to start.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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"As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives."
Henry David Thoreau




Airplane Passengers

For the last few years, I have traveled quite a bit by airplane. I have my preferred airlines, airports and seats. But, no matter where I am flying to or on which airline, I always run into the same passengers. I bet you have met them, too.

The person who sits in the middle seat with legs spread eagle.

The person who hogs the arm rests.

The person who plays their personal DVD player so loud you can hear it throughout the plane.

How about the person who fails to realize their tray table is connected to someone’s seat?

The person who carries on a conversation at the top of their lungs with an uninterested stranger, never giving them a moment’s peace.

And, there is the person who proceeds to get drunk within seconds of sitting down.

Last but not least, my personal favorite is the person who unbuckles her seat belt and leaps to her feet before the plane finishes taxiing to a stop at the gate. Oh, wait, that would be me!


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Kryptonite

I have been watching a couple I know struggle in their marriage. They really do love each other and their children, but, sometimes it is really hard to see the love.

I am not a trained psychologist. However, I have 30 years experience as a spouse in a very successful relationship – both from my perspective as well as my husband’s! Therefore, I may have something to offer here.

What do you do when your spouse is “messing up”? Maybe he leaves the cap off the toothpaste or never cleans the kitchen. Maybe he always leaves the lid on the toilet up. Or, he drinks the last of the coffee on a regular basis, but doesn’t tell you. Maybe your spouse doesn’t work hard enough at his job to bring home the money you would like. So, what should a woman do?

Women fight so hard to have power in life and then try to bring this to their marriage. Wives don’t even realize the power they do have and how easy it is to abuse. The power of the spoken word can be awesome or awful. It can fortify or undermine a marriage. It can uplift or tear down. Ask any wife and she will tell you that she wants to help her marriage grow stronger. But, watch what she says to her spouse on a daily basis and you may get a different picture. Men are much more sensitive animals than many women realize. They require kind, gentle words, not words delivered with a ball peen hammer.

It is not our job to fix our spouses. It is our job to uplift each other. We need to be “finders of good”. Thank each other for the little things– “Thank you for bringing in my coffee cup from the bedroom. I forgot it was there.” “Thank you for picking up the dog poop – I know you don’t like doing that, and I’m sorry I didn’t get to it yesterday.” “You did such a great job of organizing the garage! I could never have done it alone.”

My mother’s favorite saying was “chose your battles”. The little things we could harp on are just little things. Is it reasonable to get bent out of shape over the coffee or toothpaste tube when he is loving, supportive, kind, great with the kids and gives you foot rubs anytime you ask? Will the world stop revolving because the laundry isn’t done? Shoe – meet the other foot: Do you appreciate harsh words from your husband when you make a mistake or forget to do something you said you would do?

I realize this is rather simplified. I recommend keeping it simple. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the results you get over time if you uplift rather than tear your spouse down.

Don’t be the Kryptonite in your marriage. Chose your words and your battles carefully. Create the type of marriage that is legendary ten generations later.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Success is a Process

Success in anything is a process. Success in finances, physical fitness, leadership, athletics, entertainment, corporate, relationships, etc – all involve a process. The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. Success isn’t something you pursue. It is something you attract by who you become. There are no shortcuts. Only you can decide if the results are worth the process.

Success is a combination of three things:

Hard work

Smart work

Time!

Find what motivates you to achieve and then chase it!


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Feller

My husband, Sterling, and I live out in the country, surrounded by beautiful mountains, a creek, and tons of wildlife. Having been a veterinary technician for over 30 years, I have had my fair share of wildlife patients. I really enjoy working with them, but I have developed some hard and fast rules about wildlife at home.  I refuse to hand raise baby wild animals. No 2 a.m. bottle feedings, for me, no way, no how. I always turn the babies over to a qualified rescue organization. My husband knows this rule and has been very good about letting baby birds and such leave our farm with the rescue team – until our world was invaded by a funny little monster named Feller.

Sterling was out mowing the weeds around an outbuilding when he saw what looked like a mouse. As he prepared to kill it (ok, we are farmers!), he stopped because the little critter didn’t look quite right. Reaching down, he picked up the strange, ugly, little bald creature and headed straight to the house to ask me what it was he found. In the palm of his hand was a 3” long, hairless creature with its eyes still closed. It was about a one week old baby ground squirrel. I could not think of any good reason for it to be above ground as the mother would never have allowed it unless she was dead. I suggested to my husband that he put the baby into the closest squirrel hole to where he found the little guy in the hopes that its mother was still around.

Less than an hour later, Sterling found the baby had crawled back out of the hole and had made it another 8 feet to the door of the shop. Obviously, the little bugger wanted someone to take care of him and had chosen my husband as his new momma. Definitely against my rules! I politely informed Sterling that I would not raise a bottle baby and that the little guy would have to go to a rescue group. Sterling quietly said he was going to take care of him himself. This from a man who never raised a bottle baby before!

Feller

Well, he patiently and successfully raised “Feller”. The squirrel became his constant companion, often hiding in the sleeve of Sterling’s jacket, peeking out at the world from his safe haven high above the ground.

Sterling is quite handy at constructing stuff. He built an elaborate habitat for Feller including a section up in a tree, a section inside the workshop and another underground. All of it connected by a raceway of pipe. Feller could travel from one area to another without ever leaving the safety of his habitat.

One of Feller’s favorite treats was watermelon. His tiny paws were perfect little hands able to grasp the bits of watermelon offered by Sterling, only he hated to get wet. So he would hold the watermelon with one hand, shake the other, switch hands and repeat while taking quick bites. So funny to watch! He also loved nuts of all kinds. Some he would eat right away, but most he would stash somewhere inside his bedding.

I have to admit Feller and I never got along. As a matter of fact, he hated me. I think he knew I wasn’t exactly supportive when Sterling had decided to bottle raise him. At every opportunity, Feller would try to attack me through the wire of his cage, growling and throwing his tiny 1 lb body against the cage as he charged at me. Did you even know that squirrels could growl? The little monster would leap at the wire of his cage, teeth bared, just to watch me jump. He also tried to charge my dogs. Brave little monster!

As it was my role to keep Feller healthy, I occasionally had to handle him to apply parasiticides, vaccinate, etc. Oh joy. I was helping to keep this vicious beast alive and healthy, despite the fact that there was no love lost between us.

I came up with a technique to avoid getting bitten, but it also happened to really tick Feller off (always an entertaining bonus, if you ask me…) From inside the shop, Sterling had run one of Feller’s pipes directly into a tiny cage in the living room. This pipe had a sliding door in it so that Feller could be confined indoors or outdoors, depending on our preference. I used to close the door so that he couldn’t get in and then tap on the pipe thereby getting him good and angry. I would then put a sock over the indoor opening of the pipe and quickly open the door. He would rush in thinking he could attack me. His headlong rush would leave him trapped in the sock! I would giggle fiendishly as I twisted the sock shut. I had him trapped where I could do his medical treatments, but he couldn’t bite me. Definitely did not endear me to him.

Feller lived to the ripe old age of 7 years. He hated me until the very end, but still trusted and respected his 6’3” tall momma, Sterling.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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25 Excuses
…people give for why they don’t go after what they want out of life
  1. I am too busy.
  2. I am not smart enough.
  3. I can’t afford it.
  4. My spouse won’t let me.
  5. I don’t have a college degree.
  6. I never finished high school.
  7. I am too old.
  8. I am too young.
  9. I am getting a promotion.
  10. I have low self-esteem
  11. It is too late for me.
  12. We’re pregnant.
  13. I will never succeed.
  14. I don’t deserve success.
  15. I can always do it next year.
  16. I don’t know how.
  17. My friends say I need to be realistic.
  18. I am waiting for someone to help me.
  19. It is too hard.
  20. There are no opportunities where I live.
  21. This is the wrong time in my life.
  22. I have kids.
  23. I’m disabled.
  24. I have plenty of time to do it later.
  25. I am afraid.

These are just some of the excuses we use to con ourselves. I have heard every one of them from people I have encountered throughout my life. Excusitis keeps us from moving forward toward our dreams and goals.

I can’t remember who said it, but we will not change until the “pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.”

When you are done making excuses, get moving toward the future you want for yourself and those you care about.

You are meant for greater things!


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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The Leadership Challenge

According to John C. Maxwell, best-selling leadership author, many have bought into the myth of positional leadership. “I can’t be a leader if I am not the boss/CEO/manager”.

The qualities of a leader aren’t bestowed on someone when they are handed their payroll title. Leadership is influence. I am sure you can think of someone who is high ranking, but does not have the traits or results of a leader. Just because someone is a DVM, office manager, or owner of the clinic doesn’t mean they can lead. The ability to “boss” or manage does not automatically make a person a leader. A boss is not always a leader. A leader is not always a boss!

As veterinary technicians, we tend to believe the myth of positional leadership. “I’m just a tech. I have no power.” Some techs wait until someone with authority gives them a title and authority. If leadership is influence, anyone with the desire to become a leader can lead from right where they are in the organizational chart!

Work on developing relationships and subsequently gain influence. Grow yourself. People will follow you because they want to. Continue to grow yourself as a leader. Your contributions to the organization will increase, inspiring people to continue to follow you because of what you do for the organization. Continue to grow yourself plus help others grow in leadership and now people follow you because of the impact you have on them. John C. Maxwell writes “Influencing others is a matter of disposition, not position.” Leadership is a choice, not a job title.

We need more veterinary technicians to grow themselves as leaders. The more of us who excel as leaders, the greater our influence will be in the development of our profession. Our expertise as leaders will create a ripple effect across the world of veterinary medicine impacting the science, our clients and our patients.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Top 10 Reasons to Become a Veterinary Technician
  1. To make a difference in the lives of animals and their owners
  2. To work with people who love animals
  3. To solve problems
  4. To instruct others how to care for pets
  5. The constant need to grow and learn
  6. The hours/pay : )
  7. The science
  8. The culture
  9. It’s a great way to make a living while spending time with animals.
  10. The smell of puppy, kitten, lamb, or calf breath

Regardless of your reason for becoming a veterinary technician, it is your passion for your work that matters most.

Passion will keep you going when you are tired. It will keep you going when a client or coworker behaves in a less than kind manner. It will keep you going in the face of confrontation, change, and time. Keep feeding your passion.

Let no one steal it from you.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Perseverance

“It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer.”  Albert Einstein

The successful seem to have achieved success over night. This is not a realistic perspective. Review the history of those who have achieved success. Abraham Lincoln failed for years in the pursuit of a career in politics before he was elected president. Albert Einstein was labeled “slow” while a child. Michael Dell was kicked out of college. Michael Jordan was kicked off his high school basketball team. It took Nancy Goodman Brinker years of work before the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation became nationally recognized and the largest breast cancer charity in the world.

Just when we are almost there, we often give up. What if Abraham Lincoln had given up? What if Albert Einstein had believed that he was mentally inadequate? What if Michael Dell had stopped making computers in his dorm room in order to comply with the college’s stipulations? What if Michael Jordan believed his high school coach’s opinion of his talents? What if Nancy Brinker had let the frustration, failures, and fatigue stop her in the pursuit of her dream?

In school, college, and university we will persevere in the pursuit of a diploma, degree, or a job. However, dare to strike out on our own and we frequently surrender to mediocrity.

Let us persevere in the pursuit of a goal, not a paycheck. Pursue a lifestyle rather than a job. Create a legacy rather than mediocrity. Safe is sorry.

We are destined for greatness. Why settle for average?

Fear? Of what, hard work? Wouldn’t we agree we are already working hard?

Financial risk? Wouldn’t we agree that “average” is a dangerous financial plan?

Standing out? Hmmm, do we admire those who toe the line?

Ridicule? Do those we fear will ridicule us have the lifestyle we want? Do they have the integrity and character we strive for?

Fear of failure? Why don’t we believe in our ability to learn and achieve? Failing is how we learn. Would we discourage a baby from trying to walk just because our baby is bound to fall? No, we clap our hands and encourage the baby to try again. “Come to momma” we encourage. All the while knowing the babe will fall over and over.

Would we discourage our child from learning to ride a bike? No, we run along beside encouraging our child to peddle harder, steer straight and go! We know he will fall a couple of times, but we encourage him to strive to learn.

Why would we treat ourselves any differently? As John C. Maxwell writes: “Fail forward!”

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  Henry David Thoreau

Do we really want to be one of the desperate or the complacent? We do not need to achieve world fame to achieve success. Let us find our destiny by persevering toward a goal or dream. All will become clear with the stumbling, tripping, and climbing we experience. It isn’t just the achieving of a goal that is important, it is who we become along the way.

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are.  I don't believe in circumstances.  The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them.”  G. B. Shaw, Mrs. Warren's Profession, 1893


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Garbagetrash

If someone dumped a garbage can all over our front yard, we would be royally ticked off. So, why in the world do we let others dump garbage into our minds?

The media is constantly feeding us garbage and we surrender. The media tells us we need to weigh 98lbs, dress like a fashion plate, and sleep around. The “News” really isn’t the news. It is garbage designed to create fear and loss of hope. Celebrities’ lives are more important than our own future. We are failures as parents if we don’t buy the kids every toy imaginable. We have to look 21 when we are in our 50’s and 60’s. If we don’t have the latest, greatest gizmos, we must be losers. And the list goes on.

Our coworkers contribute to the garbage. Just listen to what happens when a coworker announces a pregnancy. “Oh, your life is over now!” “You will never get any sleep again.” “Kids are a black hole for money.” “Pregnancy is terrible. You will be sick and tired every day.” They even go so far as to share every nightmare story they have ever heard about pregnancy, delivery, and kids that grow up bad. Great! Thanks for spewing your garbage all over!

Watch what happens when someone you know is excited about starting their own business. “Don’t you know that 80% of all businesses fail in the first 5 years?” “Oh man, you are going to be working 90 hours per week.” “Your employees are going to steal from you.” “The economy is terrible and you want to start your own business?” With friends like these, who needs enemies!

I actually watched a mother try to steal her young son’s dream one day. Standing in line at our local grocery store, there was a woman and her 9-10 year old son in line. The son picked up a sports magazine and told his mother “I am going to be a famous baseball player someday.” She barely glanced at him when she spewed “No way, you aren’t good enough.”

Everyone in line froze. My temperature reached boiling point in record time. I restrained myself from verbally ripping into the mother, but I could not let this opportunity to encourage the son go by. I knelt down and told him “Did you know that the ball player on the cover of that magazine was kicked off his high school baseball team in his sophomore year because he wasn’t good enough? Did you know he worked hard every day at becoming a better ball player until today he is world famous and makes millions of dollars? You are just like him. You can do what he did if you really want to. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not good enough. You tell them you aren’t done learning yet and someday you will be great.” Several people in line added “That’s right.” I even heard a “You can do it, boy.” The mother just glared at me.

If the media and people around us are going to continue dumping garbage into our minds, shouldn’t we arm ourselves better? Wouldn’t it be better if we turned negative television off? Wouldn’t it be better if we filled our minds with the words and sounds that support our future? Wouldn’t it serve us better to avoid people who do not have our best interests at heart?

Personally, I give wide berth as much as possible to anything and anyone that does not contribute to my life. I really don’t need any more sources of garbage. Do you?


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Relationships

I think all of you would agree that life is a lot smoother when our key relationships are in good shape. How do we build our relationships and keep them in good shape?

I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I am a student of experts on the topic. I have gleaned much from John C. Maxwell, Susan Christy, M. Scott Peck, and a host of other relationship experts.

Personally, I find it helpful to have what I refer to as “cheat sheets” for information I can use on a daily basis. Cheat sheets serve as my “external hard drive”. It is too easy in the chaos of the day to lose focus and slip into reactive behavior. Never a good idea when working with people!

This is one of my favorite “cheat sheets”. It keeps me on track when working with my coworkers and clients.

  • What personality type is the person I am speaking with?
  • Am I a source of encouragement or negativity?
  • Am I connecting with people on a professional level?
  • Am I focused on listening and understanding others?
  • Am I building trust right now?

Each of these simple questions serves to remind me of deeper questions to ask myself as I go about my day. They allow me to evaluate myself, identify where I could be doing a better job, and focus on some of what really matters.

I sincerely wish to forge healthy relationships. Unhealthy ones make the day miserable, to say the least!

How do you build good relationships with your coworkers and clients?


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Growing up with three sisters, I heard this at least once a week from my mother. As a kid, I hated it every time she said it, but as an adult I have come to understand the value in this simple sentence. I try never to say or do anything that does not come out of love or respect for others. I am far from perfect, but I am confused by the human need to speak poorly of others.

I know it is possible to become frustrated with someone or even angry, but is it really necessary to share these feelings with everyone else except for the person being gossiped about? Sharing this kind of negative information only foments discord and the person sharing the negative feelings shows that they are less than a person of character.

If you become aware a coworker has made a mistake, why would you spread this information to even one more person, let alone far and wide? If you are frustrated or angry with a coworker, why vent to someone else? How does this help the situation?

This behavior can destroy the level of trust you have worked so hard to create among team members and coworkers. If you are spreading information about one person, what are you saying about others behind their backs? Can others trust you? Nothing good comes of it in the least.

If you are aware of a mistake made by another and the mistake is important enough, you have two choices and only two. If appropriate, go to the person personally and ask about the situation kindly, in a non-accusatory manner, in order to ascertain whether or not a mistake has actually been made. Or, go to your supervisor to express your concern. Please don’t go to anyone else and share the other person’s mistake. If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.

If you are angry or frustrated with someone, you have two choices. The first is to speak with the person when you are calmer. Make sure you have a private, quiet setting before broaching the topic. Ask for permission to express something that has concerned you. Once permission has been granted, begin with a simple sentence. “I need your help with something. I know it was not your intention, but earlier today I felt hurt / confused / frustrated when you... Would you help me understand?” Say nothing more. Silence gives the other person the opportunity to speak. Truly listen. Hear the words. No one sets out to piss someone else off. Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.

The second choice is to ask your supervisor to intercede or arbitrate. Please don’t go to anyone else and vent your irritation with the other person. Doing so accomplishes nothing. Close your mouth and trust your supervisor to manage the issue. It is no longer your problem. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

We’re taught this lesson early in life because it’s an important one. Even Walt Disney tried to teach it to us many years ago through a bunny named Thumper. “If ya can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

Think about it the next time you are tempted to say something not-so-nice.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Sean, the Big Galoof

Sean, my Labrador Retriever cross of many years ago was an incredibly gentle soul. He assumed everyone was his friend. He was the stereotypical Lab – happy, outgoing, big galoof. Never met a person or animal he didn’t like.

I once took a 10 week old Jersey calf home with pneumonia. The dairy farmer who brought her into our vet hospital didn’t want to put any money into the poor little thing. Dr. George suckered me into trying to save her life. When I arrived home, I didn’t have anywhere to confine her so I put her in the dog kennel while I went to build her a temporary pen. Sean was in the kennel at the time. I knew that Sean would never hurt the calf. I also assumed the calf would stay as far away from a dog as it could.

I was certainly surprised when I came back to the kennel about thirty minutes later. The calf was nowhere in sight. Nor was Sean. Uh oh! After a second of panic, I realized neither one could have gotten out on their own so I went into the kennel. There, inside the doghouse, the calf and Sean were laying side by side with Sean licking the calf’s face. No need to move the calf into her own pen! These two were becoming fast friends. As a matter of a fact, I am confident that the calf would never have survived the pneumonia without the companionship of another kindly creature.

Over his 15 years, Sean helped rescue many other critters. Cats, goats, and even other dogs. He greeted every human being regardless of age, sex or demeanor as if they were his long lost friends. He was the friendliest dog I have every shared my life with. This is why I was so surprised one day when he displayed a fierce and cunning aggression.

When I was much younger, I was traveling north to the state of Washington in my 1973 Volkswagen Fastback on a long road trip. Sean took up the entire back seat. It was my habit to stop at all of the rest stops along Interstate 5 to let him out to stretch and run for a bit. I stopped at one of these early one afternoon. Leaving Sean for a few minutes in the car with the windows open, I went inside to take advantage of the facilities.

and also cussed at me for not calling the dog off.

As I returned to my car, I noticed two young men sitting on the hood of my car. While I was still about 100 feet from my car, I called out “Hey guys, I have to get going. Get off the car, please.” They responded by leaning back on the hood “Ah, come on. Hang out with us and let’s have some fun.” While I wasn’t stupid enough to move any closer to them, I was debating my options.

We exchanged a few more words when suddenly I realized that Sean was sliding his 110 lb frame out the car window with some stealth. He had never done this before. As he gently dropped to the ground, he lowered his head and his tail was straight out back, all the signs of a dog on the attack. He slowly began moving forward alongside the car toward the unsuspecting men.

“Hey guys, I think my dog wants to go now”, I said. One of them said “What dog?” as I pointed behind them. I have never seen two men so startled nor move away so fast. Of course, they continued their brave chatter

I got back into my car while Sean stood at the front staring at the men. I called him to me with a gentle command which he seemed to ignore. Then he slowly walked back toward me never taking his eyes off the guys until he climbed over me into the passenger seat. Freaky dog! Brave dog. Great dog!

Why did Sean decide to become so protective? What exactly was he picking up on? I have no idea, but I was grateful my big galoof of a dog actually knew when to become aggressive and was willing to do so. He never showed such signs again through the remainder of his life, but I bet if I had needed him, he would have been there in a flash.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Love in Motion

One of my favorite authors, Chris Brady, wrote a brief article where he referenced “Love in Motion’, discussing the evidence of true friendship.

How do you tell a true friend from an acquaintance? I believe that what we do, not what we say is the profoundest evidence of true friendship. With this in mind, I have put together a short list of examples of Love in Motion in my own life as well as the lives of others.

  • Keith volunteering his beautiful truck whenever I need to move a piece of furniture. The very same truck he only lets a select few use.
  • Dyne going on long road trips with me even though she has tons to do on her ranch.
  • Barbara V. always holding her tongue when I step out of line. Accepting me where I am at even when I deserve a scolding. (several times a week!).
  • Edward sending me books he runs across because he thinks I will enjoy them.
  • remembering I once mentioned I like pansies. While she was out running errands, she spotted a plate shaped like a pansy and bought it for me.
  • Cindy S. visiting JL several times a week for months to ease his suffering while he was dying.
  • Steve walking up and down the hospital corridors all night with Mike because Mike couldn’t sleep with worry over the surgery scheduled for the next morning.
  • Friends dropping everything to rally around Christine when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Christine’s children and husband were able to spend more time with her because friends took care of everything from shopping and cooking to mowing the lawn and paying the bills.
  • Over several years time, an entire community supporting one family facing the impending loss of their 11 year old daughter to cancer. The community provided round the clock care in many ways.
  • Joyce spending months getting her front yard ready for her friend’s daughter’s wedding. The amount of planning and physical effort was phenomenal. The wedding was perfect!

These are but a few examples. Each person mentioned has consistently expressed the depth of their friendship over time through what they do for others.

I have to agree with Chris Brady – friendships should be cherished. Definitely never taken for granted.

I wish you great friendships. I also hope you experience what it is to be a great friend to others.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Humble Pie

Boy, I sure had a good laugh at my own expense today. Sometimes I crack myself up. Pride will get me every time!

I was assisting a much younger tech with the anesthesetic induction of a critter. I am her supervisor so she asked if I wanted to intubate. Of course I said sure. Hey, I have been intubating animals for 30 years. I know what I am doing. Chance to show this young tech just how amazing I am. I was going to intubate WITHOUT a laryngoscope.

Oh, yeah. Aren’t I something? I had the laryngoscope in one hand and the ET tube in the other. Easily spotted the glottis sitting there open and ready. Popped the ET tube right in. Slick as a whistle. Until I realized that I was hearing breath sounds around the tube. The tech took a quick look and said the tube was not in. She was correct. I had totally missed the trachea and the ET tube had slipped into the esophagus. At that point, I said “your turn” and got out of the way. I chuckled to myself. I am sure the other tech is wondering how in the world I ever became a supervising tech.

Why in the world did I feel the need to show off? It is not something I usually do. In fact, I usually take a back seat to my staff in order to give them the opportunity to shine. I guess I was overdue for a dose of humility. Humble pie tastes just bad enough that one bite will last me a couple of years at least.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Three Train Wrecks

As I see it, the people of the USA are facing at least one of three train wrecks in their lives: their health, finances or relationships.

As a nation, we are facing a health crisis. Obesity is at an all-time high. Heart disease is the #1 killer. Fast food restaurants are our primary sources of nutrition. And our food is so debased that watching “Food, Inc” is enough to scare me silly. We are killing ourselves with our lifestyle and food choices. Slow suicide!

The financial train wreck is just as grim. The average credit card debt is $10,700 according to CNN Money. 81% spend 110% of their income each year. Our great-grandparents saved and saved until they could afford what they wanted. However, since the 50s we spend and spend as if there is no tomorrow. Delayed gratification is a concept none of us seem to subscribe to anymore. As long as we can “afford” the payments we see no harm in buying items on credit that depreciate in value. We can’t afford to retire even if we want to. We are one paycheck away from financial disaster.

Last, but not least, is the relationship train wreck. The divorce rate is about 50%. Spouses get dressed up each morning to go spend the day with other people’s spouses! A father spends an average of 6 seconds looking in his child’s eyes every day. We don’t have deep friendships anymore, but we have thousands of “friends” on facebook. Try to get one of them to come pick up you up when you car breaks down in the middle of the night!

I realize there are exceptions. There are people who work at staying healthy. There are people who consistently make wise financial decisions. There are even people who have strong, healthy relationships. Unfortunately, they are in the minority. Our nation is only as strong as our weakest links. Each person represents a link. If the majority of the links are unhealthy, make unsound financial decisions, and have poor relationships don’t we look like prey?

I’m just saying that if we want something to change significantly, each of us needs to change. The buck stops with all of us! Sorry if I sound like I am on a soapbox. I spent part of the weekend with a group of whiney, out-of-shape, financially destitute, dysfunctional adults who were pointing fingers at the world for their woes. I also spent part of the weekend with a different group of people. They are forward-thinking, priority-focused, health-oriented, family men and women who hold themselves accountable for where they are in life rather than blaming others. Guess which group I am going to spend more time with?


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Elmer Fudd – Love at First Sight!

I am pretty much a hardcore Labrador Retriever owner . I have been most of my life. Occasionally, I have a Labrador cross, but always a lab. Everyone I work with knows my preference. The bigger the lab, the better! I used to tease “If you have to bend over to pet a dog, it isn’t a real dog.” And then, one day I had what my friend Kris called a “midlife crisis”.

One of our breeder clients had brought in a litter of 4-month-old pups to be re-evaluated for pulmonary stenosis. Only one pup’s condition could not be helped. This happy-go-lucky pup wasn’t suffering, but he wasn’t expected to live much more than a year or two. The client was really a great lady, committed to the breed and its well-being. She told us she was scheduling the mother dog for a spay since the pup’s heart condition was genetic in nature. She also mentioned she would find the poor little pup a home to love him for his short life.

To this day, I don’t know what came over me, but I blurted out “I’ll take him.” All my co-workers stared at me in stunned silence. I had just volunteered to adopt (gasp) a bulldog! To be honest with you I was a little in shock myself.

Well, Elmer Fudd went home with me that day to my farm. When I pulled up, my husband stepped out of the house. I informed him our new dog was in the back of the truck. The poor guy! He opened the door and then immediately slammed it shut exclaiming “What happened to his face?” I giggled and told him the pup’s face was perfectly normal for a bulldog. After that rude introduction, they became fast friends.

We were luck to have Elmer for ten wonderful, fun years despite his heart condition. Oh, there are stories to tell you someday about his escapades. Such as the three separate occasions where he ate rocks. And his apple eating habit. Of course, there is the time Elmer Fudd was sound asleep and a rattlesnake bit him on the lip. So rude! I will save these stories for another day. I will tell you we lost him to a heart-based tumor rather than pulmonic stenosis. What a great 10 years!

What draws us to a particular pet? Why do we for years resist the myriad of critters that come through the clinic and suddenly, one day, adopt one? Is it that we simply have a weak moment? Or, do we actually fall in love with a personality? I don’t have the answers. All I can tell you is I have resisted adopting potential pets hundreds of times over the years. Still haven’t a clue why I do adopt the ones I end up with! How about you?


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Misha, the Baby Gorilla

In May, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time at the Louisville Zoological Gardens in Kentucky with Virginia Crossett, LVT. She is the lead veterinary technician for the Zoo. Virginia very kindly gave me a “behind the scenes” tour of this lovely zoo. We walked all the exhibit areas and I met several members of the team. Everyone of the team is very talented and passionate about their work.

I thought you might be interested in one of the animals I met that day. Her name is Misha and she is a Western Lowland Gorilla. When I met her in May, she was about 3 months old. Such a cutie! My mother once referred to gorilla babies as “so ugly they are cute”. Yup, that is Misha!

Unfortunately, Misha lost part of one leg due to a skirmish between her mother and another member of the gorilla family about a month before my visit. Misha’s mother, Mia Moja tried to care for her injured baby, but was unable to do so without the assistance of humans. Misha was taken from her family to receive medical care as well as aggressive nutritional support. By the time I met Misha, she was being cared for by the staff 24/7. In fact, staff was holding her all of the time! Gee, wish I could have volunteered to help.

The staff made a point of carrying her around the other gorillas so that she could see and hear them. The staff knew there would come a time when they would attempt to have gorillas raise Misha so that she would be socially normal. As a matter of fact, after consulting with the Nation’s leading gorilla experts, it was decided that Misha be relocated to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio. I learned that the Columbus Zoo is one of the leading zoo experts on gorilla surrogacy. The program is quite extensive and would give Misha the best shot at successfully being integrated into a gorilla family. Misha’ own mother was not properly trained to care for her with the assistance of humans while the gorillas at Columbus are highly trained for surrogacy. In fact, they will care for an infant but are also trained to bring the infant to humans when prompted for bottle feedings, medications and check-ups. Fantastic!

Misha joined the Columbus Zoo shortly after I left Kentucky. I understand from Columbus Zoo reports that she is doing very well and should be fully integrated into their surrogacy program within the next week or two. Aren’t animals amazing! I wish I had pictures to share with you but I never seem to have a camera when I need one!


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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More about Misha from the Louisville Zoo

Update from Columbus Zoo – Baby Gorilla Settles into New Home at Columbus Zoo

Video of Misha at the Columbus Zoo

Please go to the Columbus Zoo website for further updates on Misha.




Responsibility = Response Ability

Stephen Covey teaches that between stimulus and response, we make a choice. This is what separates us from animals as they rely upon instinct alone. We are response able. Read that again. We are response able. We choose how we respond to the obstacles we encounter. How effective our responses are is up to us. Choosing correct or appropriate responses is a function of our maturity and self-awareness.

We can choose to respond emotionally, recklessly, rationally, or intelligently. Seems to me that far too many people respond reflexively from an emotional framework. They appear to be completely unaware of what they sound like.

I observed a “special” customer in the express line at the grocery store this morning. She made a complete fool out of herself verbally attacking the person in front of her who had 11 items instead of the requisite 10. She insisted the offending customer step out of line and let her through. The cashier tried to smooth things over by calming stating 11 items would not take her any longer to ring up than 10 all the while efficiently ringing up purchases. The belligerent customer became louder and more hostile. Wow. If this is how she handles something so unimportant, I have to wonder how she survives anything critical in her life.

I sincerely hope I have not ever behaved like this special customer! I choose to be response able rather than reactive. I choose to behave in a way I can be proud of rather than embarrassed by. I am no angel, but neither am I a childish, short-fused harridan. Please tell me you aren’t either! If you are, please don’t shop where I shop and I promise not to write about you.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

Reference: Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Free Press, 1989

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Say No to Bashing!

At the end of last year, the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians Newsletter contained a thought-provoking message. In her outgoing message as President, the leadership talent of Amanda Eick-Miller, RVT, CPDT is quite evident. She leads from a base of integrity, personal growth, and a passion for serving others. She quietly, firmly keeps moving forward while encouraging others to do the same. The example she sets is one worthy of duplicating. Her entire outdoing message is enlightening and instructive about her leadership style.

One comment she made caused me to stop and think about my own behavior. Amanda brought up the topic of “bashing” a celebrity dog trainer and the fact that this trainer does not bash others or their techniques. I began to wonder why we, as human beings, feel the need to criticize, condemn and complain about others with such ferocity. I am not referring just to the celebrity dog trainer in question, but in general terms.

Whether it is someone’s political views, religious affiliations, choice in house color, or commitment to a hobby, we somehow feel the need to vehemently disagree. Expressing our own opinion becomes critical to us. And yet, we often speak from a lack of understanding or knowledge. We frequently fail to give the other person the same right to express themselves without verbally attacking or condemning them.

Ever sat through a local city council meeting? Or a P.T.A. meeting? How about a brown bag lunch at work to discuss the administration’s decisions? The drama is simply amazing. The yelling, accusing, half-truths, clique formation and fanatical commitment to that which they don’t even understand is sad. No one is listening to anyone else. NO ONE is listening to anyone. Therefore, no one is learning.

To effectively create the change we wish, we must first fully understand the other person’s position. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Without understanding, our default seems to be to browbeat the other person trying to sway them to our side. If we understand the other person’s perspective, we just might be able to influence them.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Sometimes People are Simply Amazing

There are days when I would like to fire all my clients. Shun my co-workers. And, basically become a hermit. People can be so mean, dense, and just plain frustrating some days. Those are exactly the days when I remind myself of all the wonderful, heartfelt things I have seen people do over the years.

I would like to share a special story with you about a group of people who all used to work for the same organization. These people were just like you and me. Some of them were nice. Some of them were jerks. Some were selfish and some were generous. Some were parents. Some were grandparents. Many were staff and some were faculty. They were Christian, Jewish, agnostic, and the list goes on. All of them did something pretty amazing one year. They did something openly generous and from their hearts. Without being asked. Anonymously. Without wanting anything in return.

This group of people all worked for the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in the 1990’s. While they all worked for the VMTH, they really didn’t work together due to the size of the facility. They knew each other well enough to smile hello, but didn’t know each other’s names. There appeared to be no sense of community or team except within individual departments. People were pretty isolated from each other.

One of the staff, Annie, in the Small Animal Clinic was diagnosed with throat cancer. The cancer was well advanced and very aggressive. She would undergo a horrific surgery to be followed with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The odds of her surviving were very small. The expense was going to be overwhelming. Plus, she had very little sick leave accumulated so she was going to lose her monthly paycheck. Disability would only pay a fraction of her salary. Impending financial ruin was another stress on top of her medical situation. Everything looked grim.

Through the VMTH gossip chain, word spread that someone on the staff was critically ill as well as facing financial disaster. Most of the people didn’t even know who the person was. Couldn’t even put a face to her name. One by one, staff and faculty from all over the entire hospital contacted the Human Resources Office and volunteered to donate their own accrued sick leave for Annie’s use. Within 48 hours of Annie’s diagnosis, over a year’s worth of sick leave was donated! By strangers, coworkers and friends.

Annie never did find out who donated. Everyone asked to be kept anonymous. Annie fought the cancer for almost a year. Each and every month, she received a full salary due to the generosity and sacrifice of others. I wish I could tell you that Annie beat the cancer. Unfortunately, she did not survive. She did, however, know that hundreds of people cared about and supported her. Sometimes people are simply amazing.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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“Doesn’t Matter, Doesn’t Matter, Doesn’t Matter”

I have had the opportunity to hear Chris Brady, co-author of “Launching a Leadership Revolution” speak on numerous occasions. I have learned much from him over the years, but I will never forget the talk he gave on staying focused on goals rather than obstacles. And, right now seems to be a good time to remind myself of just that.

As I go about my life, “stuff” happens. You know what I am talking about. The little things that pop up and throw us off track. The flat tire on the car making you late for work. The Boy Scout camping trip you so carefully packed the car for, is rained out. You and your spouse are committed to becoming financially sound before you start your family and SURPRISE, you find that you are pregnant two years earlier than planned. Oh, and your plan to retire at 55 from the job you have held for almost 30 years just went out the window because you have been laid off at 51.

Obstacles are going to pop up. Things are going to hit you. Details will try to overwhelm or distract you. This is normal. It is just life. Expect it. However, don’t cave into it. Don’t let it derail you. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

If you are focused on your dreams and goals, the resistance you meet along the way is just there to add excitement and variety to the journey. Hey, I am not some Pollyanna. I have my fair share of crap to wade through. I just don’t choose to wallow in it. And, as Chris Brady says, “Doesn’t Matter, Doesn’t Matter, Doesn’t Matter”. This mantra helps me remember that my goals and dreams are still my big picture. “The goal was set in stone and the path in sand”.

I keep my vision of the future crystal clear in my mind. The crap that happens along the way doesn’t matter. It is how I respond that does matter. I keep moving forward all the time with a great excitement in my heart and pride in what I am doing. Life is awesome! Even with the occasional crap in the pathway.

Onward and Upward.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Are You a Climber?

Paul Stoltz is the author of “Adversity Quotient, Turning Obstacles into Opportunities.*” He describes three types of people, Quitters, Campers and Climbers, and his lessons really hit home for me. He uses climbing a mountain as a metaphor for life.

Quitters choose to see the mountain as unapproachable and dangerous. They decide not to climb at all because they fear the cliffs, storms and risk of climbing. They fill their life with busyness so they don’t have to look at the mountain at all. They justify why they don’t climb and seek the sympathy of others for their lack of gumption. They eventually experience the worst pain imaginable- regret for a life not lived.

Campers start out climbing the mountain. At some point they achieve a nice mountain view and decide to take a break from climbing. They tell themselves it is only a break and they will start climbing again tomorrow. Taking a break before climbing to the next level really is needed. Unfortunately, many decide they are doing “pretty good” right there and climbing further is risky. They compromise on their goals and settle for something just short of truly living to their potential or their dreams.

Climbers stay the course. Their goals and convictions do not become less important in the face of storms, obstacles and setbacks. They believe they are meant to climb and that the top is within their reach. Climbers know that life is not about achieving things, but about truly living the life they are called to live. They stay in the climb mode by focusing on where they are going; not what they are going through. Climbers find the best way up the mountain. A true climber offers to teach others to do the same. “Making it to the mountain top is not about being there alone – it is about how many people you bring with you!” They don’t carry others. They teach and set the example. This is leadership at its best.

According to Stoltz, climbing is tougher today due to our prominent culture of “status quo” and “pretty good”. People will tell climbers they are crazy. Quitters and Campers ridicule climbers for working so hard at something perceived as risky. And yet, the climbers must climb, for if they don’t the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of this world will never have the example of how to live from the very core of their being. It might even become against law to climb the mountain! Without today’s climbers, there will not be any tomorrow.

I thank you for being committed to climbing your mountain. For striving to grow and develop to your full potential. I commend you for ignoring the obstacles in your path and pushing forward. Vet Techs are some of the best climbers I have the privilege of knowing.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

*Paul G. Stoltz, Ph.D., Adversity Quotient, Turning Obstacles into Opportunities, John Wiley & Sons, 1997

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Gotta Love Dogs!

Thirty years ago, I had a lab cross by the name of Sean. He was a big goofy nutcase, but my best friend and companion.

I was visiting a friend Suzie’s home when I first met Sean. Suzie bred black labs as well as Irish Setters. Her champion male setter had a clandestine meeting with her female champion black lab. The result was 11 golden Labradors! Not a one of them was black or red. Go figure.

When I arrived at Suzie’s, I had no intention of adopting a dog. She and I were taking her horses out for a ride. When we headed for the barn, out rolled 11 butterballs from one of the box stalls. Ooooh my! They were soooo adorable. Suzie said she was giving them away since they were mutts. In fact, she was a little embarrassed by them. I had no business even thinking about taking one, but the temptation was too great. After we sat on the ground playing with them for a good hour, I chose Sean because he was the largest of the entire litter and extremely friendly. Little did I know what he was going to grow into.

Sean eventually grew to a handsome 100lb perpetually 7 month old dog. He never grew up mentally! The first 18 months of his life he filled my life with joy, laughter and debt. Every time I turned around he was doing something he shouldn’t or getting hurt. He chewed completely through several 4X4 fence posts over several months despite all the rawhides he had available. He dug holes to China in the backyard. One day he even ate the couch in about 10 minutes! I had stepped out the door to get the mail and came right back. In 10 minutes, he tore three couch cushions to shreds and happily showed off his work when I returned. Stuffing everywhere!

I think the single most dangerous escapade is when he chewed through the wiring for the air conditioning/heating unit. He was 9 months old and playing in the yard with his toys while I made dinner. All of a sudden the air conditioner stopped and the lights in the house flickered. Hmmm, that’s odd. I checked the thermostat on the wall and then went out into the yard to access the circuit breakers. Sean greeted me with a mouth full of insulation from the wiring. He led me to the site of destruction with great pride. There were the 220 volt cables partially exposed. Great! Called the repair shop and they came out the next day.

Walt, the repairman, arrived early the next day. I let him into the back yard where he inspected the damage. “Sorry about your dog, Miss”. “What do you mean?” I responded. “Sorry you lost your dog.” “You mean that dog” pointing to Sean running around on the other side of the yard. Walt was astounded. “No way that is the dog who chewed through this wiring. This is 220! No one could survive the shock.” Well, Sean did and he survived it once more when he chewed through the wires again 5 seconds after Walt finished repairing them. Walt had come in the house to tell me he had finished. In that time, Sean attacked the insulation again! $430 dollars later, the system was repaired and the wires encased in a metal pipe!

Eventually, the air conditioning/heating unit became an issue once more. Tell you that story another time.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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My Heroes

I have lots of heroes. Some are historical figures like Winston Churchill, Florence Nightingale, and Glenn Cunningham. Others are more contemporary such as Mother Teresa, surfer Bethany Hamilton, mountain climber Erik Weinhenmeyer, and pianist Jonathon Lee. I am confident you have some idea who Mother Teresa is, but do you know who the others are?

First, let me tell you why they are my heroes. Each one of them overcame horrific setbacks to achieve greatness. They exemplify “can do” attitude and commitment. They treat setbacks as ladders to climb from rather than boxes to restrict them. When I find myself whining about how difficult something is or how tough life can be, one or more of these three heroes pops into my mind.

Bethany Hamilton has been serious competitive surfer since she was 8-9 years old. In 2003, when she was thirteen, a shark took her left arm. Within 3 weeks of the attack, she was back training in the water. In 2004 Bethany won the ESPY Award for Best Comeback Athlete of the year. She also received a special courage award at the 2004 Teen Choice Awards. In 2005, Bethany took 1st place in the NSSA National Championships. In 2008, Bethany began competing full time. Bethany overcame a serious obstacle to continue chasing her passion – surfing. more about Bethany Hamilton

Erik Weinhenmeyer is an unusual mountain climber. As a matter of fact, he is the only blind man in history to reach the summit on several of the highest peaks in the world, including Mt. Everest. He is quite the athlete in mountain climbing, paragliding, and skiing. The man can’t see! And, yet he accomplishes that which even only a handful of sighted athletes have ever done. His lack of vision is just something he works with rather than something he caves into. more about Erik Weinhenmeyer

Jonathon Lee was an accomplished pianist living in the Monterey Bay area. His challenge was his diabetes. His was a severe case and ultimately lead to his death at 51 years of age. I had the pleasure of listening to him perform live in Pacific Grove, CA years ago. I had never heard of him before that day and didn’t realize that he was mostly blind and had lost both legs to amputation. He eventually had a severe diabetic stroke that left him too frail to play anymore. He took up the role of teacher and began working with a young protégé training to take over his mission of music. Never did he give up on his music. more about Jonathon Lee

Each of these people refused to let seemingly insurmountable challenges keep them from chasing their dreams. Their dreams were big enough they never lost sight of them. They chose to go over, under, and around the obstacles rather than sit whimpering in front of them!

Heroes don’t have it easy. Heroes overcome obstacles despite fear. I guess that is what courage really is – going forward even in the face of fear.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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We Are Three Months Old!

VetTechLife was started with a dream and a vision by a couple of Vet Techs to serve the Veterinary Technician profession. Here we are only three months old and growing like crazy. The community now extends from Australia to Canada and the USA to Egypt. And we give all the credit to you, the community of Vet Techs and staff all over the world. For you truly are the foundation and inspiration for VetTechLife.

The community you represent is one of the most generous, supportive group of professionals we have ever encountered! We are in awe of how courteous you are to each other on VetTechLife.com as well as our Facebook fan page. No foul language. No cutting remarks. Each of you has been supportive and encouraging while coaching each other. What an amazing community!

Keep up the great attitude, for you are having a positive impact where you work, where you live and on the Vet Techs with whom you share. The ripple effect from your attitude is now reaching around the world. A little humbling, isn't it?

In this day and age, the Internet spreads the ripple further and faster. What is said at noon has the potential for reaching millions by 12:02pm. Whoa! That is a little scary when you think about some of the stuff said by those with less than a positive attitude. So, keep doing what you are doing, so that you keep a ripple traveling worldwide for the betterment of the entire community of Vet Techs.

Thanks for joining us on this adventure. All of us at VetTechLife are looking forward to continuing to serve you. The future with you is exciting!

Onward and Upward!


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Create a Change
Steps Three & Four - CHECK & ADJUST!

“Change is inevitable. Progress is optional.” I no longer recall who said this originally, but I have quoted it so frequently for so long, I am going to claim it as my own from now on.

We have discussed creating effective change the last few weeks. To effectively make significant change we must have a road map (PLAN) and take action (DO). Now we are ready to add the two last components to the process.

Continuing to use our road trip to Kentucky analogy, if we happen to make one incorrect turn it could result in us ending up in Canada instead of Kentucky! How do we prevent this from happening? We need to refer to our original road map (PLAN) on a regular basis to CHECK our progress. Measuring progress is critical in everything. If our road map indicates that we should reach junction 110 by noon and we haven’t by 2pm, something is wrong. Stop. Study the map and assess the situation. The sooner this is done, the smaller our detour and the faster we are back on track.

Sounds pretty simple, right? But, what if we keep traveling and don’t check our road map for a couple of days? Or, in bigger terms, what if we didn’t notice for a year or two that our life had gotten off track? This could be a disaster. At the very least, it will cost valuable time and effort.

We must check our progress against our road map and our goals frequently. If we are off track even the slightest fraction, we must ADJUST our route so that we are once again headed for Kentucky. And now you have the final components to achieving effective change. Be prepared to make adjustments to the plan as needed until we reach our final destination.

Plan-Do-Check-Adjust: an effective cycle for creating change in our lives.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Create a Change
Step Two - ACTION!

Did you complete your homework? Wasn’t it fun!

Take a look at your list. Do some of the things on it make you smile? Do some make you proud? I bet you have one or two that surprised you. I know paying off my Dad’s mortgage wasn’t something I had ever given any thought to until I made the list and yet it is one of the most important items to me.

This list represents the start of your Plan. Now, you need a strategy for achieving your Plan. You need a road map. Time for the Action or DO phase. Working backwards in time from each item in your Plan, what needs to be put into place to achieve your goals? For instance, if my goal is to drive to Kentucky, I would sit down with a map and plan the trip details. I would plan the number of hours I was willing to drive each day. Where I am going to stay each night? I would plan a plethora of details that would make the trip fun, efficient , and safe. Of course, I would leave in room for some flexibility so that I can take advantage of opportunities that pop up along the way. As long as they don’t take me away from my final goal!

What qualifies as an action step? Take your original list of 100 things you want to accomplish in the next 5 years. Define the top 5 most important to you. They are your destination at the end of your 5 year “road map”. Working backwards in time, define what must be accomplished before the destination can be reached. Be very specific because the more details you have figured out ahead of time, the fewer surprises you will run into during the journey. Initially, set in the yearly goals and then break them down into quarterly and monthly. Finally, identify the weekly and daily steps. What do you need to do today to achieve your 5 year goal?

Please do not get so hung up on this “road map” that you don’t start the action! This is a hazard for those of us naturally detail oriented. I can get so focused on defining the actions steps I never actually take one! Start moving!

Start implementing your plan. Take the daily action steps you need to get you to your goals. If you don’t get into the habit of taking these steps, you guarantee that you will miss your goals by a long shot. It is our daily habits that determine where we will be in 5, 10 and 25 years. Whether you want to be in Kentucky by Monday or financially independent of a job by the time you are 35 years old, today is the day to start.

Take a step toward that goal every day. With good habits, persistence, consistency and focus you will achieve your goals. You might miss them by a little bit. For instance, instead of achieving financial independence by age 30 you reach it at age 40. Still much better than never achieving it at all!

Remember, an idea with a game plan and commitment is a dream/goal. An idea without either a game plan or commitment is just a fantasy!

See you next week with another piece of PDCA.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Create a Change
Step One - PLAN

How do successful people get where they intended? I would like to introduce a concept that can be applied to just about everything. PDCA – Plan, Do, Check, Adjust.

The first step is plan. Plan what you want your day, week, year or life to look like. Play along with me here. If you had a magic bank account that never ran dry, what would life look like 5 years from now? Come on! Think big!

In 5 years, do you want to live where you are right now? What house are you living in? Do you own it? How big is it?

What kind of car will you be driving? Is it a family van? An Escalade? Or how about something that ends in an “i”? Lamborghini? Maserati?

Where will you go on vacation? Italy? Bahamas? Switzerland? How many vacations per year will you take? Two weeks a year or two weeks a month?

Who will you be helping? Maybe a family member who is struggling? What would you do for your favorite charity? What would you do for your church?

What would you spend your time doing? Would you be a stay at home mom or dad? Would you keep working at your job?

The Plan is completely your own. No one can define your future for you, but they sure can have an impact on it if you don’t have a plan! If you don’t have a goal, you are going to end up right where you are headed. Running home to work, work to home, home to work, work to home, home to work, work to home. Saturday and Sunday. Followed by home to work all over again. Is that where you want to be?

Here is your homework. Make a list of 100 things you wish to accomplish, own, or create in your lifetime. Include the silly as well as the significant. My first list started off something like this:

  • 365 pairs of socks (tired of the dryer eating my socks!)
  • a full time gardener (I have 16 acres of weeds!)
  • a personal trainer who comes to my house
  • my own personal assistant whose primary function is to take care of me (would you like your lunch now? You are working too hard – time to go out and play with the dogs.)
  • a personal chef
  • Dodge Ram 3500
  • 1956 Candy Apple Red Corvette
  • job optional
  • home in Ireland
  • pay off my Dad’s mortgage

Your list is your own. Play with it. Set a timer for 15 minutes and start writing. Don’t stop to think. Just write.

I recommend The Magic of Thinking BIG by Dr. David J Schwartz as a great book to help you think bigger than your current circumstances.

See you next week!


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Create a Change
Intro

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a Prima Ballerina, a horse trainer, and an ice cream store owner all at the same time! When I hit High School, I decided I was going to be a multi-millionaire, take care of my parents financially, travel the world, have a home in Carmel California, Ireland and Hawaii, and drive a 1956 candy apple red Corvette. There were no posters of family vans, a house in the suburbs, or staycations on my bedroom walls.

What happened? Some people would say “you grew up and faced reality.” I beg to differ. I did what I was taught by my parents. They taught me what their parents taught them. Go to school. Get good grades (or not so good in my case). Get a good job and stay there because the company will take care of you someday. Sound familiar? This is industrial age thinking and went out over 50 years ago. We LEARNED how to do something. We went out and did what we learned to DO. And now we DEFINE our lifestyle based on what we earn. Learn, Do, Define. How’s that working out so far? I hate to tell you this, but this pattern is backwards at best.

If you want different results, we have to change something. The first thing we have to change is how we think. What if we first defined what we want our life to look like? What if we then went out and learned how to create this by following in the footsteps of someone who has what we want? Then, what if we go out and do what we learned? Define, Learn, Do…this is how the truly successful of our world think!

You wouldn’t build a house without some kind of blueprint, would you? Don’t you define the details of the house before you get started? So, why don’t we do the same with our lives? Most of us give more attention to planning a vacation than we do our life! Uh oh, I hear some whining out there! I hear loud and clear “I don’t have the time or the money!” Good thing Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Henry Ford, Benjamin Franklin and a host of others didn’t let either of those stop them. They defined where they wanted to go and stayed focused on making it happen despite obstacles.

Join me next Friday for further discussion on this topic.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Arnie

At the clinic where I work, we diligently monitor ins and outs 24 hours every day.

One day, we had a shepherd cross named Arnie in a run. Arnie was on IV fluids at 80mls/hour when I arrived at 0700. I quickly read through his chart and then read it again. Arnie had been on IV fluids for 14 hours and yet there was no record of him urinating ever – at all – nada!

I assumed someone had forgotten to record the urinations so I went looking for the graveyard technician, Suzie. Suzie said that Arnie had not urinated since she came on duty. Hmmm, something is really wrong here. I called the swing tech who had taken care of Arnie before Suzie. She said the same thing, Arnie hadn’t urinated during her entire shift. The mystery deepened. So, either someone actually forgot to record urinations and isn’t willing to fess up or Arnie has a terrible problem.

I spent the day taking care of Arnie and several other patients. While I was working at the back counter right around the corner from Arnie, I heard the unmistakable sound of urinating. I quietly walked toward the kennels. There was Arnie at the back of his run standing up on his hind legs with his forelegs on the chain link fence. He was urinating into the run gutters! No wonder no one ever found urine in his run.

Smart dog! Mystery solved.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Living Life Intentionally
Willow

One day I stopped to ask myself just exactly where all the busyness was going to get me. In a year, 5 years or 20 years, was I going to be any less frantically busy? Was I going to be any closer to my goals? Oh, wait a minute! What are my goals? Aaah…when dealing with a flooded kitchen, turn the faucet off first!

Remember, the best thing about advice is that we can keep what we want and throw the rest away. With that said, I am going to offer advice on how to manage the busyness of life. Remember, if we want different results in life, we have to change something. We have to change how we think.

First, buy a pad of paper and a weekly appointment day planner. The weekly calendar should include appointment slots from early morning to late evening 7 days a week.

Next, sit down somewhere quiet. Make sure you aren’t going to be disturbed by anyone. Hide from the kids, the spouse and the chores screaming your name. Maybe in the bathroom? Now, just think about what you want your life to look like this coming week. This is tougher to do than it sounds because our mind has been taught to constantly multi-task. When your mind drifts to the dirty kitchen, the next day’s work, and the shopping list, don’t beat yourself up. Just gently bring your mind back to the task at hand. Do you want more chaos or more control over your week?

Make a list of everything you know you need to accomplish this week. Just jot everything down without judging or stressing out. The work, shopping, making dinner, DMV, car repair, doctor appointment, kids soccer practice, etc. Now, add to the list everything you really WANT to accomplish this week for yourself. Is there a lunch date with a friend that would be a treat for the two of you? How about the great book you have been meaning to start? Is there an online course on VetMedTeam you want to participate in? How about working out three times this week? This part of the list is for those things you really, really want for yourself.

Read the entire list top to bottom. Place a star next to your top 12 most important items on the list. Of those top 12, place an asterisk next to those you can delegate to someone else. Uh oh, I just heard some of you say there aren’t any you can delegate. Really? Do you want more chaos or control in your life? Could you rotate responsibility with another parent for getting the kids to their activities? Do you really need to shop for that wedding gift by running all over town or could you shop online in a fraction of the time? Here is a thought, if you were in a hospital recuperating from surgery, who would take care of all those things you think you can’t delegate? So, start delegating!

Using your day planner, write in your schedule for your job. Take a look at the list of your remaining top 12 without an asterisk. Schedule each one of them into the week. These are firm appointments you are going to keep. Include driving time in the schedule. Now you have a little bit better handle on how the week will progress!

What do you do about all the items that didn’t make it onto your top 12 list? If they didn’t make it to the top 12 list, but you still feel compelled to get them done, reassess them and decide which ones would make you feel good about yourself. Add them to your schedule without bumping any of your top picks.

Below is an example of one of my days. Definitely one of my easier days!

  • 0500-0530Get up and get ready for work
  • 0530-0600Breakfast, feed the dogs
  • 0600-0630Listen to books or lectures on CD during commute to work
  • 0700-1100Work
  • 1100-1200Lunch break: read!
  • 1200-1600Work
  • 1600-1700Listen to books or lectures on CD during commute home
  • 1700-1800Feed the dogs, make dinner
  • 1800-1830Eat dinner, chat with husband
  • 1830-2000Work in yard and play with dogs, husband does the dishes
  • 2000-2100Read and get ready for bed
  • 2100-0500Sleep

Please notice that nowhere on my schedule is there time for surfing the net. This is a time thief! Have you ever told yourself that you would only spend 5 minutes looking at a video clip someone sent you only to discover that you have just spent 2 hours! For some reason, the Internet is addictive. I am sure there is a psychology student out there somewhere doing a PhD thesis on this very topic. In the meantime, just remember that you chose a list of important accomplishments for your week, time is very valuable, and not to waste it where value is not added to your life.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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I Don’t Have Time!
Labrador carrying a large stick in a stream

There is no doubt we are all incredibly busy. There isn’t a spare minute to be had. None of us stop at 2:30 in the afternoon and say “I have nothing to do for the next 20 minutes”. Just doesn’t happen! We are busy in our job and ultra busy outside of work.

Do you know the story of the guy who walks in to find his buddy frantically mopping up the floor? He asks his buddy “what are you doing”. Buddy, with great frustration, responds “The sink is plugged. I am mopping up the flood”. (You know where this is going.) “Hey Buddy, why don’t you turn the faucet off first?” to which Buddy replies “I don’t have time!”

Between the 30 cases on the schedule for the day, client call backs, medical record updating, cleaning, stocking, ordering, walking the patients, laundry…aaaaarrrrrggh! And then we rush out at the end of the day to pick up the kids, play chauffeur for the next three hours and try to squeeze in every errand imaginable. Waaaaaay past our preferred bedtime, we finally crash into bed only to be awakened at O'Dark-thirty to start all over again! We are being pulled through our day by circumstances rather than living our day intentionally.

If we want different results, we have to change something. The first thing we need to change is how we think. So, let’s live our day intentionally. Join me next week for suggestions on how to live more intentionally.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Possibilities

I have friends and family all over the world. It doesn’t seem to matter which country, everyone is talking about the economic downturn. Just about everyone is impacted and most folks are stressed by it. I understand. I see what is happening here in California as well as across our nation. I know about the real estate bust, the banking crisis, and the downfall of the auto industry. California’s Governor as made it quite clear the difficulties the state is facing. What I am confused by is the prevailing attitude of fear. Please don’t misunderstand me, I feel for people and the challenges they are facing. I don’t intend to make light of the crisis.

The media has us convinced the sky is falling. Personally, I am really tired of the Chicken Little routine. I refuse take part in the economic crisis. Instead, I have created a paradigm shifta change in basic assumptions . Instead of stalling emotionally on the thought of what we are going through, I am focused on where I am going. I am focused on what my life is going to look like in 5 years. I am focused on possibilities!

Just by changing our paradigm a philosophical and theoretical framework we change our outlook and our possibilities. Besides, it is way more fun! Yes, I deal with today, but I make decisions every day for my future. I stay focused on what I want my life to look like rather than on the current economy. By focusing on what I want for the future, I make decisions, consciously and unconsciously that get me closer to that future. This isn’t anything unusual. What we focus on, we get. Start off your day thinking you will have a lousy day and, guess what? You have a lousy day. What you focus on, you get! I planned to get a B.S. degree, so all of my decisions got me closer and closer until I achieved my goal. I planned to own a farm and now I have two. I planned on a successful marriage and now I have the best marriage a person could want. All of this took planning, commitment, time and effort.

I am not some Pollyanna. Nor am I talking about "wishing". I am talking about planning, action and commitment. So, if you are tired of the Chicken Little routine, here is my recommendation.

Sit down with a pad of paper and write a letter to yourself about how your life will look 5 years from now. Put everything in there – every little detail. Where you are living. Who you spend your time with. Your financial picture, etc. This is the first step – Plan.

Next step, start working on your game plan. How are you going to achieve everything you wrote in your letter? What will it take to get the life you want? Now do it! One day at a time. One hour at a time. Do whatever it takes to achieve the future you have planned. Plan, Do.

OK, now you have done the first two steps. Keep up the good work.

The next step is to evaluate how you are doing. Initially, weekly evaluations are probably needed. Plan, Do, Check.

And lastly, based on the evaluation of your progress, make adjustments in your game plan. So, now you have it. Plan, Do, Check, Adjust.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Time Runs Away from Me

I don't know about you, but my days are filled to capacity. I don't suddenly stop at 2pm each day & find that I have nothing left to do.

What is the trick to maximize our time & still have time to create? I find that I am most productive on those few days where I write out everything I want to get done, prioritize the list, & start with the most important first. I gain control over my time before it runs away from me.

Every time management book, success oriented leader, and supermoms and dads all prioritize their day in one way or another. Isn't it interesting that the “successful” people of the world also write down their daily priorities & stick to them. If I want to have their results, I need to make this habit one of mine! Duh!

Identifying my time wasting habits is critical if I want to maximize my time. Cruising the web, while somewhat fun and always mind numbing, steals time away from the important things in my life. So does “putting out fires” at work. I can put out fires all day long and at the end of the day still not have accomplished any high priority tasks. My list of time “black holes” is huge! Definitely need to get this under control asap or I am going to be 90 years old and have a life of regrets.

What are your time "wasters"? What techniques do you use to keep control over your time? Got to go, time is a wastin'.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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What Are Your Values?

Occasionally, I have run into awkward situations where I am uncomfortable with the ethics or legality of something I have seen in practice. Maybe a co-worker takes a package of printer paper home without asking. Or a not-so-nice client’s invoice is inflated as retaliation. How about when one client is charged less for an identical procedure because the clinician likes them or feels sorry for them?

Ever run into this one? A client sorrowfully opts to euthanize their pet because they can’t afford the medical treatment. The clinician agrees and the paperwork is signed. The client leaves. The clinician doesn’t euthanize the pet, treats the animal, and adopts the pet out to someone else. Sticky scenarios aren’t they?

If you have given serious thought to the foundations of integrity and character, these situations aren’t sticky at all. When you come to a fork in the road, there is no doubt in your mind which way to go. This doesn’t mean you aren’t uncomfortable, but you do know which way to go.

Let me give you an example from the corporate world. Tylenol, as a corporation, identified and committed to a mission statement as well as a culture based first and foremost on “do no harm”. In the 1980s, they discovered that a batch of Tylenol might have been deliberately tampered with by an employee. Initially, they weren’t sure, but there was a concern. They could have waited to take action pending confirmation. They could have waited to see how extensive the damage was or how dangerous the contaminant was. They could have kept mum and hoped no one would notice. What they did do is still pretty amazing in the dog eat dog world of business. They looked to their stated value system to guide them through the crisis. They immediately, without hesitation, notified the media and blitzed the nation with a safety warning and recall for every bottle of the suspect batch. They even recalled the batches before and after the known tainted batch. They came to a fork in the road and stayed true to their values.

Ethics aren’t something to make you sound high and mighty. They are your guideposts. If you have identified your values, you can refer to them every time you come to a fork in the road.

What are your values? To live by them first requires that you have identified them. It takes courage to stick to your values in the face of confrontation. The price of the lack of courage is magnified over time.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Bury Your “I Can’ts”

Last time, I wrote about living a life of no regrets. Did you start a list of your priorities? Hmmm, too busy? Did I hear you say “I will get to it later. I’m too busy right now.” or “I can’t because I don’t know what I want to accomplish.”?

May I offer a suggestion? Make a list of all your “I can’ts” and then give them a funeral. Bury them or cremate them.

Now, focus on “How can I….” Reframe your thoughts to focus on solutions.

If you don’t, you will “I can’t” yourself right to the grave with a crushing burden of regrets.


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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A Life with No Regrets

Looking back fifteen years from now, I wonder what I will wish I had accomplished. This is a serious question. Life has no rewind button. There are no do-overs. It really is now or never! Will I wish I had spent more time with family? Will I wish I had gone after that degree or specialty certification? How about that big idea I came up with? Will I wish I had taken up rafting or made that big move out of state? Will I wish I had resolved issues with my father or friend?

Can you imagine living a life of no regrets? Recently, I realized today is the time to start working on this. Once a day is gone, I can never get it back. A missed opportunity is sometimes my only opportunity. Time is short.

I knew a woman once. She was tall and beautiful, creative, witty, and intelligent. She gave awesome hugs. Accomplished pianist. She was warm-hearted, generous and loved to read. Beautiful singing voice. Had a wonderful, but definitely not perfect husband. Four awesome daughters – two still living at home. For two years, I kept meaning to spend some time getting to know her better. Maybe special lunches together or even a weekend trip. I was so caught up in the busyness of my life, I kept putting off contacting her. I was also arrogant. Arrogant enough to believe that time was on my side and would wait for me. What a shame! Her husband called me one day to say she had cancer and had only a few weeks left. I dropped everything to go see her. I even helped take care of her during her last few days. She was in so much pain by then, she was kept pretty close to unconscious on morphine. One night, in her drugged state, I heard her mumble “I am not done yet. There is so much to do.” She passed away early the next morning at the age of 43.

I will forever regret never having taken the time to get to know her better. I lost forever the opportunity to hear about her hopes and dreams. I will never know why she made the life choices she had. Nor will I ever know what she was passionate about or what frightened or angered her. I don't know what her favorite color was or what growing up in Indiana was like. I will never know how she felt about being a mother and a wife. I will always regret that I let the opportunity to get to know my mother slip by without a second thought.

After losing my mother so young, I swore I would never let something like this happen again. The pain of regret was so strong I believed it was enough to motivate me to keep that promise. Guess what? It isn't! I have done it again many times over the last 25 years. I have let my nephew go from birth to 21 without spending time with him. Oh, I see him now and then at family events but have not spent any time with him. I've done the same thing with my three sisters. 25 years is gone in a flash. My grandsons are 4 and half, 3, and 21 months. Am I going to do the same with them?

No rewind button. No do-overs. If I want a life of no regrets, I'd better get busy identifying my priorities and then sticking to them! Here is the game plan. I made a list of all the things I want to accomplish before I die. The silly and the serious. I set a date by each one. This list isn't static. I am always adding to it. I keep the list where I can read it every day so I don't forget what I am running towards.

Courage is needed to live a life of no regrets. I hope I have that courage! Be courageous! You will not regret it!


Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Cathedrals

It is very easy to feel underappreciated in our work. It isn't like our name appears on the medical record as the person of authority. Many times we are invisible to the clients because we work in the back out of sight. We don't own the practice. We are the employee, not the authority figure. We are "just" the tech. You and I know this isn't so. We are appreciated. We are recognized for our contributions to the practices where we work as well as the field of veterinary medicine.

The cathedrals in Europe built in the 1600's are amazing pieces of architecture. Considering the technology (or lack thereof) that existed then, it is simply amazing that the cathedrals were built at all. Each one took years, sometimes decades to complete. The number of laborers and artisans involved with each project is impressive and yet their names are not recorded. No one today knows who they were. Underappreciated? Not really. Everyone who walks through one of these cathedrals today is awed by the beauty, size and history. We may not know the name of the artist who created the stained glass windows or carved the beams, but we do admire and respect their work.

I read a story once about the construction of a cathedral. A man was walking through the cathedral inspecting the progress when he noticed a woodcarver working on a beam. The carver was painstakingly carving a bird into the beam. The inspector stopped to watch for a minute and then asked the carver "Why are you bothering to carve that bird. No one will ever admire it. The beam will be covered by plaster. Why bother?" The woodcarver kept working on the beautiful bird, carving each feather in loving detail. The inspector commented "What a waste of time. No one will ever know it even exists." The woodcarver said "God and I will."

Sometimes we do our best because we will know. We don't always need to be recognized by others for our efforts or results. Sometimes it is enough just to know we did our best.

Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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Hello and Welcome to VetTechLife

This site was designed specifically for you.  Before I tell you about VetTechLife, let me share how VetTechLife began.  I've enjoyed working as a veterinary technician for 30+ years.  Longer than some of you have been alive!

Over the last three decades, I have seen tremendous change in Veterinary Medicine.  Back when I first got started, we weren't quite troglodytes, but we still saw a few of them around. I can remember when:

  • Pain management consisted of analgesia during surgery, but nothing post-op.  The theory was that pain kept the patient from moving around much post-op so just let them hurt.  Ouch!
  • We nebulized birds with a combo of DMSO and malathion to treat air sac mites.  The smell permeated the entire hospital.  It is a wonder we are still alive!
  • The very first veterinary technicians were certified in California.  In fact, I know some of them!
  • Veterinary technicians were glorified kennel help with no understanding of what we were doing.  Don't get me wrong!  We weren't stupid, just uneducated.  We performed completely accurate lab work, but couldn't tell you what any of it meant.  We performed treatments, but had no understanding of why we were doing what we were doing. 
  • We used water from a garden hose and dish soap to scrub a cow before a c-section while we worked in the middle of the pasture.  Why our patients didn't end up with rip-roaring infections I will never understand!
  • We used gravity flow for IV fluids because veterinary clinics didn't see the need for infusion pumps.

Boy, have things changed!  As Veterinary Medicine has advanced, so has the Veterinary Technician profession.  Our roles in the veterinary practice have become much more sophisticated.  We are educated, skilled members of the Veterinary medical team contributing on a daily basis to patient care.  Some of us now contribute to the education of others, the advancement of the science, and to the profession.  Our profession has come into its own and is growing rapidly as our roles become more critical and our contributions more highly valued.

I know when I first got started as a Veterinary Technician, I was just a kid with no worries other than doing a good job at the Veterinary Clinic and passing my University courses.  Life was pretty simple then.

Things have most definitely changed!  Now, I worry about the economy, my grandkids, the environment, retirement, my growing waistline and my creaky joints.  I have come to discover that I am not alone in my concerns (ok, maybe the waistline and creaky joints). 

I talk with Vet Techs all over North America.  I hear that your passion and commitment to your profession are strong.  I hear that you love what you do for a living.  You have told me there are plenty of resources designed to help you stay current with and grow in your profession.  And yet, you have shared with me that you struggle in your day-to-day lives.  You feel like you are juggling too many balls and the one you always drop is “you” and even, sometimes your relationships.  I hear that you are overwhelmingly busy.  You are struggling financially.  You have shared with me that your life is out of balance.  I hear the “S” word (stress) frequently.  You tell me that you have had to shrink your dreams to fit your budget.  I even hear you say you have given up on some dreams entirely.  I hear you. 

Know that you are not alone in your challenges.  There are tens of thousands of us in the Veterinary Technician profession facing the same struggles. As I listen to you, I realize we, as a community, need easy access to guidance and inspiration from those with proven success.  We don't need theories or best guesses.   We need concrete information that has proven to work for anyone.  And, we need it in bite-size pieces because we are already very busy. 

So, what if we could go to one place to find trustworthy people who can help us regain control over our lives?  What if we had instant access to the experts committed to helping Veterinary Staff achieve both personal and professional success?  What if there was one resource where the focus was on our unique professional and personal challenges? VetTechLife is that “one place”.

VetTechLife was born to fill your need for guidance and inspiration.  The content is based on your concerns.  The experts are chosen to fill your needs.  New content is created to fill the needs you identify. VetTechLife is the community center for the “village” you belong to as a veterinary professional. This is where you can find the “village elders” you trust to help you move forward in your life both personally and professionally. This is where you come to learn how to live on purpose rather than by accident.  Come meet the experts.  Explore your website.  Let us know what else you need.

This is your website.  Let it help you design your best year yet!  Let VetTechLife help you achieve balance. I look forward to hearing from and working with you.

Onward and Upward! 

Moira A. Fitzgerald, BS, RVT

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