As a child growing up, my love and compassion for animals was always indubitable. Although majority of my entire family failed to graduate high school let alone attend college, I was exceedingly confident in myself as much in middle school as I am today, that one day, I would make my dreams a reality and become a licensed veterinary physician. I honestly couldn’t think of nothing more that would make me happier than immersing myself in a career which allowed me to care for various common and exotic creatures, by providing medical assistance to better and possibly save many helpless lives in the process.
With that said, I knew I had a long life in college ahead of me immediately after completing high school if I wanted to become a veterinarian. However, as we all know, growing up takes us on unexpected journeys throughout life, and my life was definitely no exception. In 2005, just as I was anticipating my last year in high school, graduating and becoming independently responsible to embark on my own personal goals, mother-nature inadvertently reminded the world of her extreme power, and capabilities by releasing Hurricane Katrina’s force onto my hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Destroying thousands of lives in her path, my family and my life was abruptly changed on this very day. This devastating experience left me apathetic to the dreams and goals I had only weeks ago as I was force to continue my senior year at a unfamiliar school. A school that was at an entirely different end of the country from the one I was previously attending. Because of the move forcing us up far north, I felt the education system was quite anomalous from the south, leaving me awfully confused, upset and frustrated with school altogether, and any aspirations I had for myself was gone.
But one day, I saw someone that changed my life forever, and ultimately my entire outlook with school. A few months into attending Park Center Senior High, I was captivated by two well dressed men in uniform standing there in the cafeteria one afternoon, whom were soon identified as Marines within the United States military. At that moment, through all the hopelessness and grief, I was suddenly enlightened and eager of this new journey that was presented before me, since it did not require a college degree, but only that of a high school diploma or GED.
Two weeks after graduating, I made that leap and was shipped off to recruit training held in Parris Island, South Carolina. As days passed where weeks became months, and months became years, serving my country, I remained reluctant to pursue any college goals I previously had growing up, because after all I thought, the Marine Corps was my calling in life and I would retire honorably from it without the need of a college education. But approximately four years into the service, I came to the realization that whether I retired from the Corps or not, a college degree would always be a positive achievement and beneficial to have.
That was when I decided to enroll into a few online courses through Kaplan University while serving overseas, but strangely enough it was not any courses relating to the veterinary program. Instead, I enrolled in a criminal justice degree. I can’t say exactly what led me to pursue a criminal justice degree, but five classes in, it became obvious that online classes was not my forte, and criminal justice was not my passion. I found myself withdrawing from the school and placing my education back on hold to focus entirely on my military career.
Another three years had gone by as I reached my eight years in the military while stationed in North Carolina, when it was becoming more and more evident that the flame I had burning deep down inside for everything Marine Corps was slowly flickering away. My love for the Corps and everything it stood for remained, but I needed change. Coincidentally at this time, my contract was coming to an end, and I needed to decide quickly if I wanted to reenlist or receive an honorable discharge from the military. Meanwhile, back at home in New Orleans, my pride and joy Cookie (my dog) was falling extremely ill back.
For years, I sensed something was wrong with her. I brought her to a clinic every chance I visited, along with my sister who brought her if needed when I wasn’t there. Time and time again, I was informed she was healthy, and is possibly having early signs of Cushing’s disease; a disease referring to an increase in cortisone due to a benign tumor of the pituitary gland, causing an imbalance in hormones which are responsible for regulating various bodily functions. If not functioning properly, could lead to a cascade of negative health effects.
After putting out thousands of dollars on clinical visits to be told again and again that Cookie was healthy, but my family insisted otherwise, stating that something was extremely wrong with her for she was very aloof. Her health was clearly declining as each day passed. The news of her health was extremely agonizing for me, since I was not able to return home when she needed me the absolute most. I did the only thing I was capable of, and that was providing any financial support allowing my sister to take Cookie to the clinic and animal hospital.
All of a sudden I was taken back when the doctor diagnosed her with kidney failure along with an extensive list of other health complications she may have been battling for years, and that her time was coming to an end. When my sister told me this, I was infuriated beyond measure! I felt her health problems could have been abated if the veterinarians actually looked closer into the issues present long ago, rather than dismissing it as the usual symptoms and sending her off as being healthy.
With the fire diminishing inside me for the Corps, and my heart being crippled by the news of my dog dying and I couldn’t do anything about it was heart wrenching. These unfortunate circumstances made me decide that I wanted to get out of the Corps and return home and spend as much time as I had left with my dog. Although the veterinarians played a crucial role in bringing pain and anger into my life, their negligence reignited a flame that I didn’t realize or accepted was dead. A passion with wanting to help animals professionally was revived.
The main factor driving this passion this time around was dedicating myself to help reduce any emotional pain or financial hardship an owner must face when trying to care for their furry creatures, and not have them suffer the pain and torment I had to suffer through. Upon a long and intense consideration on my career, I decided to deny my reenlistment and accept that this was the end of the road for me and the Corps. All the while, my dog was a week into her hospital stay as doctors tried their best to keep her alive until my arrival, knowing my situation with the military.
Although she was sick, I was excited to know I still had a chance to see her before she left the world. But when the last day arrived for me to finish my contract on active duty, approximately an hour away from receiving my final paperwork to officially depart, I received a call from my sister, hearing her cry uncontrollably through the phone. She didn’t need to say anything for me to grasp what was going on. Tears instantly came to my eyes and my heart was shattered.
I lost my main dog of 10 years, and I was too late to change my decisions on my reenlistment orders. I felt like I lost everything again, and was about to return home to nothing. Crying majority of the time during my 12 hour non-stop drive from Jacksonville, NC. to New Orleans, LA. , I had nothing but time to think. I replayed all the memories of the years I spent with my dog, wishing I hadn’t left her to join the military. But I also found myself thinking, why not go back to school and chase that dream of becoming a veterinarian as I always wanted?
Become someone more than just ‘the veterinarian’ or ‘the doctor’ that took care of people’s ‘pets’ just to make a living to pay off bills. I found myself wanting to be the doctor that went above and beyond towards helping someone’s family member, someone’s sidekick, someone’s pride and joy, someone’s only reason for existence–someone that is not just a ‘pet’ in our eyes. There lies a difference between many veterinarians in our world, and I want to become that doctor who is known to put the animal’s well-being above all else.
Departing a world I was extremely successful in and loved was painstakingly hard. The Marine Corps was all I really knew since I graduated high school. I was severely stressed and nervous about returning to the civilian world. One thing was certain though about my future and it was that I wanted to help animals and people. Those two things in life was apparent to me as night and day. So when the time came for me to enroll in a school, I was suddenly undecided whether I wanted to become a personal trainer and open my own gym, or become a veterinarian as I always wanted.
Researching into the veterinary program, a bachelors degree is not required for the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program, but I figured why obtain my bachelors in Exercise Science, work part time saving money by training clients, then apply into the veterinary program. Both field relies heavily on science, and both involves anatomy. Serving years for my country and protecting the people is what I did. Now what I need and wanted to do is to continue helping people along with animals alike. This conclusion led me to where I am today, attending my second year at North Hennepin Community College for my Exercise Science degree.
I chose a community college because I honestly was not ready to dive into a university after leaving the military. Getting my feet wet in the waters of a community college felt like a great stepping stone for me until I need to transfer for my graduate degree. In a couple of more years, I shall have my bachelors and finally taking that leap towards veterinary medicine which have been postponed for 10 years far too long. Only time now until I can say finally did it, and be the first to graduate out of a university with a doctorate degree, completing a goal I’ve had since I was just a young teenager.