By: Laura Clementson

Anasthesia and surgery teacher, Anne Downes, begins Grace, a 10 mond-old small Lab
mix that’s now up for adoption, out into the fall weather.

Chinese medicine, clipping your dog’s nails, giving your cat eye drops, and best home practices are just a few of the various topics discussed at Ottawa’s mini veterinary school.

Algonquin played host to the event that ran from Oct. 26 to Nov. 16—the primary fundraiser for Community Veterinary Outreach, which provides care for animals owned by the homeless in Ottawa.

“It’s kind of the fundraising arm of Community Veterinary Outreach,” said Anne Downes who has been teaching surgery and anasthesia at Algonquin for the past four years. “This is something that normally the public would not have any opportunity to access.”

Community Veterinary Outreach assists underprivileged pet owners with things such as vaccines, inserting chips, de-worming, providing flea products, food allergy awareness and general information on the animal’s health—essentially providing basic preventative healthcare. The outreach program is also working with a program for spaying and neutering.

“We try to pick topics that would be of general interest to pet owners. We’re not getting into sophisticated medical lectures,” said Downes. “These aren’t lectures for veterinarians. These are lectures for your average person who owns a cat or dog and what they would find interesting.”

The lectures welcomed 115 participants and appealed to a variety of community members including Ottawa resident Byron Johnson who decided to educate himself more on the newest member of his family, a Rhodesian Ridgeback who he has now had for 16 months.

“The presentation on what is normal was really good. That was useful. The idea of baselining or benchmarking the dog’s condition right now is really invaluable,” said Johnson.

Other curious animal lovers included John McCrae Secondary School student, Chasya Czech who was referred to the lecture series by her careers’ teacher.

“I’ve always had an interest in animals and I wanted to be a veterinarian, but you have to go to university for that and I wanted to pursue my dreams of being with animals and I realized that I could do it in college too,” said Czech about her ambitions to attend Algonquin.

One of the four lectures hosted by Dr. Daren Auger, who has been practicing Chinese medicine for the past two years, introduced participants to the concept of Chinese medicine as another branch to help with pets to prevent and treat diseases.

“I think more and more people now are seeking those complementary methods for themselves and when they’re looking at it for themselves, they then start to look for it for their animals,” said Auger.

“It’s an old branch of veterinary medicine, but a relatively new accepted branch,” he continued.

Current first-year vet-tech student Kasey Youcke was one among the crowd who was intrigued by the concept of Chinese medicine for animals.

“It’s just something that I’ve never heard of to deal with veterinary medicine. I’ve heard of it in humans, but never with animals so I figured it would be interesting to learn how it affects animals,” said Youcke.

Dr. Michelle Lem who founded Community Veterinary Outreach nine years ago has been running the mini-vet school at Algonquin for the past four years.

“Like this year and other years we’ve had usually between 40 and 50 per cent who are repeat participants and we have some participants who come every single year so that tells us that we’re doing something right and that people are enjoying the lecture series and that we’re offering diverse enough topics that they want to come back and hear more,” said Lem.

All the funds from the lecture series go to the clinics, which are completely volunteer run.

The program has opened up in Hamilton and Toronto, and will be in Kitchener this December.

Lem is very optimistic about the impact of the lecture series and believes that not only can it be informative, but enjoyable as well.

“I hope that people have a good time and learn something while they’re here.”