Oxford is an animal-friendly town. Saturdays are often spent outside playing with puppies at the Humane Society or walking the family dog at Pat Lamar Park. But where do animals go if they are hurt or sick?
Atlanta native Karina Calderon, 23, a veterinary technician at Crossroads Animal Hospital in Oxford, will help.
Veterinary technicians, or “vet techs” as they are dubbed, perform duties similar to nurses in doctor’s offices. They start a room, ask questions about the dog, take the dog back, record the weight, prepare materials ready for treatment, and explain problems to the doctor. If it’s an annual appointment, vet techs vaccinate, draw blood, collect fecal samples and run tests.
To become an official veterinarian, you must have experience as a vet tech. Calderon is working to gain experience before she goes to vet school. She has been passionate about animals since she was a child, and grew up with German shepherds as her family dogs. She now helps her younger sister, Nikki Calderon, raise a Belgian Malinois, Ina.
Calderon has been working at Crossroads for two years. She hopes to open her own practice or work with exotic animals, like wolves, and rehabilitate them.
“My favorite part of the job is being able to see an animal healthy and happy after being injured, and feeling the gratitude of being able to help out,” she said.
Nikki Calderon is a University of Mississippi student who has seen the kind of work her sister puts in as a vet tech.
“Karina works the longest hours and even comes home to check on my dog to make sure she’s healthy,” Nikki Calderon said. “She is so passionate about what she’s doing, and that carries over into her work.”
Karina Calderon graduated from UM last fall and has spent the entire spring working at Crossroads. She plans to move to Atlanta for a year before beginning vet school. Her parents have been supportive.
“We are really proud of her for pursuing her passion and helping others at the same time,” said mom, Amie Calderon.
Working at a vet’s office is not always easy. Animals come in sick or hurt all the time. Some must be euthanized. Karina Calderon said the hardest part is seeing animals suffer and euthanized because of something that could have been controlled.
“Seeing an animal suffer from the hands of their owner because they are unwilling to take the necessary steps to take care for their animal is really hard,” she said.
She remembers one incident involving a Chow. “They left the dog tied up outside for two days,” she said. “When the doctors looked at the paw, it was swollen and smelled like death. It was oozing and bleeding.
“The wire wrapped around the paw and cut off the circulation. The vets said the dog had to have been tied up for over a week. They had to remove the leg of the dog. The dog died in surgery because of blood loss. It was a really upsetting situation. It could have been prevented easily.”