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After the Storm: BRCC Vet Techs Provide Comfort to Houston-area Pets

Thu Oct 19, 2017 at 02:13 PM
BRCC grads Jessie Griffin, Dj Cannon, Jessica Stevens, and Brittany Kestner (wearing glasses) pose with other veterinary volunteers
BRCC grads Jessie Griffin, Dj Cannon, Jessica Stevens, and Brittany Kestner (wearing glasses) pose with other veterinary volunteers.

After connecting through social media, several Blue Ridge Community College graduates of the veterinary technology program came together to volunteer to help animals in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston. Jessie Griffin, a 2014 vet tech grad, lives in a Houston suburb. Her home was spared in the storm, so opening it up to others coming to volunteer with Harvey Volunteer Vets and other groups was “the least I could do.” Dj Cannon is an operations director for a veterinary practice in northern Virginia, and a recent graduate of the Masters in Public Health (Epidemiology) program at George Mason University. Two other grads involved were Jessica Stevens and Brittany Kestner.

Why they got involved—

Jessie: My church was turned into an evacuee shelter. [Since] my family was saved from the storm, it was the least I could do. My husband helped demo and clean houses while I worked with the animals. People four miles away from us lost everything. It was time to give back to what God has so graciously given to our family.

Dj: I wanted to simply give back and utilize skills we are so fortunate to have learned at BRCC. We knew they were in dire need and using my own personal vacation time, I went down with a few colleagues to make any difference we could.

What they did—

Jessica Stevens and Dj Cannon vaccinate a dog
Jessica Stevens and Dj Cannon vaccinate a dog.

Jessie: I helped with vaccines and minor wound care, and worked on animal intakes, wellness checks, moving cages, fluids, and vaccines.

Dj: We really did a little bit of everything. We setup temporary clinics to handle sick pets, displaced or lost pets, surrendered pets, etc. We assisted with the delivery of hay bales (with the US military) to cattle farms. We saved a few lone ducks, transported exotic fish utilizing emergency oxygen setups to keep them alive. We were able to do vaccines, heartworm testing, parvo testing, and deworming. After we left Houston, we drove straight to Florida where we helped out a wildlife center for a few days before finally heading home. There we treated many opossums, birds, squirrels, turtles, and other species that were affected by Hurricane Irma.

What was most moving—

Jessie: It all was heart wrenching. I tried not to let it affect me while working because I would not be my best. Just looking at the room full of cages at Houston Pets Alive, these animals were scared and felt alone. It broke my heart.

Dj: The most difficult situations were when people had to give up their pet because they had lost everything. Some of the pets were geriatric (older) and had been with their families since they were barely able to open their eyes. The owners were trying to make ends meet but really had nowhere to go… and tried to do the best thing for the pets. Many tears were shed, many hearts filled with grief, and we were grateful, if even just a few days to be able to be sure their pets were safe, healthy, and as happy as possible given the conditions.

About their Blue Ridge education—

Jessie: I appreciated that everything was hands on, which helped me because I am a tactile learner. Every conference I go to, or every doctor I speak to in Houston, has heard of the Vet Tech Program at BRCC and how amazing it is. I am incredibly proud to be a graduate of BRCC.

Dj: The best part of my experience at Blue Ridge was the professors and technicians that shared their experience, knowledge, and wisdom. They were so supportive and… sincerely love what they do. I owe my career success to them because they challenged us to think further… and helped us understand the challenges we will face in the profession, the range of emotions and situations we will be involved in… and how to be successful leaders in our profession.

Jessie Griffin gives some puppy love.
Jessie Griffin gives some puppy love