Almost a Veterinarian
by Garry Leeson of Kingston, NS
In 1976, after reading the memoirs of a much-lauded veterinarian/author from Yorkshire England, I got it into my head that I would make a good DVM myself. It was a rather bold aspiration inasmuch as I was a thirty-three year old high school dropout with few credentials and no visible means of support.
My wife, Andrea, and I had forsaken a hectic city lifestyle a couple of years earlier, opting for a simpler existence back on the land in Nova Scotia but it had become apparent that since our financial nest egg had run out, we would be needing something beyond the meager subsistence that our land was providing.
It was a shot in dark: I hadn’t been in a classroom for fifteen years, but I made my way back to Guelph, Ontario, where the only veterinarian school in Canada was located. I wrote the entrance exams for mature students but I wasn’t all that happy with the way things went for me. I was clearly the most mature of the mature students present and the last to hand in my papers and leave the room. Heading back home I was feeling defeated but grateful that I wouldn’t be required to go back to an environment where I felt so out of place. Two weeks later after I had settled back to working happily in our woodlot fate intervened. Andrea got to the mailbox before me and read my letter of acceptance so there was no avoiding what it said. I think general enrollment must have been very low and the school desperate because much to my surprise I was accepted.
It was a long hard haul for me as I laboured through the first semester trying to get caught up academically and although I managed to make the grades, I was still a long way from even being in the pre-vet program.
When I got home for summer holidays I shared some of the problems that I had encountered with a few of my neighbours explaining that under the circumstances it was very unlikely that I would ever get a degree but they just ignored what I said. Back in those days if you told a farmer that you were going to Guelph University it meant only one thing: you were either now a vet or would shortly be one, but more importantly if you were a neighbour and friend it meant the possibility of free services for them.
It did no good to try to explain that I hadn’t been near a horse or a cow all the time I was at the college and that I had spent all my time studying unrelated first year subjects like Psychology and Social Anthropology. They didn’t know what I was talking about and they didn’t care.