My life with animals has made my uncertain future a little clearer


Steve McCarthy

11 year old me dressed up in a lab coat and playing pretend vet at a museum.

From a very young age—pretty much since I knew what a veterinarian was—I knew I wanted to work with animals. Instead of most kids who would set up doctor’s offices in their playrooms at home and tended to pretend patients like their baby dolls or their sometimes reluctant siblings, I would set up veterinary clinics.

As soon as it was evident that I had a love for all things to do with animals, I began to receive vet kits and tools at birthdays or for Christmas to use on my stuffed animals, which I used all the time. I loved performing pretend surgeries on my cats who might’ve had a thorn stuck in their paw while playing outside, or making splints for my dogs that may have broken their leg jumping over a log.

I felt so much joy taking care of these little creatures, even though they could not talk to me. 

Up until age 12, I had no live pets in my life—not even a fish. I had pet-sat for multiple neighbors and family members while they were on vacation, so that satisfied the want for animal love for a little while.

My neighbors’ animals gave me unmatched experiences as I looked after bouncy bunnies, squealing guinea pigs, a ridiculously soft chinchilla, flamboyant goldfish, gentle dogs, graceful cats, fascinating lizards, and geckos. But as I got older, and still had an avid desire to become a veterinarian one day, the begging and pleading for a dog of my own slowly and steadily increased. 

My brother was getting fully on board with the idea of having a dog too, which really helped the leverage in terms of convincing my parents to get one. Finally, when I was 11 years old, my parents broke the news that we were going to go “look” at dogs. 

At that point, I think we all knew there was no turning back. 

Animals are important to me, so having a little 12-pound, Bichon-Maltese puppy named Oliver to care for certainly fueled that love to a new level. 

Just like human doctors have a desire to help and cure fellow humans, I have a passion for helping animals. I’d love to be able to help heal every hurting animal that I see, and I really haven’t had a desire like that stick with me as long as the idea of being a veterinarian has stuck with me all my life. I really feel like working with animals is my calling because my love for them and longing to help them has never wavered.

Most kids go through multiple phases of what career they might want to pursue in the future, but from when I learned to talk up until right now when I’m making decisions about my college career path, my answer has always been, “a veterinarian” when people ask me what I want to be when I grow up. 

I felt so much joy taking care of these little creatures, even though they could not talk to me. 

I want to be able to look forward to going to my job, and I think choosing something in the veterinary field is something that will let me never get tired of working with animals every day. 

I recognize that not all aspects of the job will be enjoyable, and some will be very hard. But, this doesn’t necessarily worry me; I also have experience in looking closely at animals. 

When the Human Anatomy and Physiology classes carried out the famous cat dissection last year, I was thinking that the experience would be a make-or-break moment for me in terms of being able to handle some of the less glamorous or less-cute aspects of animals. However, I came out of the experience even more excited and interested in the anatomy and interworkings of animals. 

Yes, it was something to get used to at first, but once I got past the not-so-pleasant parts of the experience, I saw it as such a unique and cool opportunity to inspect and learn about animals and their body on a much deeper level. 

My life has never been without animals, whether it be pet-sitting all kinds of animals, finally getting a puppy of my own, or even dissecting a cat in my science class. 

Animals are so important to me because they ultimately give me joy. Working with them every day when I’m older would be my ideal life; getting to learn about and take care of animals is something that never grows old for me.