When a four-legged patient becomes a family member

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For one lucky dog, it was a match made at vet school

As OSU vet student Caity Baxter Rath packed her bags on April 27 after her three-week clinical rotation at the Oregon Humane Society, she was sure to include an important keepsake. An adoption contract, a large file of medical records and a happy young border collie named Vlad were heading home with Caity to join her family. Vlad, renamed Freddie Mercury, would join furry sibling David Bowie, Caity and her husband in their home in Battle Ground.

Even before Caity arrived at OHS for her rotation, Vlad had become a favorite among OSU vet students. In December, Vlad was hit by a car and suffered a fractured femur. He was a stray dog, helped by a good Samaritan and local sheriff who took him to a local vet clinic for emergency care. Vlad was then transferred to OHS for surgery and a chance to find a new home. But his recovery was challenging and Vlad had a number of setbacks, including infections, loss of bone density and trouble walking on the treated leg. His long recovery meant that he would still be at OHS by the time Caity arrived. She was assigned to care for Vlad and described him as “the best patient.” They bonded as Caity cared for him each day.

Caity’s path to becoming a veterinarian began with a deep interest in neuroscience. She pursued her neuroscience degree but gravitated to animal neuroscience. “I found the behavior of birds particularly interesting,” says Caity.

Her heart eventually led her to veterinary medicine and Oregon State University. “The thing that brings me joy is being with animals every day – making sure they are doing well and happy.”

During her rotation at OHS, Caity participated in surgery, diagnosed illnesses, conducted exams and worked with OHS foster parents. She embraced every aspect of her work with the shelter animals. “Caring for a puppy recovering from parvo was the highlight of my week.”

As she looks back on her choice to become a vet, Caity is firm in her conviction. “This is the best decision I ever made. I never looked back and have no regrets.” Freddie Mercury, fka Vlad, isn’t looking back either.

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