Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Interview Wednesday - Shirley Truong

Our interview today is with Shirley Truong, former teen volunteer turned pet sitter turned Vet! I've had the pleasure of knowing Shirley since she was in high school and she's grown into an amazing, inspiring woman. Perfect candidate for an interview, right?

A young Shirley multitasking phones and computer data
What got you started volunteering?
I started volunteering at a local rescue organization called Pet Orphans Fund (now known as Pet Orphans of Southern California) back when I was a junior in high school, so I would say around 2001 or so. My high school required each student to fulfill a certain number of volunteer hours. I wanted to volunteer at a place that would help cultivate my interest in helping animals in need. I am so thankful that I found Pet Orphans!

I continued to volunteer there for a couple of years, even though I completed my required amount of hours for school after a few weeks!

We have it on good authority that you were an extraordinary pet sitter. Why vet school?
​Aw, thank you for the compliment. My family has told me that I've always wanted to become a veterinarian. There are plenty of stories about how I used to play with my sister and cousin and have them be my clients with their imaginary pets that needed help. While growing up, my family always had at least one pet. Throughout the years, we had dogs, birds, fish, chickens, turtles, a tortoise, an iguana, salamanders, and frogs. Most of them were owned at the same time! My parents were very gracious to allow us to have all of those pets. I think that my interest in veterinary medicine grew as I had more exposure to animals and how to care for them. I can't see myself being as happy doing anything else with my life than keeping animals healthy and being there for them and their owners when they need help!

Which animal has been the most difficult to work with? Which has been the easiest?
This one is a tough call. Each animal comes with their challenges for different reasons. Personally, I would say that wildlife is a challenge for me to work with because you should ideally minimize speaking to them or getting too close so that you avoid imprinting on them. I love interacting with my patients, so it was difficult to refrain from petting them or talking around them.

The easiest to work with is probably the tortoise because they can't really run away or wriggle their way out of your hands!

You are a big advocate for the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and their mixes. What draws you to this breed?
Yes, definitely! I owned a pitbull mix for almost 10 years named Harley and he showed me what it means to have unconditional love. These breeds have qualities that every person in this world should have: loyalty, compassion, and intelligence. If you spend the time to bond with and train a dog of this breed, you will likely end up with a trusty companion by your side for many years.

You have rights as pets! Why?
I do! I have 2 pet rats, Oscar and Chuey. A little over a year ago, the research department at my school sent out a schoolwide email asking for someone to adopt Oscar because he had fulfilled his job as a breeder rat for a project and they didn't want to euthanize him. So, of course, I said I would take him!

I never owned a rat before, but heard from my brother and others that they are fun to have, why not??

Once I got Oscar, I read that rats do better in pairs, so I adopted Chuey from my brother who had his hands full with two other rats of his own.

She buys them toys but they prefer the boxes!
How much care do they require?
Not much, actually! The usual things like food, water, and exercise that you would provide for any other pet. Most importantly, they require adequate space and hiding places (small cardboard boxes work great!).

I keep my 2 guys in a cage designated for ferrets, that way they can have their personal space and also be able to walk around. They like to eat fresh fruits and vegetables (especially broccoli and grapes!) in addition to their rat food (I feed Oxbow adult rat food). I also set up a play pen for them to have time away from their cage for a couple hours each evening, as they are more social at night. Their cage and bedding need to be cleaned and changed at least once a week, which usually takes about 30 minutes or so. Overall, they're not too demanding!

Let's bring this interview full circle. Why do you feel volunteering is important for young people?
Volunteering teaches young people to find and do something that they enjoy and not expect anything in return, like a paycheck. I ask people all the time, "What would you choose as a job or career if you knew you wouldn't get paid?" That's basically asking someone what they would do as a volunteer. It's such an important concept because I think a lot of people strive to find a career that they love, and a good way to figure that out is to do it for free!

Thank you so much for your time, Shirley! What about you - any aspiring vets out there? Any rat owners?

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