Promoting health and longevity through your pet’s natural ability to heal itself.

Dr. Ashley Milner practices at Shaughnessy Veterinary Hospital in Port Coquitlam, BC. Ashley The Vet got her start in veterinary medicine in 1994, at the tender age of ten, by attending a day camp for kids at the Burnaby SPCA. For the next decade there after, she worked every summer as an SPCA camp counselor as well as a humane educator. During university and vet school, Ashley worked at Mosquito Creek Veterinary Hospital in North Vancouver, Scottsdale Veterinary Hospital in Surrey, the Vancouver Animal Shelter, and the Winnipeg Humane Society. She also participated in free spay/neuter clinics in remote areas of California and North Dakota and continues to volunteer for local rescues.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

A Dog Named Fletcher

I first met him when I was a 16 year old summer camp counselor with newly-dyed leopard print hair. I walked past the dog cages several times per day, as this particular SPCA summer camp was held in the small yard behind the shelter. On Wednesday, midway through the camp, I walked past the rows of kennels, as I had numerous times before, and something made me stop at the second to last cage. There was a large, red, female dog who looked to be a Pit Bull/Ridgeback cross, and her kennel mate was a scrawny, young, forty pound, tan and white bully breed cross. I paused for a moment, stuck my hand through the bars and petted them both.

I’d been looking for a second dog for a while, and had been waiting to feel that “connection”, the one that helps you differentiate between dogs you like or would like to help, and the one who is actually meant to be yours. This tan and white dog fit my specs. I tried out a few of my potential names on him, one of which was “Fletcher”, and asked him if he’d like to come home with me. For some reason, the tan and white dog was missing a kennel card, so I had no further info on him, aside from a gut feeling. I went home and told my mum about him, and arranged for her to pick me up from work the following day, so she could see for herself. When she arrived, we went into the shelter’s office to learn more about him. The staff told us that “Spud”, as they called him, was about 7 months old, and had been picked up as a stray in May. This was the last week of July. I hated the thought of a puppy having spent most of his life in a shelter, spending close to 24/7 in a kennel run.

The staff liked him, but he’d had no interest, and they were overcrowded with 2-3 dogs in every run. I can’t comment on shelter-specific policies, but times were bleak in 1999, already much improved since my intro to the shelter world at the tender age of 11, but nowhere near what we have achieved now. At my first day camp in 1994, at a shelter that didn’t euthanize “healthy, adoptable dogs”, it was revealed that there was a euthanized Pit Bull in the freezer, unadoptable by default. Local shelters had only recently started to adopt out Pit Bulls and mixes, at first only those with known backgrounds, but later extended to strays. It was a slow process, and huge barriers to adoption still exist today, but at least they were being given a chance. This shelter was just ahead of the trend. I could see the hope in the staff members’ eyes, and their unspoken words: adopt this dog, because chances are, no one else will.

My mum agreed to pick me up the following day, and to bring my younger brothers to meet him. At the end of the day, they arrived, excited to meet their potential new dog. We took the tan and white pup out to one of the fenced yards and he instantly took to our other dog. My brothers were 13, so in order to kid-test him, my friend and co-worker, Nina, brought her two boys, who were about 3 and 5 at the time, out to the yard. Nina ruffled the curly fur on his back end, said he might have a bit of retriever and that she liked him. My mum later said that it was Nina’s assessment that reassured her about adopting him.

We took him home. He peed in the van just as we reached the house and the very first thing he did when let loose in the yard was pull the handle off a plastic ice cream bucket (and would do, from there on out, whenever he came across one). I announced that his name was Fletcher.

Fletcher settled in relatively easily, considering his circumstances. I was at least an experienced dog person, but he proved to be too much dog for me. The learning curve was vertical. He housebroke himself, but I couldn’t keep him from wanting to kill my sister’s cat, so we essentially crated and rotated (before I knew that was a term). He wouldn’t listen to me at obedience classes, an old school, walk around in a circle, leash-pop style, but at least we had moved on to martingales from choke chains. The instructor wanted me to do a modified hanging technique to get him to sit when asked (he was the only dog in the class who wouldn’t do so willingly). Not only did it feel wrong when I tried it, it didn’t work. I switched tactics; Fletcher had learned to sit for treats by watching my other dog, so I started having him sit before I fed him or put on his leash for a walk. Essentially, a type of NILIF (again, before I knew what that was). He certainly changed the way I work with dogs. While he never wowed anyone with his level of obedience, his gentle soul, fantastic temperament with people, and intense socialization I did after getting him allowed him to become a great dog who could go just about anywhere. Later in life, when he’d settled down considerably, people would comment on how well-behaved he was, and I would only laugh.

Part of the reason I got Fletcher was to have a more outgoing dog for the humane education work I did. Fletcher enjoyed the day camps when I worked at them on and off until my mid-twenties. He truly shone when I was in university and we visited elementary school classrooms to teach topics such as dog safety. Nothing phased Fletcher, who was as rock-solid in temperament as I have ever seen. He would walk right up to a child in a wheelchair and place his head in their lap. Once, an extremely behaviourally-challenged child ran right up to him, and before I could stop him, grabbed Fletcher by either side of his face and started screaming at him to “say mama”, one of his crowd-pleasing tricks. Even a reasonable dog might have bitten the kid in the face. Fletcher responded with a calming signal, turning his head to the side and yawning. Dogs like him are born, not made, and I was lucky enough to find one.

Years went on from that fateful day at camp. Over the next decade and a half, I graduated high school, then university, got another dog, moved to Saskatchewan, got married, graduated vet school, moved back to BC, got divorced, got another dog, got married again, had a baby. We settled in dog paradise, a house in the woods. Fletcher, a constant in my life, grew old with me. I still pictured us as a 16 year old girl and a young, spry mutt, but we both showed the passing of time, greying hair and aching joints. Shortly after we moved to our dream home, we nearly lost Fletcher. He rallied, and I got another 5 months. By the fall, Fletcher was unable to eat his normal homemade food. I experimented with different recipes and canned foods, but eventually settled on a prescription kibble. Fletcher was going downhill slowly. I debated with myself, day to day and week to week. “I need to think about putting Fletcher down” I would say, but couldn’t bring myself to do it.

One of the last shots I got of him was during a beautiful moment with my daughter, whom he adored. Later, I knew I had done the right thing by letting him go, when my sister asked if Fletcher was dead in the photo. He had wasted away before my eyes, and by the next week, he crashed suddenly, and I euthanized him at home, with my husband holding him. I held it together to perform the procedure, then broke down. Over 16 years together, half of my life. I wished out loud that I’d had the courage to give him one last great day and then euthanize him, but as my sister told me, “If he’d had a great day, you never would have been able to let him go.” It was true.

Grief came and went in waves. I felt relief, as so much of my time and energy had been spent cleaning up after Fletcher and managing him. I felt guilt, that I wanted to get another dog right away. I felt sadness as I ached to have him with me still, this constant presence in my life that was suddenly absent. I felt joy, when I thought about him racing around our huge yard, and booking it up the driveway to take himself for a walk on the trail. His life had so many moments of pure joy, even in the bitter end, that I was glad I had given him everything I could to help him live to nearly 17.

Fletcher January 1999 - October 21, 2015
Over 16 years after I walked past that kennel, and stopped just a moment longer, I was glad that I had listened to my heart and plucked this diamond in the rough from the castoffs of a municipal animal shelter. I know that someday I will again pause for a moment, as I find another who is waiting for me.

Nature’s first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf’s a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay.
Robert Frost

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The End

We're entering uncharted territory. Now that we have vaccines and antibiotics for infectious diseases, and fences and leashes to prevent injuries, dogs can live well into their senior years, just like humans. We have veterinary cardiologists and oncologists to treat their ailments. We've pushed the envelope so far that dogs are living to unprecedented ages, and we are entering into forms of senior care we've never seen previously. I've outlined how I've raised Fletcher, who is well over 16 years old. I call him and my other patients who are over 15 or so, "super seniors". Just like their human centenarian counterparts, they come with unique needs.

Just before I went on maternity leave, I ran bloodwork on Fletcher, which was normal. His most recent cardiologist visit showed no progression of his heart murmur. He has been blessed with good care and good genes. This year he has shown a lot of signs of slowing down and we began to think this was going to be his last year. As my pregnancy advanced towards spring, Eric would jokingly say, in Fletcher's voice, 'Hurry up and have that baby, so I can die." He really did seem to see like he was holding on until the baby came.

Fletcher comforted me and stuck close by me during early labor, then watched me disappear to the hospital. Eric came home at intervals to take care of the dogs, and reported that Fletcher seemed to be looking for me. When I arrived home a day and half later with my new baby in tow, I went in to greet the dogs first and assure them I was ok. The younger dogs danced around me, and I pushed past a wagging Fletcher to drop my bag on the counter. "Say hi to Fletcher!" Eric scolded. "He was worried about you."

After Sarah was born, Fletcher seemed to get a second wind and perked up. When we moved to our new house six weeks later, he galloped around the yard, and seemed to say "I think I'll stick around for a while yet." So I was very surprised when, 10 days into the move, he had a bad night. He vomited his dinner and seemed agitated. By 10pm, he lay down and seemed listless. Since he was not in distress, I left him alone. There was no more I was going to do to interfere if he was dying on his own. I stroked him, the dog I have had for literally half my life, until he seemed settled, then whispered in his ear through tears "If you need to go, you can go. I'll be ok now."

At 3am, he woke up and his heart was pounding in his chest, and his stomach felt hard. I worried about
GDV, and decided to take him to Vancouver Animal Emergency Clinic. I loaded the baby in her carseat and lifted Fletcher into the car. When we arrived, Fletcher's heart rate was a pounding 170 beats per minute, but he had perked up a bit. The doctor on the case worked him up, and suggested the same treatment plan I had thought up (always good to know someone agrees with your assessment). X-rays would tell us if it was something serious, like GDV or a tumor, in which case I knew I would euthanize him immediately, rather than attempt treatment. While we waited, I took some photos of us together.
I call this one Not Our Last Selfie
X-rays revealed gravel in his intestines, likely from eating mud in the new yard. Most of it had made it to the colon and would pass on its own. In the meantime, we treated him with an anti-nausea injection and an injection of narcotic pain control. We drove back across the Lions Gate Bridge as the sun rose, and the 3 of us headed back to bed. Fletcher slept most of the day, and by the afternoon he was up and drinking low sodium chicken broth. I made him homecooked food, which I put through the food processor, but within a week he was back to eating Happy Dogs with the other dogs. He spends most of his days lounging around, with the occasional energy burst around the yard, and even some short jaunts along the trail behind our house.

Fletcher and his human sister
How do you know when it's time to say goodbye? There a lot of factors for both animals and owners. Is there pain that can't be treated? Is there still some joy in their daily life? Has caring for them become too much strain for the family? Do the bad moments outnumber or outweigh the good? In Fletcher's case, I was ready to let him go if he was in immediate pain that I couldn't treat. Going forward, as long as he can do his daily activities (eating, sleeping, yard time) I will continue to support his needs and keep him going.
Two weeks after his near death experience, I posted a video of him tearing around the yard after the two younger dogs; proof that old age is not a disease.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tiki's Scent Recognition Test

Yesterday, I took Tiki through a Scent Recognition Test, hosted by Dogs On Source who we have been taking nose work classes through. Tiki was introduced to odor in November, and so far has learned to detect wintergreen. This is a test where she has to tell me which box has the odor in it.

At the start line, when did her little face and legs become so grey??

Just in the last week, she has starting working the boxes in order, checking each one.
Teek has just realized the wintergreen is in the next box, and isn't going to waste her time on this one!

WINTERGREEN! Tiki has found the correct box and she lets me know by her interest in the box (she usually smashes it).

I stand beside the box and announce "alert" to let the judge know we have found the correct box. Once we're confirmed as correct, Tiki gets a food reward.
Tiki found the odor in 10.12 seconds! I'm very proud of how far she has come in a such a short time. We will continue to work on our skills together in this fun sport!

Nose work is great for dogs of all ages, especially dogs with reduced mobility, as it does not require much physical activity, yet the dogs get a great mental workout. It also helps boost the confidence of shy dogs. If you are interested in learning to do this with your dog, check out the classes available through Dogs On Source

Friday, October 24, 2014

Howl-O-Ween Safety Tips

This Saturday, October 25th, I'll be on the Real Estate show at 8am on CKPM 98.7 FM talking about Halloween safety for pets! Halloween is one my favourite times of year, but there are lots of potential safety hazards.

Of course, I love Halloween candy, but chocolate, as we all know, is not safe for our pets to eat. If your pet accidentally eats chocolate, phone your veterinarian right away, with the amount and type of chocolate, to determine if a toxic dose was ingested.

Fletcher has always loved October
We also need to be cautious with candles, either in Jack-o-Lanterns or around the house. Pets could accidentally start a fire or injure themselves with the flame. Scented candles can also trigger breathing issues in some dogs and cats, so please be careful.

On Halloween night, pets should be confined to a room away from the door, with special toys or treats to keep them occupied. A Kong toy stuffed with their regular food makes a fun way for them to eat dinner. Pets should be brought indoors by 4pm on the 31st, and only taken outside for potty breaks on leash. Dogs and cats may be spooked by noises or scary costumes, and may escape through an open door or even over a fence. Make sure everyone is wearing their collars and ID tags; you can also speak to your veterinarian about permanent identification in the form of a tattoo or microchip.

Fireworks may also frighten pets this time of year. Again, keep your pet confined indoors to a small room and consider playing the radio or tv on a relaxing station to help drown out noise. Some pets may benefit from wearing a Thundershirt. This is a tight t-shirt that provides a calming effect for some animals. Thundershirts are available online and at many pet stores. Our clinic also carries a product called Feliway, which is a happy cat pheromone, that sends a chemical signal to your cat that he or she is safe and secure. This can be used in a room diffuser or as a spray. There is also a version for dogs called Adaptil. Please don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian to discuss keeping your pets happy during fireworks, as there are medications we can use for more severe cases. 

Me and Tiki, dressed as Charlie Brown and The Great Pumpkin
One last note, costumes are only for pets who enjoy them! My own dogs don’t mind being dressed up, but we always make it a positive experience with lots of treats. All of us at Shaughnessy Veterinary Hospital wish you and your pets a safe and happy Howl-o-Ween.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Veterinary Chiropractic: All It's Cracked Up To Be?

Some people may have noticed my absence from the clinic this summer. For five weeks straight, I attended the Postgraduate Essentials in Animal Chiropractic Course at Options for Animals in Kansas. At the end, I passed some scary exams in order to become certified with the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association.

On the drive down, I managed to take in some sights, and knock two more states off my list to visit (2 more and I'll have all 50!). Now that I've been back for just over a month, I've had a chance to see some patients specifically for chiropractic treatments, as well as integrate it into my regular appointments. Both my clients and I have been very pleased with the outcome, and my patients seem to be enjoying the treatments.

What's it good for?

Any pain or lameness (limping), including seniors or patients who have had an orthopedic surgery, any chronic health issues, including "weird stuff" like chronic anal gland issues, and patients of all ages in order to promote health and wellness.

Does it hurt?

Many patients find the treatments enjoyable, especially when they realize they feel better! Certain patients may be temporarily painful, and treatment plans altered as needed. Specific adjustments may hurt briefly during the treatment; I warn owners when that might be expected.

Will I hear a cracking sound?

The "crack" or popping sounds (called cavitation) that humans may hear during their chiropractic treatments generally don't happen in animals. If you hear it during your pet's adjustment, it is probably one of my own joints!

Is it safe?

Chiropractic treatments done properly, by a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (or Doctor of Chiropractic) who has been trained to do chiropractic adjustments on animals, are very safe. Additional training is necessary, and trained individuals can be certified through either the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association (IVCA) or American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA).

Call to book an appointment at Shaughnessy Veterinary Hospital at 604-945-4949.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My Beautiful Jessie

Fletcher had a lump removed yesterday, so he spent the evening recovering at home, groggy and out of sorts from his general anesthesia. Working on my own dogs is always a challenge, as I turn from vet-mode into mom-mode (I didn't even do the surgery!), and work myself up with worry. Fletcher's recovery was uneventful, and while he was still at the clinic on fluids, I took the younger dogs with me for a trail run to decompress. I took Fletcher home, fed him dinner, and catered to him all evening. By bedtime, I had him settled in his usual place next to my side of the bed. Eric is away, working on a film set out of town, so I had the king-sized bed to myself. Fletcher didn't want up on the bed when I offered (he usually prefers his own bed), but Tiki took her usual place at the foot on my side. Jake was curled up in the corner of the living room sectional, and didn't lift his head when I kissed him goodnight. Exhausted from the eventful day, we all went right to sleep.

Sometime in the night, I woke up slightly, and could feel Tiki in her usual place on one side of me, and another dog pressed against my other side. In the dark, I reached down and felt Fletcher sigh in his sleep, still cozy on his bed. I assumed Jake had joined us from the couch, and went back to sleep, surrounded by canine love. When I woke up, there was an empty spot on one side of me, and Tiki still snoozing away. I went out to the living room, and there was Jake, still curled up in the exact same spot and position I had left him in the night before. I must have imagined him beside me, I thought. But I didn't really believe that. I knew I felt another dog beside me. I wondered if it was Jessie, my childhood dog, and Fletcher's first best friend. Could she have visited to watch over us both?

When I drove home from work today, my iPhone was on random, and as I turned at the stoplight towards home, it played a poem, one of my favorites by Edgar Allan Poe

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love
I and my Annabel Lee

And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Today is the best day ever

Last Friday, I had every intention of taking my dogs for a good off leash hike deep in the woods. They'd been a bit neglected as I tried to handle 4 dogs, while we babysat Opie, who had just had a happy reunion with his parents that morning. I got home from work in plenty of time to take them somewhere nice. Instead, I drank tea on the couch and cuddled with Tige, who was happy to have me to himself again.

Just before dinner, I took the dogs to our local secret spot, where they got to race around in the long grass, and Tige got to chase the Chuck-it. I looked at their happy faces, and remembered that dogs don't think about whether we're going to our favourite place, or just a quick romp along an ugly, industrial road. Every walk is good, every chance to enjoy life is worthy of happiness. So I relaxed and let myself have a good time. After all, according to them, every day is the best day ever!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

New Joint Supplement Chews

I've previously discussed using joint supplements in my own dogs here and here. I still use Synovial-Flex chews daily for my two younger dogs. Recently, the same company has come out with TRP-Tri-COX chews for more advanced cases of joint pain, so I started 15 year old Fletcher on them.
My three dogs on a hike last month
Once again, I found them super easy to give (my dogs go crazy for the soft chews) and I was amazed at how much of an improvement I saw in his mobility. I now recommend Tri-Cox chews for dogs who need a stronger natural anti-inflammatory for their joints, but still recommend Synovial-Flex chews for less advanced cases.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Evaluate Your Options

Lately I've been reading up on the responses to Sheryl Sandberg's famous Lean In TED Talk and book. I heard it mentioned several times at NAVC, and I had never heard of it, so I made a little note in my iPhone to look it up when I got home. Something about it didn't sit right with me. What if I don't want to be a CEO? Am I letting down the girl power movement, and all the women who came before me, if I don't always put my career first? This timely response, written by a veterinarian, takes spin on work/life balance that really articulates everything I was feeling.

What really struck a cord with me was that she extended her discussion of work/life balance to include men and women, with and without children, who want time away from being a veterinarian. I turned 31 today, and have spent the last 3 years being a full time veterinarian; I spent the first 28 becoming one. So last month, I decided I need to take a breather this summer. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do.

I think most people have some place they'd like to travel to, a place they always fantasized spending months or a year backpacking around. Most people might imagine Europe, Australia, or maybe Southeast Asia or South America. For me, I've always loved classic Americana: diners, highways, neon signs, the National Parks; I romanticize them the way other people might romanticize the Eiffel Tower.

So, when I graduated high school, instead of a typical gap year in Australia, my sister (who had just graduated from university) and I road tripped across Canada and the United States. I can say that I have been to every province and 46 American states. I'm still missing Hawaii, Alaska, Oklahoma, and....Kansas. My favourite vacations involve a highway and music on the stereo. So when I asked myself, "Where would you go?" the answer was obvious. Road trip.

But I wanted more than just a mental break and a bit of fun. I wanted to work towards being the veterinarian I want to be. So I decided I would spend the summer in Kansas, and check at least two things off my bucket list in one go.

What's in Kansas? A 5 week intensive veterinary chiropractic course, at Options For Animals. Yes, I'll be going back to school for most of my summer vacation, and travelling through 10 or so states on the way there and back. I want to return refreshed, and with an ever expanding knowledge of animal health and well-being. I'm so fortunate to be a part of clinic that shares my vision for what we want to offer our patients, with an understanding boss and colleagues who are there to pick up the slack while I "lean out" for some much needed time off.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Best Things In Life Are Free

In December, I read two great books, which I enjoyed for very different reasons: A Grumpy Book by Grumpy Cat and Plenty In Life Is Free by Kathy Sdao. 

Plenty in Life is Free is meant to call into question the dog training philosophy Nothing in Life is Free (often abbreviated NILIF, which I pronounce in my head as "nil if", which made me wonder if PILIF should be pronounced like pilaf?). As Kathy Sdao points out, trainers and veterinarians (Ashley The Vet = guilty!) love to espouse NILIF to get people to take back control of their ill-behaved dogs. She gives a great explanation of the downsides of complete NILIF, although I can’t imagine anyone took my advice that seriously. I was just hoping dogs might learn something if their owners asked for a sit before dinner. Nonetheless, her arguments are solid and her solutions are just as easy to implement. 

I love the straightforward, simple-yet-scientific approach, particularly her concept of SMART. SMART stands for See, Mark, and Reward Training. See your dog doing something you like? Mark the behaviour and give a reward. I've consciously tried to incorporate SMART into my daily life with my dogs (using whatever treats come in our monthly Bark Box), with great success.

For example, I've made a point to reward the dogs on and off for checking in and waiting for me on off leash hikes (called a variable reinforcement schedule). This is actually a throw back to "old fashioned" dog training. When I got my first dog at 9 years old, my grandma told me to keep a bit of food in my pocket and every time the dog came up to me on her own, give her a piece of food. This was how my grandpa taught all his dogs to stick close to him, while farming in the 1940s and 50s. Now, I have to tell Tiki “Go” to send her back out for free time when she constantly checks in, because OMG FOOD!!

If you have any interest in dog training, definitely read Plenty in Life is Free. And before you think that I am some sort of master dog trainer, please note that as I sit writing this in a coffee shop, there are visible bite marks in the bottom left corner of the book, courtesy of whichever one of my dogs grabbed it off the coffee table while I was at work.

Still, it was better than their review of the Grumpy Cat Book...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Wonderful Thing About Jake Milner

I recently brought Eric this mug back from Disney's Animal Kingdom:

Since Jake's nickname is Tige (a reference to his tiger stripes), Eric will say "Tige? Is that you?", which has prompted me to sing a little song to Jake for the last month.

The wonderful thing about Tiggers 

Is Tiggers are wonderful things!

Their tops are made out of rubber

Their bottoms are made out of springs!

They're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy

Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun! 

But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers

is I'm the only one!!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Alma Matters

The dictionary defines alma mater (derived from the Latin for fostering/nourishing mother) as "the school, college, or university that someone attended". In my mind, with my tendency towards hyperbole and vivid imagination, I imagine an Ivy League campus, where I'd be on the rowing team. In my own experience, I never felt such a deep, romanticized connection with either university I attended. I didn't, as I imagined, leave school with fond memories, and go on to wear a well-worn sweatshirt from my beloved alma mater on Sunday mornings while lounging around the house or walking the dogs. I've never really liked school, and I never really reminisce about the wonderful times I spent at university.

After my third year of vet school, I had a summer job working at the Winnipeg Humane Society, essentially as a (supervised) veterinarian. I loved that job more than any other work I had ever done, and got out of bed every morning excited to go to work. I spent the whole summer in Winnipeg, and felt that I gained more from those few months than the rest of school combined. At the end of the summer, I left behind some wonderful friends and colleagues, who were just as sad as I was to see me go back to Saskatoon. Two of the doctors that I worked with gave me a parting gift of a WHS t-shirt, a gift that moved me to tears and that I wore with pride. I loved it so much, and everything that it represented, that I still have it, despite its well-worn, holey appearance.

Now on Sundays, I get up and, without realizing it, reach for my WHS t-shirt; Eric will laugh,"Oh, you're wearing your dog walking shirt again." Seems I found my alma mater after all.