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A Visit with a Veterinarian

Despite a snowstorm, Ms Chisholm’s Grade 4 class made a trip to a veterinary clinic recently. The trip was virtual, of course, but the excitement and curiosity were just as real as if the students had been there in person.

The class was the guest of alumna Dr. Sara Ayres ’86, who joined from her home in Mount St. Louis, just north of Barrie, Ontario. Sara was not only accompanied by Rosie the Boston Terrier, but also cats Pippin and Aggie. She also shared photos from her veterinary clinic in Barrie.

Sara had a great passion for animals from an early age, and growing up near Yonge and York Mills, she always had pets, enjoyed riding horses, and spent a summer working on a dairy farm. From Grades 3-13 she attended SCS.

“I loved St. Clement’s,” she said, as she displayed her Stuart House pin for the camera as well as an SCS sports sweater and her red blazer.

“Do you still have your gold belt?” she was asked.

“Unfortunately, I don’t,” Sara answered. “I just have one thread from it that was on the Stuart pin. I should have kept it. I recommend that you keep yours!”

While at SCS, Sara knew that she wanted to work with animals and decided to become a veterinarian. In 1992, she graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College.

“The Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph is the only veterinary school in Ontario,” she explained. “If any of you want to become a vet in Ontario, you go there.”

“We didn’t just study dogs and cats,” she explained. “We also studied horses, cows, lizards, birds, and whales. Everything you can imagine.” 

From Guelph, Sara worked in a small animal clinic in Oakville for two years before returning to the College to complete a one-year internship and a three-year residency in small animal surgery. She then completed a one-year fellowship in surgical oncology at the University of Illinois in 2001. 

“You don’t bring your pet straight to me if they’re unwell,” she explained. “You first go to your own veterinarian, and then they refer your pet to me. I perform surgery on dogs and cats. I remove troublesome tumours and fix broken legs.”

“How many animals will you see today?” she was asked.

“I have two dogs in for surgery today,” she replied. “One has a tumour on its leg which I will have to amputate. The other has a torn knee ligament which will need surgery to correct. I don’t see as many patients in a day as a regular vet because surgery takes a long time.”

Sara then shared photos of some of the patients who have visited her. 

From cats stopping by to be spayed to a dog needing dental care, and even a Labrador that got too close to a porcupine, Sara explained some of the ailments she sees on a regular basis.

“For surgery, they need to be asleep” she began. “We give them medication to make them sleepy and then put a catheter into their leg. We then put a tube into their airway and give them a gas to keep them asleep. We cover them with blankets to keep them warm.”

She shared x-rays of legs with plates, pins, and screws, and of bladder stones that had been removed from a dog and a cat. 

All too soon, the visit was over. 

“I’m afraid I have to head to the clinic now,” Sara said, as her pet cats meowed in the background. “I have patients waiting to see me.”

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