We were in early last Thursday. We had to be. The fifth graders were coming! They would be arriving at 9:30 a.m. and we had to have all of our treatments done and stations set up before they arrived.

This is the ninth year that Mrs. Muncy has walked her class over from Russell-McDowell to tour Guardian Animal Medical Center. We try to stress that science and math are important, but also fun. A couple of homeschool students tagged along also.

First stop was a welcome and a safety briefing. I did this part. It was important because we are an active hospital. The students fully understood that they would be on the bench in the lobby waiting for a pick up if there were any problems.

After the overview, the group split into two parts. Half went to Matt to meet Crash, a Belgian Malinois, for a talk on service dogs. The second group went on a tour of Guardian Animal Medical Center. We did arrange for a few animals to stay a little extra, but most of the things we take for granted were exciting to the children.

They were impressed by the 17-year-old Florida softshell turtle but thought the baby chicks smelled. (They do). The dogs in the runs had plenty of room, but the motel rooms with TV and beds were big hits. Billy talked about the care and different options for boarding. At least five children said that their parents would be back with them to adopt a puppy or a kitten from our spay neuter program. Stephanie touched on the two surgeries, surgery prep, and the dental station. Then the students passed by physical therapy, grooming, the cat ward, the dog ward, offices, and library.

Becky Jo talked about the wildlife rehabilitation program that we do for raptors. She also talked about exotics and how they required special care. Horse (because he had no name) was a big hit, but they were sad to hear that he had shell rot from improper care before he came to us. The baby pheasant chicks did their 10-inch flights to show off. The class did not care for the room that is kept at 90 degrees just for the exotics and were glad not to go into it.

They then saw the laboratory, my doctor station and I talked about having five exam rooms in one place and my computer and sink handy. In the middle of the tour, the post office called to tell us that my bees were in. Quickly calculating, we sent Austin to pick them up, and the kids got to see what seven thousand bees in a box look like.

Back in the lobby in a big and loud group, they were split up into four different groups. Each of these groups would spend fifteen minutes at four stations. Austin took his group to the endoscopy and ultrasound room. They practiced endoscopy on a Mountain Dew can that Austin had hidden a few treasures from the backyard. Nobody could see inside the empty can until the endoscopy unit made everything abundantly clear. Ultrasound was a lot harder to visualize the stored organ images, but after explaining how it used sound to bounce off tissue, they were able to see the tangerine sections and the blueberry “tumors” hidden in an exam glove.

M’Kinzy’s group learned about icky, crawly and sometimes itchy parasites. She covered life cycles of fleas, ticks, intestinal parasites, and heartworms. The big hit was the real heart with heartworm. Somewhere M’Kinzy had found a plush heart that beats and timed the showing of the real heart with the sounds of the plush heartbeats.

Becky Jo had radiology. In prior years this had been the second favorite station. Even though we had enlarged hearts, very large tumors, broken bones, fixed broken bones and gunshots, the students were a little fidgety in this station.

The favorite rotation was again the surgery/grooming station. Brian took half of the small group, and they got to actively bathe Whiskey, Tango, Ryker or the adoption puppies. Stephanie taught her group to scrub in like a surgeon. Each child got a scrub brush with surgical scrub, cap, and mask. After putting their cap and mask on, they scrubbed in, dried off on a surgical towel and then tried to sterilely put on their surgery gloves. Even if they did get them on mostly sterile, they would forget and touch their nose or something. Stephanie pointed out how easy I made it look, but it was really quite hard and critically important for good surgical outcomes.

Back as a group, they picked up scientific magazines and bags that Citizens National had provided. Before they left, each child told me something that they had learned. Even Mrs. Muncy and the homeschool moms said that they learned something.

And then after a group photo, about 11:30 a. m., it was over. I had ordered lunches for everyone on staff from one of the church youth groups. Guardian Animal Medical Center was very quiet as everyone rested and dug into the excellent lunch.

The fifth graders were gone. They behaved very well and had an excellent time! And seeing the excitement from things we take for granted, I would have to say, so did we.

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