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Future veterinary techs visit Willmar

High schoolers from the area and beyond attend an open house held Saturday by the Veterinary Technology program at Ridgewater College in Willmar. Animals on campus is one benefit of the program. (TRIBUNE/Gary Miller)1 / 3
Faith Frisch, 8, left, watches her sister, Kaytlin, a high school senior, work with bovine blood. The Frisches are from Grand Forks, North Dakota. (TRIBUNE/Gary Miller) 2 / 3
First year vet tech student Steffanie Ankrum, of Walnut Grove, left, helps visitor Maddie Vill, of Wayzata, listen to the heart of Rennie, a yellow lab. (TRIBUNE/Gary Miller)3 / 3

WILLMAR — High school students and their families from west central Minnesota, elsewhere in the state and other states spent the afternoon Saturday at Ridgewater College in Willmar.

They examined patients, prepared blood for testing and learned about working in a field that drew them to the campus on a weekend.

Their patients were canine, the blood bovine and the field that brought them to Willmar was veterinary technology.

The open house was intended to give prospective vet tech students a taste of Ridgewater’s program: the opportunity to meet and talk to both first- and second-year students in the program and obtain some hands-on experience.

Before heading to the labs, the visitors attended a classroom session, just as students in the program have both hands-on and academic learning experiences.

In the class, Dr. Allen Balay, a veterinarian and director of the program, told the youths and their parents what to expect if a student enters the two-year program.

Nearly all the students in the program are women, Balay said.

Vet tech students at Ridgewater get the full experience, including feeding and cleaning up after the animals. Students are responsible for the animals’ welfare, including on weekends and holidays, Balay said.

But the presence of animals on the campus is one of the features of Ridgewater’s program that gives students a great deal of hands-on experience, Balay said.

Second-year students echoed Balay’s point when they spoke to the group. That was a reason often mentioned when current students explained why they chose Ridgewater. Cost and proximity to the campus were other reasons students often mentioned.

The animals also benefit, Balay said.

Each year the program takes in 60 to 70 animals from Humane Society chapters in Kandiyohi, Meeker and Redwood counties.

They are treated, vaccinated, neutered and, at the end of the year, put up for adoption.

Later visitors met two of the program’s dogs: Rennie, a yellow Labrador retriever, and Sherman, a poodle mix.

While visitors didn’t meet the cattle that provided the blood they worked with in a lab exercise, Balay gave them some advice on working with bovines.

“You know what happens when a cow sneezes?” he said, “Don’t stand behind her.”

Gary Miller

Gary Miller is a Designer for Forum Communications Co. Born and attended public schools in Willmar, Minn. Served 20 years in U.S. Navy as a photojournalist. Worked at West Central Tribune and Forum Communications since retiring from the Navy in 1994.

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