I have been fascinated by animals for as long as I can remember. My Dad bred and showed budgies and my Grandma was always telling me that my Mum bringing home stray dogs and cats was a regular occurrence, so I guess it is no surprise.
My first memory was when I was at primary school, I begged my Mum to let me bring the class hamster home for the weekend. Sammy, as he was called, was a gorgeous orange Syrian hamster and so tame. My Mum finally let me bring him home and he was a real hit with all the family especially when he would run up and down the living room floor picking up little bits of food we had left for him, that was until he started chewing the living room carpet! Within a few seconds there was a huge hole, my Mum to this day says she was astounded at how quickly he managed to destroy so much carpet shoving it into his pouches as he went. Sammy was quickly picked up and put in his cage, I knew then that I would not be getting a hamster as a pet.
Having worked in the banking and education sectors since leaving school, I have never had a job which was around animals, I say that, but, as an ‘animal’person I have always been surrounded by a variety of animals from bearded dragons to parrots and of course dogs and cats, I have always wanted to learn more about every animal I have kept and have successfully bred lizards, cats and dogs along with guinea pigs, and chickens.
Getting on in life at 52 years of age and with both my children now independent I realised that if I didn’t make a life change now I never would and why not do something that I love.
I started looking at what courses were available to do on-line or by distance learning, I wasn’t brave enough or confident enough to think about going to college full time and leave the safety of my job. I found the SRUC Barony Campus Certificate correspondence course on-line and immediately thought that it was the one for me. It looked fascinating and covered topics that I knew I would find useful and that would interest me. I contacted my Vet, having so many pets she knows us very well, and asked her if she had heard of it and what she thought of it, she came back and agreed that it did look ideal.
Although I was keen to learn about animals I really did not at that stage want to feel pressurised to get things done by a certain date. The course allowed me to work at my own pace getting workbooks one at a time and also paying for them one at a time.
This gave me the flexibility to continue to work and complete the books at my own speed. ( I soon found, however, that I got so involved in them that I was setting my own limits and waiting in eager anticipation for my next workbook). I nervously sent off my application form and was pleased when I was advised by the college that some funding may be available through Skills Development Scotland. This was a great help and really easy to access by filling in a few forms for an Individual Learning Account, this paid for the first three books. The other books have been self funded. At this time I was unsure whether I would like the course or indeed be able to do the workbooks to the standard needed. The college was extremely helpful and the course tutor answered all my questions,( some of which I’m sure were ridiculous), really well and gave me the confidence to think “Yes I can do this!”
When my first book arrived I was really excited and I loved the format, I got myself into a routine I would first read through the workbook, sometimes I’d do this as bedtime reading, then read the relevant chapter in my text book, I’d then allocate a time to sit down and start the activities. I really enjoyed the assessment pages and realised that I was learning quite a lot even although I thought I’d had a lot of knowledge already about animals, what’s more I was remembering it.
Some of the assessments needed you to have some practical hands on knowledge so I approached my own vet who allowed me to go in, have a chat and look at what I needed to for the assessment. She also talked me through certain things, for example her routine for disposal of sharp objects. I found I came to enjoy questions like these and found them more of a challenge. Her willingness to share her knowledge was really useful and again I learned a lot and saw what I had read about in the textbook being done in a real life situation. Once my assessments were completed I sent them back to the tutor and eagerly awaited my new workbook and of course my results.
My tutor (Amie Miller) so far has always had positive comments to make and this is a great confidence booster. I am at present about half way through the course and I am still motivated and I have realised that I enjoy studying when I am genuinely interested in the subject. I am hungry for more hands on experience and knowledge, so much so that I have applied to do an NC in animal care which is due to start in September, so fingers crossed that I am successful. I am extremely lucky in that I have a very supportive husband and children and this has allowed me to pursue something that I love. In the future I hope to get a job working with animals either in a veterinary practice or rescue centre. I have surprised myself and shown that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and start something new.
By: Rose Miller (SRUC, Barony Campus Distant Learner Student)