Five Things I Love about HSVMA-RAVS

Leah with a very anxious patient named Angel, after coaxing her from a hiding place using low stress handling techniques learned from HSVMA-RAVS.  Leah Montgomery

February 23, 2015
by Leah Montgomery

1. Giving animals excellent care without worrying about the family’s ability to pay.

No matter someone’s social or economic standing in this world, pet owners just want what is best for their pet. It amazes me to see people lining up before dawn, waiting hours for veterinary care because they truly care for their pet. This is the number one reason I am addicted to RAVS! Who doesn’t love to give?!

2. Veterinary students and professionals are awesome!

On day one of a RAVS clinic, 30 students and 15 veterinarians and veterinary technicians who have just met start setting up a field clinic in a gymnasium, community center, or even a fire house. In short order, a full surgical hospital emerges from the RAVS trailer. Day two is an early start – often after a late night – with orientations, then right to work treating the pets of the community. In all the trips I’ve been on, I still find it amazing how quickly and seamlessly we blend into a cohesive team, all there because we love what we are doing! Like I said, pretty awesome group of people!

3. There’s no substitute for great teaching.

No other time in our veterinary student careers will we be given so much individual instruction with such talented veterinary professionals. On my first RAVS trip, one vet took me through a full orthopedic exam. Later that day I had a patient with a luxating patella, and I was able to identify it and confirm it with the vet. It was a huge confidence builder!

4. Thinking outside the box.

Hunter in recovery.  Leah Montgomery

RAVS is well-supplied for a field clinic, but can’t bring everything. Focusing on basic physiology and medicine when full diagnostics are not an option can yield novel solutions. For example, my little friend, Hunter, was a Boston Terrier who presented for a spay, still nursing her large, 6-week-old puppies. Her spay went well, but Hunter took a very long time to recover and just wasn’t quite right. After reversing her sedation and closely monitoring her, we decided that Hunter might have hypocalcemia. A blood test for calcium levels wasn’t available and giving intravenous calcium has serious risks. The vet in charge decided a safe treatment for this would be oral calcium in the form of Tums. We started treating Hunter, hoping she would improve, knowing the Tums wouldn’t hurt her. And it worked! Little Hunter started to perk up, and her vitals gradually improved.

5. Positive affirmations go a long way!

After seven long, exhausting days with little sleep, some grumpiness might be expected, yet it is rarely seen. On my first RAVS trip, every morning my classmate and I would ask each other, “What is your goal for today?” This helped us focus and by the end of the day we could say that we were now more confident in whatever task we had set out. This past year, one of our team leaders would tell us every day, “This is going to be the best day of your life” (usually in a lovely sing-song voice). It may seem silly, and some days we felt we had nothing left, but then we’d tell ourselves that it was going to be the best day of our life, and off we’d go to help a pet and their grateful family. At the end of the day we had stories to tell – knowing we had made a difference – all because we believed this day was the best day of our life.


HSVMA-RAVS is an experience of a lifetime, and I’m so lucky to have been able to go on three trips in the past two years. I have learned everything from how to spay a dog, to how to run a manual autoclave, to efficient packing of our beloved, to working as a team, to persevering even when things get a tough, to talking with clients effectively, and the list goes on and on. Every year RAVS reminds me why I wanted to go to veterinary school, and how much we accomplish when we work together to do what is best for the animals we love!

Leah Montgomery is in the class of 2015 at Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph.

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