For Veterinary Technician Week 2019, we’re not just celebrating our wonderful vet techs – we’re introducing them! Vet techs assist veterinarians in every aspect of animal health care and they care deeply about our animals, often in very practical ways. We couldn’t care for our animals without them.
Meet Tracy Cramer, our new full-time clinical veterinary technician at Northwest Trek.
Why did you become a veterinary technician?
I’ve always loved animals. I grew up with a lot of pets, everything from tarantulas to horses. We lived in rural Michigan, with woods behind our house. My friends and I would spend all day in there, playing or looking for tadpoles. So I always knew I wanted to work with animals. In college, I earned my Bachelor of Zoology at Michigan State University, but I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I began working at a veterinary clinic looking after dogs and cats. Then I got my Associate in Animal Health Technology and became a licensed vet tech. I started volunteering at zoos, aquariums and wildlife rehab centers.
Finally I got an internship at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island, which led to a full-time job at Philadelphia Zoo. I worked there for nine years, and then I came to Northwest Trek in July this year. Once I entered the zoo field, I knew I was never going to leave it.
What do you like about working at Northwest Trek?
It’s my first wildlife job. There’s a smaller number of animals here, so there’s a greater focus on each one. I like being outdoors – I get to go out in the field and do procedures. And I love going to work in a park, just looking outside and seeing all those trees! Every time I drive into the park I feel like I’m coming home.
So what exactly does a vet tech do? What does your typical day look like?
Well, every day is different. I arrive at 7:30am and there’s usually a morning meeting with the keepers to check on animal updates. Then if we have a veterinary procedure, I will set up everything we need for anesthesia, taking radiographs, drawing blood, giving medications. If the procedure is out in the Free-Roaming Area, I pack everything up into the mobile clinic. Afterwards, I transfer everything back to the main clinic and clean up.
In the afternoon, I do many other things: getting any lab samples processed and sent off, doing paperwork, ordering supplies, updating animal charts. There are sometimes animal management meetings. But you never know, there may suddenly be a sick or injured animal and then you drop everything to care for them. I do like that unpredictability; there’s always something new.
And I like the variety of working with a lot of different animals. There’s so much the animals teach us every day – like our rubber boa that recently needed specialized care. So it’s new, a challenge, not just following a book.
Do you have a favorite animal?
There are definitely individual animals throughout my career that I hold dear. I guess I also like reptiles, birds and other animals that are not high-profile, that don’t get the attention like bigger mammals.
Do you have any pets?
Yes, I have one cat and two small parrots. That’s definitely downsized from when I was growing up!
And what do you like to do in your spare time?
I like gardening and landscaping. What I like best is transforming my backyard into a wildlife habitat for birds and insects; I’m looking forward to doing that in my new home out here. And I used to ride motorcycles – I’m hoping to get back into that!