Jackie Buckley was an inner-city kid. When she was growing up, there was maybe one tree on her whole block. As a young child, her family lived in apartments; pets weren’t allowed. Later, they moved into a house and she finally got to have a dog, and she was so excited, she says it was like when other kids wish for a pony and get it.
It’s no wonder then that her family still doesn’t know what to make of her decision to come to UNH where she is majoring in medical veterinary science.
As a member of the CREAM program that manages UNH’s dairy herd, Buckley has learned how to feed and milk cows, and how to muck and re-bed their stalls. Oh, and she’s also certified in artificial insemination. And, a member of the Dairy Club.
“I was 18 years old before I even saw my first cow,” Buckley says. “My family keeps saying, ‘Who are you?’”
Who she is is an articulate, laser-focused young woman who doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be a veterinarian. The steps she has taken while at UNH have helped her define her goal of specializing on small animal care.
During the summer of 2012, Buckley spent a month in South Africa, starting in Johannesburg and traveling to Pretoria and Kruger National Park in Skukuza. In Soweto, she helped give distemper vaccines and de-worming pills to the vast dog population. At a lion park, Buckley learned how to judge an animal’s condition by the tracks it left behind.
“You can tell the gender of an animal by its paw prints. And you can tell how they feel by how they walk; if they’re running with their claws out, you know they’re stressed,” she says.
The group she was with volunteered to perform a necropsy on a large boa at a reptile sanctuary, where they learned about the reptile and other cold-blooded animals that call South Africa home. They did several game drives, and spent most of their time in Kruger Park doing game watches.
“We learned a lot about conservation,” she says.
And about poaching. And that rhino horns go for about $60,000 a kilo, leading to the slaughter of hundreds of rhinoceroses every year. And, even though it’s illegal to sell ivory, poachers still kill thousands of elephants a year, Buckley says.
“Elephants are incredible animals. To stand next to one is so leveling—being so close to something so big and just feel so small,” she says.
The last three days in South Africa, Buckley worked with a wildlife veterinarian, rising at 4 a.m., witnessing the correct way—the safe way-- to approach an animal, and how to treat one who is injured. She also was beside the veterinarian in a helicopter during darting practice, a method used to tranquilize an animal.
“You have about the amount of time it takes to get on the ground and run to the animal to decide what to do,” Buckley says. “It takes a lot of people to treat a wild animal. You can’t weigh them so you have to guess so you don’t give them too much or too little medication.”
The South African trip solidified what she had been beginning to suspect from her studies here in New Hampshire: that she wants to work with small animals not big ones. She credits UNH for providing her the hands-on opportunities that convinced her.
“I’m from New York. I could have gone to Cornell but I wouldn’t have gotten the experience I wanted. The dairy barn, the horse barn, the (New Hampshire Veterinary) diagnostic lab that I’ve had access to here have all taught me things you can’t learn in a classroom,” Buckley says.
“You can read that when a cow has ketosis, it has sweet smelling breath but you can’t smell it in a textbook. You have to open up an animal to know, ‘Can I do this?’” she says.
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Photos courtesy Jackie Buckley.