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Voice of the Leader Dog Community: Michele Clift

Today’s voice belongs to Michele Clift, a licensed veterinary technician at Leader Dogs for the Blind for over 20 years. She is concerned about the state of veterinary technicians in Michigan.

A woman with long brown hair and a big smile is in a room with a yellow Labrador retriever puppy. The woman is wearing a dark scrub shirt and holding the puppy, that is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandana, on the top of a stainless steel table. In the background is a computer, a counter with a sink and a container of dog treats. Above the woman’s head is a moveable overhead light.Across the state of Michigan, we have lost multiple licensed veterinary technician (LVT) programs including Wayne County Community College and Baker College. Baker College, which used to offer multiple locations, now only offers the LVT program at a few select locations.

Michigan has seen an increase in the number of new veterinary clinics both private and corporate. There are plenty of career opportunities for LVTs and multiple career options including veterinary sales, hospital management, lab animal, working dog facilities, both small and large animal practices, wildlife rehabilitation, and zoo animal to name just a few.

Most of the general public does not know what a licensed veterinary technician is, let alone what the job entails. As an LVT we can administer anesthesia, assist in surgery, and place IV catheters. We act as radiology technicians, laboratory technicians, and provide geriatric and pediatric care. We can also specialize in fields like behavior, internal medicine, equine, and anesthesia.

Being an LVT isn’t always easy, and the pay is not the highest, but the career path can be rewarding.

I started out in the military as an animal care technician. During my enlistment I had the opportunity to work with the military working dogs and the military families that had pets. I made sure the working dogs were always healthy before going on deployment and kept valued military family pets healthy.

I have worked with a beef production veterinarian while living in Kansas. We worked out of his home and spent most of our days on the beef cattle ranches of Kansas.

I spent nine years working in a private practice, which eventually became a 24-hour practice that included emergency care. During my last year in private practice, I also worked for myself doing relief work at local small animal clinics.

Five dogs wearing bright green shoes and mushing harnesses pulling a dog sled (the sled is not in the photo). They are running on snow and the background is piles of snow and tree trunks. The dogs vary in color from tan/medium brown to all black.There are so many opportunities for the experience and skills of an LVT. I have been a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, volunteered at an equine rehabilitation ranch, and have volunteered on multiple occasions for the UP200 sled dog race held in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Photo description: Five dogs wearing bright green shoes and mushing harnesses pulling a dog sled (the sled is not in the photo). They are running on snow and the background is piles of snow and tree trunks. The dogs vary in color from tan/medium brown to all black.

At my current position as a Leader Dog LVT, I am working with an amazing group of veterinary professionals. We make sure that the dogs in our care are healthy and ready to go on to their careers as guide dogs.

As one of six veterinary technicians, I cannot say enough good things about my current team. I am fortunate to work with some of the best dogs. We breed, raise and train Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and German shepherd dogs. Most of my day is spent making sure that the dogs housed in the canine development center are healthy and ready for a long career as a working dog.

Each dog coming in for training gets an extensive first physical, including X-rays, and bloodwork. During their time in training each dog will get a total of four complete physicals, and those not selected to go into our breeding program will be spayed or neutered. The remainder of my days are spent seeing breeding stock dogs for physicals and puppies that are raised by local volunteer puppy raisers who bring their puppy to us for vaccines and health concerns.

I would suggest that anyone who likes to care for animals investigates becoming a licensed veterinary technician. A good place to start is on the American Veterinary Medical Association website at https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/yourvet/veterinary-technicians-and-veterinary-assistants or The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America at https://www.navta.net/

Read more about our Voices of the LDB Community initiative at: https://www.leaderdog.org/blog/introducing-voices-of-the-leader-dog-community/


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