By Rebecca Hornick
GDB's Foster Care Coordinator
As foster care coordinator at GDB's San Rafael campus, I place over 400 dogs per year in and out of temporary foster homes. In order to give these dedicated foster care volunteers the tools they need to care for our dogs to the best of their ability, I provide a number of educational opportunities each year in the form of seminars. These seminars cover a variety of topics related to dog training, behavior, health care and GDB in general. The volunteers love hearing from guest speakers and lucky for me, I have a number of knowledgeable speakers at my disposal right here on our staff! At a recent seminar, one of our veterinary technicians, Laura Chandler, presented to the group. Not only did she educate and enlighten the crowd, but she reminded me what a great group of people our veterinary technicians are and how little we know about them because they do their magic “behind the scenes.” All our dogs benefit from the knowledge and skills they bring to GDB, both in Oregon and San Rafael veterinary clinics. So without further ado, I’d like you to meet the techs!
Kristen Hagler, RVT, has been involved with GDB since she was 16 years old. She did two summer internships here and hasn’t left the clinic since! She has actually known “Doc” (Dr. Craig Dietrich, DVM) since she was in pre-school! She currently shares her home with an 11 year-old career change black lab, Ramirez, a 5 year-old rescue cat, Fish, and an actual fish named Fishie. Kristen also has two young children who keep her very busy when she isn’t at work.
After receiving her Bachelor of Science in Animal Physiology from Sonoma State her schooling continued: she received her Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner and Certified Canine Osteoarthritis Manager certificates from the University of Tennessee Knoxville; Certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner certificate through the International Academy of Veterinary Pain Management; and Certified Canine Body Worker through caninology massage and soft tissue courses. Recently she joined board of directors for the American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinary Technicians. She has special interest in canine physical rehabilitation, osteoarthritis and obesity prevention in small animals, as well as canine sports medicine.
When she isn’t juggling work demands, Kristen loves cycling, working in the garden and jogging with her kids. Kristen is also working on two textbook chapters on Canine Physical Rehabilitation and Osteoarthritis, soon to be published for veterinary technicians. While at Sonoma State, she played volleyball for four years and was the team captain for two years. She was a 2nd Team All-league in her Junior year and still hold the blocking record for the school so you know she understand fitness and the importance of strong orthopedics on a very personal level!
When she isn’t at work, Laura enjoys spending time with her boyfriend, Jason, an apprentice instructor with GDB, and her bouncy 7 year-old retired guide dog, Dynamo. She loves gluten-free cooking and prides herself on creating big Sunday brunches, her favorite meal of the week! Laura enjoys practicing Bikram yoga, which keeps her in shape so she can spend hours bending over the dental table. She is also a devoted baseball fan (GO GIANTS!). I also have to add that she is also a fabulous presenter, and my volunteers would agree!
Jill Johnson, RVT, initially received her BA from Claremont McKenna College and spent 16 years in the corporate world until deciding she wanted a more enriching career. So, she went back to school and got an AS from Foothill College and became an RVT in 2005. Jill spent one year working at a shelter then came to our San Rafael vet clinic during the last quarter of school for an internship. That was nearly eight years ago and lucky for us she never left! Her interests include senior and geriatric care, pain management and colony health.
In addition to her work here, Jill has volunteered at many different organizations including a wildlife rehab center, spay/neuter clinics, and animal shelters. She has an 11 year-old rescue yellow lab, Miss Fancy Pants, a 2.5 year-old black lab career change, Chief, a 2 year-old rescue cat, Triscuit, and a husband whom she is still working on training (he's almost to phase 7!). When not at GDB or pet sitting she enjoys reading, dancing ballet and spending time in Lake Tahoe with the dogs. I have known Jill outside of GDB for several years now and I have to say, other than being incredibly hard working, she is a laugh riot! She brings that same joy and love of life to her work and we all appreciate the smiles in an otherwise very serious business.
Miranda Blankenship, RVT, graduated with BA in American Studies and International Relations from Chico State in '99 with the intent of going into Cross Cultural Studies/ International Relations. After three years of office work, however, she discovered that her true passion was not sitting behind a desk but working with animals. She returned to school in '04 to obtain an AS degree in Veterinary Technology from Foothill College and received her RVT license in '06. In September 2012 she started at GDB, but before that, she spent six years working at a specialty clinic in San Francisco working in Internal Medicine, Emergency, and Critical Care. Miranda also volunteers at the San Francisco Zoo on a regular basis and occasionally picks up relief shifts at the Zoo’s Hospital - which she loves.
For fun, Miranda competes in the occasional race (most recently a half marathon and a triathlon before that), and she loves to travel. Of the 16 countries she has visited, her favorite destination is Italy (she's been four times); "food, drink, sights, and history all to die for." Her family at home includes one husband of six years, one rescued scruffy terrier mutt named Mack, and two cats rescued from old veterinary jobs named Vino and Formaggi. Although she has been here the shortest amount of time, we’re so glad she joined the GDB family.
Kathleen Kane, CVT, has been a vet tech for over 36 years! They didn’t even have certified techs in Oregon when she started!! Kathleen is an ‘all around’ tech who started her career in a small, one doctor practice in a rural setting where they did house/farm calls, caring for both large and small animals. In such a small clinic setting, she helped out with everything, including front desk/reception, bookwork, kennel room, inventory as well as more typical vet tech work. As the practice grew and more staff was added, her duties expanded to include personnel management, setting up the new computer system, as well as being in charge of accounts payable and payroll. Her diverse skills really helped that small practice grow and grow and grow during the 18 years she spent there. After that position, she did a short stint working at a research facility before coming to GDB.
Kathleen's background in all aspects of vet clinic business has been a huge attribute to GDB. When she started at the Oregon campus nearly 18 years ago, they were still in the construction phase so she was instrumental in setting up their state-of-the-art clinic. She was in charge of purchasing the equipment and supplies needed to get up and running so they would be good to go as soon as they had a building! For most of that first year, Kathleen was the sole Oregon vet clinic employee and she fondly remembers, “It was a very unique, fun and rewarding experience for me.”
Kathleen is happy to be part of GDB not only because she loves her job, but she also met her wonderful husband, Bruce, here! They live on a ‘mini’ farm with mini animals including: two Nigerian goats, two miniature horses, 20-25 chickens, two crazy cats named Spot and Smudge, and four short dogs – 2 Pembroke Corgis named Vinnie and Quigley, a Cardigan Corgi named Hula, and a little rescue dog they brought back from Kauai named Pukalani. Her spare time is spent around the ‘farm’ and working with her dogs in herding and agility. Looks like her dogs have many diverse skills just like she does!
Amy Waldon, CVT, has been at GDB for 14 years and a board certified technician (CVT) for 24 years. Prior to GDB, she worked at the Oregon Zoo as a keeper assistant for two years and for seven years at small animal veterinary practices. Her veterinary interests include dentistry, small animal physical therapy/rehab, and laboratory technology.
Amy's outside interests include gardening, and classic cars (everything from cruise-ins, driving, admiring or restoring). She grew up helping her father and uncle restore many cars including Model A and Model T Fords, 1940s/1950s pickups, and the occasional muscle car! Amy also loves travel, reading and scuba diving (warm water!). She has 10 open water dives under her belt including multiple dives in Hawaii, Jamacia and the South Pacific. Her “bucket list” includes diving in the waters of Palau and the Great Barrier Reef. Husband Doug and she have only "4-legged children": a goofy career change black lab named Nigel, two 8 year-old old rescue cats, Hope and Romana, plus an ever-changing little herd of goats that they enjoy watching frolic on their small hobby farm. Always curious about new skills, Amy is currently taking classes to learn about producing goat cheese and how to obtain Oregon Tilth Organic certification to eventually sell goat milk products. Never a dull moment in the life of an Oregon vet tech - and I bet that’s just the way Amy likes it.
We are so fortunate to have these talented and experienced staff providing quality care to the dogs here at GDB. It is comforting to know that these hard working technicians support our veterinarians, other staff and our constituents every day. We all benefit from the knowledge and skill they bring to GDB. So join me as I say, “HOORAY FOR THE TECHS” because they are truly some of the most passionate and humble heroes I know here at GDB.