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Veterinarian talks about animals, education with Meneley students

by Scott Neuffer
Staff Writer

Janine Mello’s sixth-grade class at Meneley Elementary School had recently two special guests: Veterinarian Ari Zabell and an 8-year-old Labrador named Whitney.

Zabell is senior director of hospital operations support for Banfield Pet Hospitals, which is based in the Pacific Northwest. He used Whitney, who belongs to Mello, to teach students about animal medicine.

“Most of the things that happen in animals happen in humans,” Zabell told students on Nov. 14. “The main difference is that human patients can tell doctors what’s wrong with them.”

Zabell called Whitney to his side.

“Whitney, what’s wrong with you?” he asked.

Whitney was silent.

“Animals can’t tell us what’s wrong, so we have to use all the tools we have to figure it out,” he said.

Zabell pulled out an X-ray of a dog’s broken thigh bone. He explained the similarities and differences between dog legs and human legs and asked students how they would solve the problem.

One student suggested a cast.

“That’s really hard for cats and dogs,” Zabell said. “When you are in a cast, doctors tell you not to move and stay in bed.”

He looked at Whitney.

“Whitney, don’t move,” he commanded.

Whitney immediately trotted up to him, drawing laughter from many students. Zabell then pulled out another X-ray that showed the same fracture pinned together.

“Casts don’t work really well, so we have to perform surgery and use pins and wires to put the pieces back together,” he said.

Zabell showed students models of canine teeth and canine ears, but he said his experience wasn’t limited to man’s best friend.

“Being a veterinarian isn’t just taking care of cats and dogs, though taking care of cats and dogs is wonderful,” he said.

Zabell discussed his trip to Indonesia where he worked with orangutans and sheep.

“Working with animals, you have tons of options and opportunities to do any thing you want,” he said.

Zabell urged students to go to college and take their education seriously.

“You can be anything you want to be if you put in the time and energy to get there,” he said.

Alyssa Bernal, 11, said she might want to become a veterinarian.

“I’m glad he [Zabell] came in to give us information, just in case I want to be a vet,” she said.

Chase Bertagnolli, 12, had no doubt about his future plans.

“I want to be four different types of zoologist, a paleozoologist, herpetologist, ornithologist and mammalogist,” he said. “I’ll need to study veterinary medicine just in case I end up owning a zoo.”

Each student in Mello’s class received a stethoscope, courtesy of Future Vet, an educational program established by the Banfield Charitable Trust and the American Veterinary Medical Association.