Valarie Adams is a CVT with over 45 years working in veterinary medicine. Her 1973 graduation from the Medical Institute of Minnesota puts her in the “aged-but-still-useful” category of alums. Valarie’s career has included large and small animal general practice and 17 years in emergency/critical care.
In May 2008, she created the Healing Heart Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit that supported programs honoring the spirit of the Human Animal Bond. Healing Heart Pet Hospice program delivered hospice and palliative care to pet families, as well as programs for grief support and financial support for hardship cases.
Valarie has lectured nationally and internationally and written and co-written for textbooks and online publications. She fills her heart by volunteering veterinary care to the dogs on a Native American reservation and feeds her soul and tends her spirituality with her horses, nature and singing blues/blues rock.
My love of veterinary medicine has led me in many directions. Initially, I had a love for mixed animal practice. That was quite a road I was on, back in the 70’s. After college, finding a job in a mixed animal practice was received in some interesting ways. Not only was I a female looking for a job in a predominantly male dominated landscape, but – “What on earth is a veterinary technician?”is what I heard a lot!
“Just like a nurse, only for animals” is what my mom told everyone who asked what I was doing when I went off to school. “She’s the doctor’s assistant” is how the public would see me. Something of a curiosity is how large animal veterinarians would see me. After spending time doing large and small animal work, I had a thought that maybe I’d love to be a wildlife rehabber. I saw myself assisting with raptor rehabilitation, so I dove into researching that. My heart pounded at the thought of the possibilities of doing that for a career. Have you ever been charged with excitement like that? I knew nothing about that work, but I was about to find out.
That exploration led the most interesting folks to cross my path, and I was honored to meet memorable rehabbers who gave me a short course into the reality of their work. Those stories make me smile. Romantic daydreams are one thing, reality is often very different. In the end, I had to question whether I had what it took to do the incredible job that these talented people were doing. I admired them greatly. As it turned out, it wasn’t for me.
Have you gotten all fired up about something brand new and then once you hang out with the people doing the work, you find their insight has made you examine further if you’re on the right track? Teachers come in all shapes and forms and show up in life around every corner. Have you recognized the teachers that have crossed your path?
Making a complete 360 degree turn, I did a short stretch traveling in a bus singing in a band. No kidding. I did some veterinary work in between just to keep up my chops, but I was headlong into all the trappings of the entertainment world—the glamorous and the not-so-glamorous sides of the business. The chapters of that stretch of time are filled with stories of recklessness and risk taking, and they’re more than a little hair-raising. I’ve reflected on those days and taken a deep breath, realizing I made it out alive, but often wonder how!
That little ride didn’t come close to paying the bills, though, and it wasn’t long before I found myself fascinated once again with something new: the new emerging field of emergency/critical care (ECC). Excited once again, I took to deep study and preparation to enter that world. That stretch was a gargantuan roller coaster of commitment and a ride like no other, as I immersed myself in that adrenaline-fueled world. You adrenaline junkies know what I’m talking about. When I commit, I’m all in!
Recognizing the intense learning curve to go from general practice to ECC, coupled with my advancing age, I thought it a good idea to seek out tutoring. I banged on the door of a professor I knew at a nearby university who I’d worked with doing relief work. After telling him what I was embarking upon, he made it possible for me to get tutoring in advanced math for free from grad students who needed credits. That better prepared me for the accelerated environment I was entering, and I was off and running. Working 17 years in the ECC side of veterinary medicine was the impetus for finding my heart and soul passion, which was life’s ending.
I then found myself where I needed to be—Hospice and Palliative Care. Walking through life’s death chapter in a deeper way is how I came to feel about it. The stories of that chapter opened a whole new world to me, and I would never look at medicine the same again.
Maybe I just needed to experience a diversity of activity because I had such a thirst for learning— always hungry to find out more. I was that little kid who can’t sit still in school. You know the kind… constantly turning around to see what everyone else is doing. Always thinking they’re missing something. The teacher was always telling me to sit still! Maybe that’s you, too.
At my age, maybe I should leave this crazy veterinary business behind, sit on the sidelines and just watch. But for some reason I’m still so fascinated—about all of it and about all of you! And, after a lifetime I have so many stories to tell. There have been INSPIRATIONS and TEACHERS that have been mentors even when they didn’t know it. They all played a part in the colors of my stories.
I was born curious about all of us. And, I think storytelling is a conduit for bridge building between our generations. We are one species among many on this planet. And, our languages are all so different. The stories of those that walked before us can offer a way to find our common ground.