SEBRING — Rebecca Spencer eventually wants to become a veterinarian, and being certified as a vet assistant when she graduates high school fits perfectly with her career plan.
Wednesday, the Sebring High School sophomore, and April Garcia, a junior, were lathering up math teacher Scott Veith’s jet black standard poodle Carlos for a bath before he was rinsed, towel dried, and had his teeth cleaned and his nails trimmed.
The mini-grooming is part of the practical learning that 75 Sebring High School students such as April and Rebecca do for a multi-year vet assisting course, which will allow students to get certified in the field as soon as they graduate high school.
The “doggie day care,” as the school’s agriculture teacher Rebekah Wills describes it, is a chance for the students to do some hands-on work and decide if this is what they really want to pursue. The course also requires 500 hours of hands-on learning or which half involves working with a licensed veterinarian, she said.
Wills, who got the idea of opening the doggie day care after visiting high schools that offered vet assisting courses, said for $10, teachers and school staff members drop off their dogs for the day. They hope to expand it to include vet assisting students’ pooches soon.
Wednesday, seven canines of all sizes, colors and breeds, waited in separate crates for some spring TLC.
The students also walk the dogs, and some of the pets get home exhausted after a day of play.
“They’ve had a fun day,” Wills smiled.
While Carlos obediently went through the routine, escape artist and part-lab Sadie pulled at her chain a bit as Lauren Serey, whose dad owns Sadie, and student Austin Taylor got the shampoo going.
Chelsea Thompson, who is a sophomore, jumped in to help and expertly massaged on some soap as Lauren kept Sadie in check.
Chelsea has become an old hand at doing this.
Since the summer of eighth-grade, she’s been helping out at Sebring Animal Hospital, from cleaning the cages to bathing the animals.
“I want to be a vet,” she said, adding the doggie day care is a good way for students to experience what the day-to-day job is like so they can decide if this is what interests them.
The vet assisting course has five levels. Last year, the school started level 1 and introduced level 2 this year. The plan is to add the next level the following year, and offer levels four and five to seniors.
Wills, who has supplied many of the dog crates and has financially helped when needed, said they fund the program through the money they receive for the dog grooming, and the school will allocate more money next year.
They also plan to buy tubs so the students don’t have to hose the dogs down and get wet and soapy in the process.
The community is invited to help by donating crates, shampoo, leashes clippers, filers or anything grooming related they have lying around.
Supporting an agriculture program at a school can add up - from maintaining the barns to buying dog crates.
They rely on community help.
“Supporting ag is very costly,” Wills said.