How Titus the Dog Became a Guinea Pig for a Day
Published on November 26, 2013 by Tiffany Coleman
(MERIDIAN) An American Bulldog with big teeth is standing in the middle of a classroom. Not only is he surrounded by high school students who are one-by-one putting their hands in his mouth, all of them are taking turns sticking a long-handled brush inside of it. While some may think this would be like poking a sleeping bear with a stick, for Titus, this is literally his moment to shine. Titus is here—baring his teeth—with three students from the veterinary technology program at Broadview University. Their goal is to teach the next generation of vet techs the importance of animal oral health; turning Titus the dog into a guinea pig for the day.
For the past four years, Steve Wilder has been teaching the animal sciences class at Meridian High School. Students with an interest in veterinary technology and veterinary science come here from five local high schools to learn.
“When we started this program four years ago, we only had 10 students,” Wilder said. “This semester we have 26 students. Next semester we will have 28.”
Wilder helped build the program with people like Karen Higer Scott. She and her husband own Meridian Veterinary Hospital.
“This program branched out of a large animal program when we began to see the need for smaller animal care,” Scott said. “So we sat down and figured out a curriculum. A lot of the kids here want to be veterinarians and vet techs. We also have students who are interested in wildlife, research and working with police dogs.”
As part of their studies, students follow veterinarians—observing what goes on during surgery and parasite labs.
“It is really hands-on and involved,” Scott said. “I really like that.”
On this day, hands-on exposure is definitely what the students are getting. Alie, Kaitlynn, Katrina and Titus are here with Dr. Amy Albrecht as part of the applied learning project for their Application of Veterinary Clinical Skills class. Katrina adopted Titus from the Meridian Valley Animal Shelter in August.
“I don’t think he ever had his teeth brushed before I got him, but he certainly does now,” she said with a smile. Katrina told students that when she and her son brush their teeth at night, Titus gets his brushed, too.
“Dental health starts young,” she said. “Daily is the goal. He is pretty good about it, too. I have really worked with him to accept having his teeth brushed. He also gets a treat afterwards. It sounds kind of counterintuitive, but rewards promote good pet behavior.”
By the end of the session, the students learned proper pet restraint and how and why it is necessary to brush your pet’s teeth. They were also shown all of the instruments used to professionally clean an animal’s teeth. Smiles could be seen throughout the classroom. Even Titus left with a bright, healthy smile.