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Specializing in Service: Two Birds of a ‘Heather’ Flock to North Dakota

Published on August 2, 2013 by Staff Writer

Driving out of town in a 1981 Centurion RV (affectionately named Marilyn), vet tech program chair Heather Riggs and vet tech instructor Heather Bird spent a week in July embarking on the road trip of a lifetime. Their destination: North Dakota, home of the Spirit Lake Lakota Sioux Nation, where volunteers from all over the country would participate in a large-volume Humane Society–Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS) clinic for the nonprofit medical treatment of animals in need.vet tech program, Broadview University

From Utah to North Dakota—roughly 1,000 miles or a 16-hour drive from Broadview University–Orem—there was plenty of sightseeing to be done along the way. The “Heathers” enjoyed seeing the historical town of Deadwood, Mt. Rushmore, the famous Wall Drug in Wall, S.D., and, as Heather Riggs said, “About 350 miles of nothing in Wyoming.”

But this cross-country road trip wasn’t without its fair share of speed bumps. The old RV needed a jump start in Park City and a new alternator not too long after that.

After two nights on the road, the Heathers met up with a RAVS group and traveled with them, caravan-style, to Spirit Lake, N.D. The group included professional volunteers and 40 veterinary students.

vet tech program, Broadview University

Heather Riggs (left) and Heather Bird working hard at the Spirit Lake RAVS Clinic

The first day of the RAVS clinic was spent setting up and getting everyone oriented on how things would run. Heather Bird’s job was to run the induction table where she would help place IV catheters, anesthetize the patients, and prep them for surgery. The patients were then moved to Heather Riggs’ station where she would monitor the anesthetist students at five different surgery tables. Many of the animals at the reservation were considered high-risk anesthetic patients (due to various health problems), so the monitoring had to be even more intense than it would be for healthy animals.

Long Days, Longer List of Memories

In bed at midnight and up by 5 a.m. each morning, the Heathers endured long days in service to their friends in the animal kingdom.

“We worked long hours and had very little sleep,” Bird said. “But it felt really good to do the work we were doing in helping out so many animals.”vet tech program, Broadview University

Along with helping serve the needs of the animals in the reservation, the Heathers learned about the culture, traditions and history of the land from a Sioux Tribe elder. They also visited with several pet owners and learned about their lives on the reservation. Friends were made from all over the country, and even a student from the United Kingdom participated in the clinic.

On the drive home, they decided to take a different route and enjoy the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Beartooth Scenic Highway in Montana, and beautiful Yellowstone National Park. In the midst of admiring buffalo and other wildlife in Yellowstone, they picked up six Taiwanese park employees who needed a ride to Old Faithful. They had never been in a motorhome before and, upon meeting Marilyn the RV, had never heard of naming a vehicle, either. They decided when they got back to their home country, they would name their vehicles, too.

Bringing new meaning to the term “summer road trip,” these women combined a vintage RV with plenty of sightseeing and an extra helping of service to create an experience of a lifetime.

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