Clarkson works at veterinary clinic, pursues childhood dream

Clarkson works at veterinary clinic, pursues childhood dream

When Sara Clarkson (12) is in the vet clinic, she forgets about the APEL on-demands and the athletics schedules and the chemistry tests that fill her regular life.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of day I’ve had, going to work [at the clinic] always makes me happy,” Clarkson said.

Clarkson has been dreaming of a job like this for most of her life as she grew up with a love for animals.

“I was obsessed with dogs,” Clarkson said. “I’ve always been best friends with dogs [and when I was 4 years old] I got a little dog costume that I would wear around the house. I would walk around on four legs, put a bowl of water on the ground, and drink out of it.”

Knowing she couldn’t really be one with the animals, Clarkson developed a dream of becoming a veterinarian.

“Everybody gets asked what they want to be when they’re older,” Clarkson said. “At 6 years old I started to say that I wanted to be a vet. People told me that it would change but I didn’t think it would.”

And it didn’t. Clarkson dedicated herself to this path as much as a 6-year-old possibly could. She traded the dog costume for a computer, researching the profession and how to get there. Through her excitement and research, an 8-year-old Clarkson discovered more specifics about the path she was to pursue.

“At 8, I figured out that I wanted to be a doctor, not just a vet tech. I started researching vet schools and set my hopes at UC Davis,” Clarkson said. “I still want to go there.”

But she said she always knew that it would take a lot to get there.

“I knew that it was a really long shot so I would have to work really hard,” Clarkson said. “I’ve always been super academically focused, not just because I need to become a vet, but also because I just love math and science.”

Clarkson was always looking for the next steps on this path; she said she couldn’t wait to then trade the computer for real-life scrubs.

Clarkson’s family friends, the owners of the Center Veterinary Clinic in Mira Mesa, knew of her interest in becoming a vet and offered her a volunteering opportunity when she was 14. She took her initial responsibilities, looking after the boarding animals, and ran with them. Walking the animals, cleaning their cages, and feeding them became catalysts for her love.

“I already knew that I wanted to be a vet and volunteering at the clinic solidified that for me,” Clarkson said. “I really love working with animals.”

When she grew old enough to be employed, Clarkson was excitedly hired at the same vet clinic. She said she couldn’t wait to gain new responsibilities and obtain a larger role in the clinic.

“I started to work in the vet clinic with the actual doctors as much as possible without going in actual surgery because I’m not qualified to do that,” Clarkson said. “I’ll restrain the animals while the vet technicians put catheters in and help as much as I can.”

Clarkson said that her experiences with animals have given her a way of understanding them and make her job a little easier.

“[My experiences with animals have] given me a sense of what they are thinking and feeling and how to act around them,” Clarkson said. “Animals are like people in that sense. They have moods and use their behavior to tell us how they feel. The more experience people have with animals helps them to learn to read that behavior. I’ve always connected really well with animals and I’ve gotten really good at communicating with them in a way.”

For example, Clarkson encountered a small, scared dog in the boarding section of the clinic that no one could get through to.

“By giving him time and space and just being calm and not getting frustrated with him, he is now comfortable and trusts me,” Clarkson said.

Now that he’s sweet and comfortable, Clarkson said that it’s one of her favorite dogs to work with.

Clarkson loves the excitement within the clinic because it’s the animals that cause that excitement. Working at the clinic, Clarkson has the same joy that she felt at 4 years old, crawling around in her dog costume.