October 18, 2019
By Erica Rymer, Events and Marketing Specialist
It’s National Veterinary Technicians Week! Celebrated October 13-19, this week provides an opportunity to appreciate local vet techs by highlighting the important work they do and recognizing their contributions to animal welfare.
The Akron Zoo has two extraordinary Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVTs): Samantha Aemmer (right) and Kayla White (left). White, the self-proclaimed hospital drill sergeant, has been with the Akron Zoo for four and a half years while Aemmer, self-appointed supreme ruler of the universe and best Akron Zoo tour guide (her words, not mine), has been with the zoo for almost nine years. In that time, both women have cared for our more than 700 animals, and have brought smiles to the faces of animals and staff alike!
RVTs serve many essential functions at the Akron Zoo. Their job includes cleaning, feeding animals, prescribing and delivering medications, providing enrichment, administering and monitoring anesthesia, taking radiographs and x-rays, ordering supplies, collecting and processing lab samples and even writing medical records, just to name a few. Each day is spent providing preventative care and treatment for our wide variety of species.
Though the life of an RVT may seem exhausting and hectic, Aemmer and White are always finding new ways to bring joy to the animals and people around them through a light atmosphere with a pinch (or a gallon) of humor.
“We balance each other out,” says White. “We know when to step in to help each other and when to have frequent random dance parties or impromptu a capella concerts.”
“I think the goofiness is what gets us through the hard times,” agrees Aemmer. “Levity can be a wonderful thing. I don’t think we could be serious 100% of the time if we tried; the fun just leaks out of us.”
Some of the animals also participate in the daily antics, and our RVTs love them for it.
“Mayli, one of our female pygmy slow lorises, is probably my favorite animal at the zoo,” says White. “She has quite a big sassy attitude for such a small animal. I also find everything about lorises to be ADORABLE!”
Of course, since they work with every animal on grounds, the decision of favorites is not always an easy one.
“I can’t name just one favorite at the Akron Zoo, but any animal with a big personality definitely tops my list,” says Aemmer. “Their antics always amuse me, even if I am on the receiving end of their shenanigans.”
With such diverse patients, each day has something new to offer. To succeed in their jobs, Aemmer and White need to be excellent problem-solvers. Since an animal can’t say what is bothering him or her, it is up to our talented RVTs to piece together the clues in order to provide the best possible care for our animals. The zoo veterinary field is always evolving based on new research, some of which our RVTs participate in firsthand! Data collected on many of our species, especially those who may be difficult to observe in their natural habitats, helps contribute to current practice and inform future action. Of course, not every procedure goes as planned.
“The hardest part of the job is saying goodbye to our furry, feathered, and scaled friends,” says Aemmer. “I love working with our animals and it can be so rewarding, but a loss never gets easier, and some animals leave us far too soon.”
It is hard to imagine anyone else doing the work these women do on a daily basis. It is no doubt that the Akron Zoo is a better place because of their caring hearts and sunny personalities. Plus, our animals receive a good deal more comforting (in the form of snuggles and fur-braiding) during their annual wellness checks with these two around! Thank you Samantha Aemmer and Kayla White!
Remember to thank your local veterinary technician this week, and the next time you visit your Akron Zoo, tell Aemmer and White what a great job they are doing!