Doing it all for the animals
By Denise Baran-Unland Correspondent February 5, 2013 10:58AM
On Feb. 17, Charlie Mikolaitis of Plainfield, a Joliet Junior College veterinary medical technology student, will host a fundraiser for Joliet Township Animal Control to help raise some of the $10,000 the shelter needs to build a dog run. | submitted pho
If you go
Dogs Need Sunshine
When: 5 to 9 p.m. Feb. 17
Where: McBrides Plainfield Pub and Grill, 7162 W. Caton Farm Road, Plainfield.
Etc: Raffles and 15 percent of all food and beverage sales to be donated to Joliet Township Animal Control’s campaign to build a fenced yard/dog run.
Contact: Joliet Township Animal Control at 815-725-0333 or McBrides at 815-609-0192.
JJC Veterinary Medical Technology open house
When: 9 a.m. to noon March 2.
Where: Joliet Junior College, Main Campus, 1215 Houbolt Road, Joliet.
Contact: Call 815-280-2493, email email@example.com or visit www.jjc.edu/info/discover.
Updated: March 6, 2013 6:06AM
If Charlie Mikolaitis’ pit lab mix, Big, age 10, hadn’t wandered away from home, Joliet Township Animal Control might not have a Feb. 17 benefit to help raise funds for its new dog run.
As Mikolaitis, 34, of Plainfield and a student in the Joliet Junior College veterinary medical technology program, drove up to animal control to reclaim Big, she noticed the shelter didn’t have a fence, which would make it hard on the volunteers to exercise the dogs.
So when Mikolaitis returned home, she called animal control to discuss the idea. This eventually led to its Dogs Need Sunshine Campaign, with a goal to raise $10,000 by spring to build an outdoor place/fenced area so its 40 dogs can go outside, a few at a time.
“It’s not only going to allow pets to have more off-leash and outdoor time, the volunteers won’t feel the pressure of having to be outside with the dogs for long periods of time,” Mikolaitis said. “They’ll be able to get more things done.”
Soon after Mikolaitis presented her idea, she began volunteering at the shelter as one of its dog walkers. She also adopted a pregnant cat, delivered the babies at home and kept the family together for its first eight weeks.
When she was a little girl, Mikolaitis, who has always loved animals, desired a career in veterinary medicine, but other life choices crowded out that dream.
Mikolaitis will graduate from JJC’s veterinary medical technology program in May 2014. Mikolaitis is currently working at Care Animal Emergency Services in Plainfield, but she would like to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree and teach other JJC students how to become certified veterinary technicians.
“I think some people assume all we do is work with machines and do general caretaking, but we do so much more,” Mikolaitis said. “I want people to know more about animal behavior. Just because an animal looks all right doesn’t mean it is.”
Mikolaitis’ involvement with the shelter is not the first connection between Joliet Township Animal Control and JJC’s veterinary medical technology program.
Each semester animal control sends 15 unadoptable dogs and 15 unadoptable cats to JJC. The students study and treat the animals’ medical, social and behavioral issues. Most undergo spay and neuter procedures. At the end of three months, these animals are highly adoptable.
JJC staff and students adopt about 80 percent of these animals. The other 20 percent go to rescue organizations or back to animal control for adoption.
JJC’s veterinary medical technology program, which combines classroom and field experience, is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association and is approved by the state of Illinois. It offers a complete day program and a complete night program.
“Untrained staff working days at vet hospitals that want to get certified in the state of Illinois can take all their classes at night,” said Dr. Scott Keller, program coordinator. “If there are only day classes — which is what other programs do — then they miss out.”
In addition to teaching and working in a traditional veterinary practice or hospital, career opportunities for graduates include pharmaceutical companies, research or wildlife facilities, zoological settings and pet food companies. While in the program, students are encouraged to try different fields by working two different externships.
“We just sent one student to a zoo in Alabama,” Keller said, “and we sent others to a large beef facility in Montana. Four out of five of our students are not looking for jobs because one of their externships usually hires them.”
Although certified vet techs may not diagnose illnesses or disorders, prescribe medicines or perform surgery, they do take an animal’s history, aid in diagnosis, perform a physical examination, administer medication and more.
For more information on JJC’s veterinary medical technology program, contact Karen Magno at 815-280-2746 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To adopt one of JJC’s program animals, contact Susan Morgan at 815-280-2676 or Andrea Turrisi at 815-280-2771.