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Pet Tales: Mini-Vet School at Medaille is open to anyone interested in well-being of animals

If it has four legs, two wings, feathers or fur, its health and well-being will be on the agenda at the popular Mini-Vet School held by the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society on Tuesdays in October.

The program draws hundreds of people each year, ranging from high school students interested in veterinary professions to “seniors who come to learn a little bit more about what’s going on with their dog or cat,” said Dr. Amanda Schepis, a veterinarian at Sheridan Animal Hospital and chairwoman of this year’s Mini-Vet School.

“People love the program, and I think they look forward to it every year,” she said.

The program, which was founded in 1998 by Dr. Jim Brown, owner of Blue Cross Animal Hospital, was held for years on the University at Buffalo’s Main Street campus but was canceled last year because logistics could not be worked out. This year it has moved to the main building at Medaille College, 18 Agassiz Circle.

“When it wasn’t announced last year, I was getting calls at work from people asking about it,” said Schepis. “I’m hoping that taking a year off won’t hurt our registration too much this year.”

The classes are scheduled to run from 7 to 9 p.m. on all five Tuesdays in October.

Each evening’s lectures, taught by local veterinarians and other experts, focus on different aspects of animal care modeled after a course taught in veterinary school.

“Everyone has pets, so a lot of different people are interested in it,” said Schepis. But every class draws some teens who are interested in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.

“It’s exciting to see the potential future of veterinary medicine attending our lectures,” she said.

The topics are wide-ranging, from close looks at specific common ailments, including kidney disease, skin ailments and hip dysplasia, to the general topics of avian medicine and medical care for animals in shelters.

“We try to mix it up and hit everyone, so if something doesn’t interest you, the next one might,” said Schepis. “You can pick and choose, either register for the whole thing or go to one class or more. We have called on our local veterinarians and specialists to help us out and donate their time. They seem to enjoy it, they are always willing to help.”

On Oct. 1, Dr. Laura Wade, a bird specialist, will discuss “Avian Medicine from beak to tail” at 7 p.m., followed by Dr. Karyn Beningo, who will discuss common skin diseases of dogs and cats.

On Oct. 8, Dr. David Brummer will discuss kidney disease, followed by Dr. Rene van Ee’s talk on hip dysplasia.

The program on Oct. 15 will include a talk by a licensed veterinary technician, Cindy Mead, who will suggest ways people can enhance the veterinary experience for themselves and their pets, followed by certified pet trainer Sue Pezzanite, who will discuss and demonstrate clicker training.

“I’m going to show ways to use the clicker, and fit my presentation in with the first lecture of the night,” said Pezzanite. “For example, one scary thing for dogs when they see the vet is getting on the scale. I’m going to show how you can train the dog to stand on a towel that you then put on the scale. The whole concept is communicating so the dog understands, ‘Oh, if I put my foot there, I’m going to get a click and a treat.’

“People also don’t realize that cats really like learning that way too. When I did clicker training at Tabby Town, the cats would actually meow when I came in, because they knew I was going to be bringing turkey and clickers.”

On Oct. 22, Dr. Helene Chevalier, head veterinarian at the SPCA Serving Erie County, will discuss shelter medicine, followed by Dr. Reed Stevens, who will discuss ethics and quality-of-life decisions about pets.

On Oct. 29, Dr. Heather Sacks Allen will discuss “Why Acupuncture Works, Using Ancient Medicine to Heal.” The final presenter of this year’s Mini-Vet School is Buffalo Zoo veterinarian Kurt Volle, who will discuss zoo medicine.

Volle brings photos of animals he has treated at the zoo, including some surgery and necropsy photos, said Schepis. “He has so many interesting stories, and his lecture is known to go long. In past years we have given him an hour, last year he went almost two hours and it was 10 o’clock before he finished, but people stayed for the entire thing,”

Cost for the series is $60 per person; $40 for seniors and students. Single classes are $20 per person, with walk-ins welcome as long as there is room. To register, call Medaille at 880-2306 or email Free parking is available on campus. The lecture hall, which seats about 250 people, is handicapped-accessible.