09/17/2012 05:07 EDT | Updated 11/17/2012 05:12 EST

A Thank You to the Vets Who Keep Our Pups Safe

Flickr: Army Medicine

As a dog lover, I will always have the utmost respect and appreciation for the veterinarians that help keep our pups happy and healthy. This year, the proceeds from the Paws for the Cause gala will be going to the Central Toronto Veterinary Referral Clinic's Cares Foundation to help subsidize life-saving surgery costs for our canine friends.

In addition to the funds raised going to CTVRC, a portion of proceeds will also go toward the Chloe Award, which is a $5,000 scholarship that is awarded to an outstanding veterinary student. The award is named after my own dog, Chloe, who herself had lifesaving surgery, and this year will be our second time awarding the scholarship. As co-founder of Paws for the Cause, I wanted to catch up with the winner of the first-ever Chloe Award, University of Guelph veterinary student Francesca Di-Mauro.

How did you feel about winning the Chloe Award? What did the Award allow you to do?

I was so excited and grateful when I heard about winning the Chloe Award. I have a special interest in critical care medicine and when I heard it was a first-time award from such a generous organization, I felt even more lucky and appreciative. I was so happy to have received this. The scholarship truly helped lessen the burden of my student debt.

What was the overall response to the Chloe Award in Canine Critical Care being announced at The University of Guelph?

I know the Ontario Veterinary Clinic was very excited about this award. I know they announced it in one of the OVC Bulletins. I know the recipient of this award in future years will be very appreciative. The scholarship really does make a difference, especially at the end of the year when loans are running out!

Why did you decide to train to be a vet? Did you always know you wanted to be a vet?

I knew I wanted the opportunity to work with animals every day, but also wanted to be able to connect with people as well. For a lot of people, pets are part of the family, and as a veterinarian you get to indirectly help people by caring for their animal. Working with different species also makes it fun, but very challenging at times. I think my first memory of wanting to be a vet was when I was in elementary school.

My family always had multiple pets and I remember always wanting to go with them when they went to the vet. I started volunteering for our family veterinarian during the summers when I was 13 and I think that was what really sparked my interest. The vet I volunteered for was such a great teacher and I learned so much from him. He was always so patient with my abundance of questions.

How long did it take to train to be a vet?

It takes four years at the Ontario Veterinary College to earn a degree, and you can apply to vet school after at least three years of an undergraduate degree. Personally, I spent nine years total at the University of Guelph. I spent five years finishing my Bachelor of Science degree before starting vet school at the OVC.

Right now I'm completing an internship, which is a step to specializing, so I get the opportunity to be mentored by veterinarians who are board certified in internal medicine, neurology, surgery, cardiology, emergency and critical care, and oncology. For vets who want to specialize, it is at least another four years including an internship and three year residency in the area they are interested in.

Do you have any animals that are near and dear to your heart?

Yes, my Greyhound, River. He's a retired racing greyhound from West Virginia and the best company in the world -- even though he likes to hog the couch and my bed. He's my favourite thing.

Do you have a favourite breed?

I love all dogs, but Greyhounds and other sighthounds definitely have a special place in my heart. I love their sweetness and affectionate personality. Labs, Golden Retrievers, and Boxers are other big friendly breeds that make me happy.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?

The absolute best part is getting to cuddle with the patients. I love happy dogs who want to lick your face. The most challenging part at this stage in my career is telling people sad news about their pet. I also find it hard not to worry about the patients when I go home. Considering I recently graduated and haven't been a vet for a very long time, I'm sure I will experience many more challenges along the way.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?

It's difficult for me to give advice at this point because it's so early in my career, and I find I am taking all the advice that my mentors offer -- but I think it's important to always have a positive attitude, and enthusiasm to keep learning. It's also important to remember to take time (even if there isn't much time to spare) to do the things that make you happy and grounded. River and I walk to work every morning and it's my favourite part of the day.

What was the most helpful and memorable experience you had in your vet career?

So far, working with the oncologist and seeing how happy a lot of dogs undergoing chemotherapy are and how good their quality of life is with this treatment has been very memorable

What skills are essential to be a successful veterinarian? Why are these skills necessary?

It's essential to be a good listener, an excellent communicator and compassionate person. So much information about the pet and the problem comes from the owner's history and personal experience with their pet. Getting the owner to trust you is so important and extremely helpful when trying to determine their pet's problem and how you can help. Being able to explain what you think is going on and communicate the treatment plan is crucial, as owners play the most important role in decision making for the pet. Willingness and enthusiasm are essential skills needed to be a successful veterinarian since the veterinary medical field is always changing, expanding and offering new diagnostic and treatment information.

Why is an event like Paws for the Cause important?

The gala event is so important because it raises people's awareness of Paws for the Cause organization, all of the extremely generous work they do every year raising funds to donate to a different animal welfare group, towards the Chloe Award Scholarship, and towards financially assisting owners who cannot afford necessary surgery for their pet.

Want to help out? Be sure to get your tickets for this year's Paws Gala.