After reading a James Herriot book aged 11, Karen Pickering knew there and then that she was going to be a vet.
From that point, she has set about making her dream job a reality, and now the veterinary surgeon spends her days caring for the donkeys here at The Donkey Sanctuary, where she has been for six years.
Before university, ‘Kaz’ - as she is known at our Sidmouth Sanctuary – spent some time on a gap year in Africa, teaching children to speak English and getting a taste of veterinary medicine, but it was a trip to Egypt straight after graduating which was to profoundly impact the next career step.
While working with a charity in Egypt, Kaz cared for a number of equines, but it was the donkeys who stole her heart.
So what was it about the donkeys?
Kaz says: “They are just really forgiving. After everything that had been done to them – some of them had only known beatings and working hard – they were just so willing and although scared when they first arrived, having to put up with us while we needed to stick needles in them, they seemed to know that it actually made them feel better and they realised that we were there to help.
“They are really intelligent and inquisitive animals and I love walking into a barn full of donkeys and having them all come up to investigate, trying to eat my stethoscope and pick up my medical bag – they are very nosey!
“What I love about this job is the variety; no two days are the same. I enjoy surgery and also the dentistry side of things which I am learning a lot more about at the moment as I’m working towards further qualifications in this area.
“That is where the new hospital is going to be really good because it will have its own dedicated dentistry room, providing a better working space and meaning that we can treat more donkeys with dental problems in one day.
“The new hospital is going to offer more space all round, which in turn will mean that we can treat more donkeys who need medical attention in one day than we can currently cope with.”