Down the Rabbit Hole

I think it’s fair to say that by the end of term, we were all more than a little frayed around the edges…

Looking back on my timetable for that last week, the lectures don’t sound all that familiar. It says we covered things like chronic inflammation, hypersensitivity, healing and haemostasis, but I don’t really recall much about any of that – what attention span!?

What I do recall is Thursday’s suspense in anticipation of our AB1 exam results. As per usual, our year coordinator waited until the very last minute to update our online profiles, and when I did look, I didn’t fully understand it. There were lots of tables and abbreviations, numbers and percentages. But, ultimately, I found my way to the final mark – the one that combines all the coursework components, written exams and practical exams. The pass mark was 49%, and while my only real desire was just to pass the bloody thing, I was secretly hoping I might get a 60-65.

What? Err, no. I must have read that wrong.

It had to be a mistake, because in the final mark box sat an impossible “89% – Distinction”.

I can’t speak for other subjects, I have no idea what is expected of other students, but I can confidently say that marks like these are not expected of veterinary students – and particularly not from little old me!

Naturally, I phoned my parents and told them it wasn’t a Pass… left it a few seconds to marinate… and then prevented imminent cardiac arrest by revealing the Distinction. While my Dad found this fairly amusing, Mum didn’t see the funny side quite so much.

Since I was alone in the halls that afternoon, I set about making a solo celebration. This consisted of consuming a mini bottle of Cava I’d received for my Birthday, but which I’d left on my shelf after dropping it and being too afraid to pop the cork on the now highly pressurised bottle. It’s me who has to pay for the hole in the ceiling.

And so on the afternoon of the 17th of March, I sat on my swivelly office chair giggling and crying about how wonderful it was to not only have survived these exams, but absolutely smashed them.

And then it hit me: in May, I have to do it all again.


The Friday night was a wonderful end to the term, as I was invited to a meal with Rowena and her parents. The significance of a gesture like this can’t be understated – real food!? Count me in!

The food was fabulous, and the conversation was varied and stimulating – I know I have a tendency towards big themes and potentially contentious issues, but Rowena’s folks were full of insight and so easy to talk with.

The next day was brunch with Rowena and then a cab to the train station… three and a half hours later, I was home. The cat was mildly pleased to see me.

What followed was a week of sleeping, mostly, punctuated by periods of eating… with an undertone of suppressing guilt at not getting any work done. And on Easter Sunday, I mounted the back of a horse for the first time in 8 months. With a stunning, push-button quarter horse under saddle, I had the most refreshing blast around the Yorkshire countryside. There’s literally nothing like a good gallop to give you wings.

Although it seems like nothing much was achieved during that first week, it was actually a valuable space of time to starting climbing back out of the frank exhaustion that comes with this course. It’s only when you look back do you realise just how low you were. There’s a pretty open statement for anyone considering this degree – but it is doable!

And so into week two, my first week of veterinary EMS, which I spent with Karen at The Warren. Karen runs a boarding facility for rabbits and guinea pigs, and spent the week teaching me the ins and outs of their needs and care.

Admittedly, I held many of the misconceptions that most people hold about rabbits. I wasn’t aware of the huge issue that is lonely rabbits, I didn’t know why you shouldn’t keep them with guinea pigs, I didn’t realise that they had such specialist veterinary needs, etc. But I came away from that placement with such a wealth of knowledge – knowledge that I just know I’ll be able to pass on to clients to improve rabbit and guinea pig welfare.

The weather was, frankly, appalling to begin with – but there’s no damping down the spirits at The Warren!


Everyone meet Elvis!


Working through Storm Katie











I was keen to join in with every part of Karen’s day, from crawling around inside the hutches to give them a proper clean out, to examining poos to determine health – it’s all good! And, though rabbits and guinea pigs have never been top of my favourite animal list, I discovered a whole new affection and respect for them, from Karen’s infectious passion and love for all things small and furry.

And with that new respect comes a strong concern for the welfare of rabbits and guinea pigs around the country. However small my readership might be, I’m going to put a few things out there on the off-chance that someone might reconsider the way they keep their rabbits, which is the first step to saving thousands of them from inadequate care.

I’m hearing more and more from different places that loneliness in rabbits is a massive issue. This article by the British Veterinary Association (the representative body for the UK veterinary profession) pretty much nails the problems that rabbits are facing. Among their key points are:

  • many vets think people should be discouraged from keeping rabbits unless they are fully aware of their needs
  • rabbits often get forgotten and are kept as single pets, but they are very social animals
  • isolation causes boredom, frustration and fear
  • they are often bought for children, who grow bored of them
  • PDSA reports show that 65% of rabbits are alone
  • traditional hutches do not meet the physical, social or environmental needs of the rabbit
  • they should never be kept with guinea pigs
  • the bulk of a rabbit’s diet should be grass or hay
  • they shouldn’t be fed muesli due to selective feeding tendencies

Karen’s boarding facility is absolutely excellent, and takes into account the needs of not only the species she cares for, but the individuals’ needs too. This is the kind of awareness and depth of understanding I hope to gain from all of my placements.

Long story short, if you need a place to board your small furry in Yorkshire – Karen’s your lady!

It’s been a short post, but tonight I set off to live with a shepherdess for a fortnight, to lamb her sheep. There’ll be adventures galore and tons to talk about when I’m done. I’m simultaneously terrified and excited, but I’ll update you as soon as I get back to the world of Wifi!


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