Yang Weiwei, the medical supervisor at the International Center for Veterinary Services, has nursed countless barnyard creatures and domestic pets back to health over the past three decades. Though she didn’t plan to be a veterinarian, Yang’s love for animals has kept her devoting time and effort to their welfare. beijingkids recently talked to Yang and learned how she stumbled into her line of work, her secret method for befriending animals, and her daughter’s good relationship with their pets.
Where did you go to school for veterinary care?
It’s a funny story about how I started veterinary studies. In 1974, I was assigned to attend Humeng Agriculture Institute in Inner Mongolia. I went to register at school, but they couldn’t find my file so they didn’t know what major I was assigned to. There were three majors available at the time: veterinary studies, agriculture and accounting. I wasn’t interested in accounting and had no idea what veterinary studies was, so I chose agriculture. A month after classes started, my file finally arrived and it turned out that I was assigned to veterinary studies. So I was transferred.
I am not a very brave person, and I wasn’t keen on giving injections. Back in school, there was a class where we were required to kill a live horse for experiments. I couldn’t do it. The teachers tried to persuade me but I still couldn’t after much effort. So I sometimes think I wasn’t cut out to be a vet. But I really like animals, any animal – be it cute, ugly or vicious. The other day when I was giving a little puppy injections, he bit me hard and I got 11 bleeding wounds on my hand from his teeth. I thought he was right to do so because it’s his instinct to protect himself.
How do you get animals to cooperate with medical exams?
I try to communicate with them first. I always look them in the eye and let them know that I mean no harm and I am friendly. Animals can sense your fear or bad intention. If you look at them with harmful thoughts, they know immediately and become very defensive. But a nice, friendly and warm look can do wonders.
I remember being asked to see a very vicious dog. He was bad-tempered and nobody could get close to him. I went there and just looked at him for a while, and he calmed down. Then I went over to pat him on the head and everyone was stunned. I can’t explain it – it’s like a sixth sense. But of course there are always some animals that are impossible to befriend.
What do you tell pet owners when it comes to keeping both animals and human beings healthy?
Canine distemper is quite common in China. It’s very important for people to realize that they should not only care for their own dog’s health, but also other dogs’, because many canine diseases are communicable.
For example, I once treated a dog that had parasites. So I emphasized several times to the owner that he absolutely has to pick up after the dog when he walks him outside, otherwise other dogs would get infected. The owner said, “Why should I care about other people’s dogs?” That kind of attitude is quite worrying. So I told him, because if other dogs get infected, they may pass the disease back to your dog again, even if he gets cured.
A lot of people are concerned about having a cat around a pregnant woman. They don’t need to be paranoid. It’s easy to diagnose some of the diseases and parasites that cats might carry. As long as you give the cat and yourself regular check-ups, have sanitary habits such as washing your hands often, and give your cats their necessary vaccinations, there’s nothing to worry about.
What’s your opinion on zoos and animals in captivity?
I really don’t have any problem with zoos. I realize that animals in captivity usually lose their wild nature and I’m not for capturing animals from nature, but I’m also not against the idea that some animals are born in the zoo and live comfortably under human’s care.
Wild nature is cruel. I once brought home a little chicken. Our cat jumped on it immediately and broke its neck. It was really brutal. I know nature has its laws, but I can’t stand to watch it.
Do you have pets at home?
We’ve had fish, birds, ducks, chickens, cats, dogs, caterpillars, hamsters, turtles and many other small animals. They all get along with my daughter. She loves animals. Once, when my daughter was just a baby, I put her in her stroller and we were just enjoying the sun in the courtyard. Our neighbor started slaughtering a chicken and my daughter started crying really hard. I don’t think she even understood what it was, as she had never seen a chicken before. But her instincts told her that this was killing.