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Grandma Billie

submitted by Ellie Engelen - University of Minnesota

As I reflected on different experiences that shaped my path towards pursuing a DVM, some recent events in my life made it clear that there was one person in particular who had influenced that path the most; my grandma Billie.
I grew up in the heart of Minneapolis, in a city neighborhood full of pavement and cars. My mom had grown up on a farm in rural South Dakota raising beef cattle with her family. Every summer during my childhood, we would go stay there with my grandma for weeks at a time. My grandma was one of toughest, yet kindest people I have ever met. She had a no-nonsense type personality, but had a huge soft spot for her grandchildren. She also had a love of animals. Every time I'd go to her house, there would always be little bowls of milk or cat food sitting outside and an accompanying clan of stray cats from the neighborhood were always wandering over. She even tried to adopt a feral cat and brought it into her home. "Daisy" was the meanest cat you could imagine and terrified us kids, but nevertheless my grandma had no fear of her and would go pick her up and carry her around the house like a rag doll. She was a prized possession and my grandma loved her endlessly. 
As the activities director at the local nursing home, she had the idea to install a large bird cage and then bought several different types of birds for the residents to enjoy. You could always find her sitting by the bird cage cooing and singing to those little birds. Now, 30 years later, that bird cage has grown to taking up an entire corner of the activities room and houses several different species of birds.
She was also an avid state fair attendee, and every summer she'd fire up her motor home and take us kids to go camp out at the fair. We'd wake up every morning and go straight to the livestock barns, where we'd spend the rest of the day wandering around the animal pens. Our family dogs also worshiped my grandma. Whenever she was around, they became the loyal and devoted dogs we never thought they could be. They would follow her around and lay at her feet for hours, hoping to get a back scratch. Even into her old age when her memory started to get hazy, she would always remember our dog Pete whenever we brought him to visit and she would even ask for him by name when he wasn't there. 
I remember sitting in her living room listening to my mom and her family talk about riding their horses to school and herding cattle on their ranch. The minute we returned home, I would tirelessly beg my parents to sell our house in the city and move out to the farm so that I could ride horses to school just like my mom did. As I grew older, this romanticism about rural life and animals became a fascination with learning more about animal agriculture, and eventually led to my decision to pursue the mixed animal veterinary track, primarily focusing on food animals.
When I try to think back and reflect on when I first knew I wanted to be a veterinarian, it occurred to me that it had been an obvious career choice all along- I had grown up surrounded by my grandma and her love for animals. It was her lifestyle and her values that I looked up to the most and tried to emulate, even as a young child. She has been an incredible influence on my life and has instilled in me the same passion for animals that she herself always had. As I now sit in her nursing home room and spend what might be my final moments ever with her, I take consolation in the fact that I will be carrying on a little part of her through working with animals as a veterinarian. This legacy is something that will stay with me even after her physical presence is no longer.


Billie Blaseg passed away on August 19th, 2015.


The Art of Building Costumes

Walker Roberts, University of Florida Class of 2018

Life as a Vet Student Category Winner

The Art of Building Costumes

My unique, strange, and down-right crazy hobby is costume making. Not just small character builds or thrift store stops, but full on creature and armor builds. The world of costume making for a hobby didn’t reach popularity until anime and gaming conventions began to arise around the nation from Comic Con in San Diego, California to Dragoncon in Atlanta, Georgia. While many costume makers (also known as cosplayers) build and wear their costumes for the fun of gathering with friends and meeting new ones, I build costumes to compete nationally in costume competitions from Ohio to Florida.

Photo collage of my costumes including (from left to right) Impa from Skyward Sword, the Black Knight from Dark Souls, and an original character. Photography by Cerulean and Iconiq Photography.

My hobby didn’t start until I was at the end of my sophomore year in College. I had not taken an art class since elementary school and I had never sewn before. And yet my first costume, Impa from the video game Skyward Sword, was a raging success at the local convention and it swept through the internet. I was hooked. However, I did not start competing until I made my second costume, Commander Shepard from the video game Mass Effect, and competed in a low key convention local to Morgantown, West Virginia. I won first place, and it gave me confidence to compete in bigger conventions (which meant a bigger draw for more talented costume makers). Until finally, I became who I am today. I have been cosplaying for three years and I average two or three competitions a year. I have placed seven times in competitions of which four of them are first place.

Comparison of my costume to the in-game character, Impa, from the videogame Skyward Sword. Best Sci-Fi costume at Shockacon 2013. Photography is by Cerulean Photography.

In general, the rules of the competition and judging vary based on the convention. For admission rules, some conventions only allow costumes from Asian culture. The main points of judging, however, are mostly always the same. You are judged on craftsmanship, complexity, functionality, and accuracy. Craftsmanship is how well you make your costume. Do you have any glue showing? It is falling apart right at the judge’s table? How clean are the seams? How smooth is the armor? Complexity is how detailed is your costume. Does your costume have lights? Does it have movable wings? Does it make sounds? Functionality refers to how well you can move and wear your costume. If you have stilts, how well can you move? How well can you see? Do you require people to help you move around? Lastly, accuracy refers to how close your costume matches the actual character. Did you spend that extra week weathering and detailing? All of this is judged in a matter of minutes and your overall score competes with the other fifty plus contestants.

Comparison of my Valka Haddock costume to the in-movie character from How To Train Your Dragon 2. First Place in the Western Culture division at Colossalcon 2014. Second Place at Swampcon 2014. First Place at ALTcon 2014. Photography is by Joe Rondone at the Tallahassee Democrat.

Let’s discuss the making of a costume. It took me a couple of years, but I have finally learned that you never know what you are doing or how exactly to make a certain piece of the costume. You learn to have confidence in your skills and your knowledge of the materials. You set out on an adventure every time you make something and every time I learn a new technique or a new approach to an old one.

Photo collage of my Black Knight from the video game Dark Souls. Awards include Judge’s Award at WVpopcon 2013 and Honorable Mention at Tsubasacon 2013. Photography by Iconiq Photography.

The first step to building a costume is to choose the outfit. You need to consider the rules of the competition. Some people choose their costumes based on complexity, connection with the character, or for simplicity in a time crunch. I choose my costumes based off how visual stunning it is. For example, my latest costume is the Songbird from the video game Bioshock Infinite. Its introduction to the main protagonist and the detail work is what made me decide to build the character.

An in-game picture of the character Songbird from Bioshock Infinite.

The next step is to find reference photos to the character in order to ensure exact details. If this is a character from a relatively older show or game, then there is a good chance someone else has already done the work for you. However, if you are building a character from something very recent, then it is time to watch the same trailer or the same cut scenes at least a hundred times and try to capture every angle of the costume. There are also times when there just isn’t enough detail in game/movie that you have to find another method like the Songbird. I needed to purchase the official statue from the company as a reference. Finally, it usually helps to draw out the details so you don’t miss anything.

Picture of the Songbird statue and some of my notes breaking down the costume build.

The third step is actually making the costume. When working with new materials or techniques, this step can be even more frustrating because you need to add more time to your schedule to research how to use them. What I have learned over the years is to forego the tutorials, learn the basics, and just mess with the materials. It is a constant process of building on top of the last layer. You are never truly done since there is always that ONE little additional detail or weathering, but the deadline of the competition stops your work. The Songbird is still a work in progress, but with the stilts, foam base, and leather, it has taken me close to a year to get this far. It is also the most expensive step. It is far cheaper just to buy the costume, but making a character from scratch helps to give me peace of mind and is definitely worth the money, sweat, and tears. 

My skills in costuming have grown a lot in the past three years from Impa to the Songbird. There is still work to be done and techniques to master. This hobby is crazy and stressful both emotionally and physically. Most of the competitions don’t even offer prizes other than certificates or goody bags. However, I have made great friends at these gatherings and the moment you walk out onto stage with hundreds of people cheering, it all becomes worth it. I will continue to make bigger and better costumes until I believe I am ready to compete with the professionals at the largest competitions in the nation.



A photo of what I have completed so far with the Songbird costume. I still need to finish the wings, detail, and weather.

You can see more of my work and tutorials at 


Feeling Bloated?

Hydrops and Hydrocoelom in a Green Frog

Amanda Igeta, Colorado State University, DVM Candidate 2016


Green Frog (Rana clamitans), male, approximately 2 years old


An approximately 2 year old wild-caught Green Frog was presented for a 1 week history of generalized swelling and a 1 day history of anorexia. He is housed alone in a half aquatic 20 gallon tank with a stone substrate, a hide box, and fake branches. The temperature is maintained at 75 degrees F with a room humidifier and heater. A canister is used to filter the water, and the water is changed monthly with tap water. The daily diet consists of crickets and a multivitamin. 

Physical exam

On physical exam, he was quiet, alert, and responsive. The coelom and hind limbs were swollen and edematous, and transillumination of the coelom revealed no abnormalities. The eyes were clear, though there were red abrasions ventral to both eyes and a bloody discharge from the left naris. Oral examination revealed swelling of the dorsal aspect of the mouth, located ventrally to the eyes. He was able to ambulate on all four limbs, though there were noticeable musculoskeletal deformities of the long bones, which were softened and mildly rubbery on palpation. A 1 cm diameter, dark red swelling was present on the caudal aspect of the dorsum in the region of the cloaca.



Differential diagnoses

Initial differential diagnoses for hydrocoelom and hydrops include renal failure, lymph heart failure, and liver disease. The underlying etiologies of these organ failures vary and may include bacterial (Mycobacterium) or fungal infections (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) that are often secondary due to poor husbandry, malnutrition leading to immunosuppression or hypoproteinemia, osmotic imbalances, and hypocalcemia which can lead to decreased function of the lymph hearts. Differential diagnoses for the musculoskeletal abnormalities and the mass in the region of the cloaca include metabolic bone disease and cloacal prolapse, respectively.


It was decided that we would drain the subcutaneous and intracoelomic fluid and analyze it via cytology and refractometry. On presentation, the frog was 145 g. Celiocentesis was performed with a 25 gauge butterfly needle attached to a 6 cc syringe. Prior to puncturing the skin, the coelom was transilluminated in order to identify and avoid any organs or blood vessels, and 29 mL were aspirated. The same procedure was repeated for the right and left hind limbs, which yielded a total of 27 mL. A total of 56 mL of a serosanguinous fluid were removed from the frog to yield a new body weight of 89 g. The total protein of the fluid was 0.2 g/dL. Direct microscopic examination and a diff-quick stain of the coelomic fluid revealed 3+ erythrocytes. A gram stain did not reveal any bacteria, though there was a moderate amount of proteinaceous debris.   

VD whole body radiographs were taken after the 56 mL were aspirated from the frog. The radiograph revealed an increased soft tissue/fluid opacity of the thorax and hind limbs. The lung fields appear to be clear, though perhaps mildly decreased in size. There is generalized decreased bone density of the long bones, and both humeri are bowed. There is no foreign body or mass appreciated on evaluation of the coelom.



He was hospitalized and provided with earthworms overnight after receiving one subcutaneous injection of 8.9 mg calcium gluconate. Treatments during hospitalization included 8.9 mg calcium glubionate PO once daily, 1-2 drops of tobramycin ophthalmic solution applied topically to the skin once daily, and a 10 minute soak in amphibian ringer’s solution once daily (1 part LRS to 2 parts 0.45% saline + 2.5% dextrose). He was sent home the next day with instructions to continue applying 1-2 drops of tobramycin ophthalmic solution once daily topically to the skin for 21 days, 0.09 mL calcium glubionate (2.07 mg elemental calcium) PO once daily for 21 days, 8 mg piperacillin IM once daily for 14 days, and to return for a recheck in 21 days. Recommendations for husbandry were also made and included 10 minutes of supervised exposure to sunlight when temperature permits, using dechlorinated tap water for 25% water changes, removal of pebbles from the tank to decrease bacterial load and the possibility of ingestion, wearing gloves during handling, adding a 10.0 UVB light bulb, and improving his diet by adding earthworms with three times weekly calcium powder dusted on top and a weekly multivitamin.

Follow up

A week after initial presentation, the Green Frog returned for a recheck appointment. Over the week, the generalized edema improved, although the hind limbs continued to remain more swollen than normal. Several days after the frog was sent home, aquarium salt was added to his water, but when a color change of the ventral surface of the frog was noticed, the water was switched to distilled water. In addition, the owners were syringe feeding the frog because he still had a decreased appetite. On examination, the 61 g frog was much improved with regards to the cloacal swelling, the abrasion ventral to his left eye was healing, his left naris was no longer bleeding, and there was only moderate edema of the hind limbs. However, there were multiple areas of the skin that had a gray discoloration with petechiation (ventral abdomen, ventral thighs, lateral carpi) suggestive of chemical burns that were likely due to being soaked in salt water and distilled water. The owners were warned that while the skin may heal with care, it could also potentially become necrotic and slough off. The frog was then sent home with instructions to soak 10-15 minutes once daily in amphibian ringer’s solution for the next two weeks, to syringe feed an insectivore supportive diet as needed, to continue administering the previously prescribed medications, and to return for a recheck in 14 days.  



Mader, DR. Reptile Medicine and Surgery. 2nd ed. St. Louis: Saunders Elsevier, 2006.

Wright, Kevin M. and Brent R. Whitaker. Amphibian Medicine and Captive Husbandry. Malabar: Krieger Publishing Company, 2001. 


A Study in Corrie

Gabrielle Woo, Cornell

I am somewhat of an anomaly among my colleagues because I did not grow up in a household that included animals. Oh, I’d done my share of pet-sitting, lived in several places with multiple animals and, like many other kids, I asked for a puppy every Christmas – but to no avail. In hindsight, though, I am sort of glad my parents said no.

I say this because now, as a student living away from Toronto, I’ve had the immense privilege of making friends with an animal of my own for the very first time.

Pet adoption occurs frequently among my vet school friends, but it seems far more significant when you are the one taking the animal with you. Corrie, short for Cornelia, is a 1.5-year-old polydactyl calico kitty who was spayed by one of my classmates while I monitored anesthesia during a surgical lab at school. She came home with me less than a month ago.

Since then Corrie and I have packed up and moved to a new place, argued about which of my possessions is appropriate for napping on (laptop keyboard is forbidden, everything else is fair game), gone adventuring outside in the woods, and taken more than a few naps on other people’s couches. She is a funny sort of cat who sometimes acts like a dog, especially when she greets me at the door and doesn’t stop talking until I oblige with a good scratch behind the ears. Before I met Corrie I was prone to talking aloud to myself on occasion. Now I can say I was talking to the cat.

I suppose it is strange that even after two years of vet school, I didn’t quite understand the bond between humans and their companion animals until now. Corrie has had something to do with this discovery, of course, as have other people I’ve met while doing pet photoshoots. One of my favourite moments as a photographer is when my animal subject decides we are to be friends and pushes my camera aside in order to say hello. It makes pictures harder to get and sometimes leaves sloppy noseprints on my camera lens, but it also brings laughter to all the humans who are watching.

I think having an animal friend must have something to do with a sense of family and of home, especially for those wanderers who dare not stay in one place for too long. The weight of this bond makes me feel strangely more responsible as Corrie’s human and as a vet in training. Mostly, though, it makes me grateful to be where I am.


On the next edition of Life as a Vet Student....

Kirsi Gove from Utah State takes it to the next level with a love of Vespa Scooters.  Congratulations to her "Life as a Vet Student" award-winning submission, and check out her cool story below!


I developed an interest in Vespa Scooters after High school, I has always wanted one, especially one of the older ones from the 50's. I liked the classic lines and being able to ride a cool bike that was over 50 years old. I worked at a coffee shop and was about to start my first semester of undergrad. I bought a repair manual for a Vespa P200 (made from the 70's-80's) after finding a basket case of a scooter on a local classified website. The scooter needed new electrical and an engine rebuild, none of which I had ever done, but I was up for the challenge and decided to take it on. One thing I like about vespas is that an engine project never takes up more space than the kitchen table and with time and practice I can now rebuild an engine in less than 4 hours. I fixed that scooter, rode it for the next summer and sold it in the fall. I made money on the sale that covered my time and then some. Thats when I decided to keep doing it and buy more and more projects. This is how I ended up paying for my undergraduate degree and it was a pretty fun side job and hobby, at one point during my junior year I had 27 bikes ranging from small Puch and Jawa mopeds to Vespas and Lambrettas.