People often ask me how I decided to become a veterinary surgeon.
It all started with a passion for animals, and most especially for horses. And, I suspect, the fact that my parents point-blank refused to indulge that passion, by never allowing us to have any pets. I felt very deprived as a young child.
But one year we were on our annual family holiday in Devon, and for once the weather had not noticed it was summer. It had been raining persistently and I suspect that we three children were becoming unmanageable with what we now call ‘cabin-fever’.
In desperation my parents asked what they could do to amuse us. We unanimously requested a riding lesson.
I must have been about eight years old. Young enough that my father felt he should join the lesson too, presumably to keep an eye on us!
It must have been an amusing contrast to see the three of us on little ponies and him mounted up on a huge strong beast. But I had no time for the bigger picture, I was finally up in the saddle for the first time!
From this early lesson, my passion burned ever stronger, and I seized every opportunity to ride or spend time with animals, but still my parents resisted any attempt to persuade them to allow us to adopt any pet of our own.
I can recall another Devon-related memory. My mother adores Devon clotted cream. Whenever we were visiting, we made a pilgrimage to a farm where you could buy this straight from the farm kitchen. I loved that kitchen, because just about every time we visited there would be a nest of puppies or kittens in a corner.
At school, when a bat got into difficulties in the bathroom, it was me the kids called, not a teacher. It didn’t occur to me to wonder why, but looking back, it seems that everyone knew my destiny and passion was to look after creatures in trouble.
It’s a rare privilege to be able to fulfil a childhood dream. I feel so blessed that I get to live mine on a daily basis.