A senior dog in Delta will soon have a happier smile thanks to the efforts of a Semiahmoo Secondary alumna.
Naomi Gantug – now 23 and living in New Westminster – said she was moved to help “LC,” a dachshund she met shortly after starting work as a veterinary assistant in Delta. Gantug sat in on the dog’s appointment when her owner brought her in for “a painful snout.”
“You couldn’t touch her nose at all,” Gantug said of LC (whose initials stand for Little Cutie) at the time.
Examination determined that the plump canine had dental disease, and needed – at minimum – a thorough cleaning, with extractions also a possibility.
Listening to LC’s owner consider how he would afford the procedure was “heartbreaking,” Gantug said, explaining that the gentleman, a widower with a broken arm, talked of skipping meals to save up for it.
At that point, Gantug asked if he had heard of the online fundraising platform, gofundme, then offered to set up a campaign to help raise money to cover LC’s dental bill.
Setting a goal of $1,000, Gantug said response to the ask was initially slow, but grew over a course of about three weeks to just over $700 – reducing the owner’s tab significantly, to around $100.
“It’s going to be a big, happy day,” Gantug said of this coming Saturday (May 1), when LC is booked to have her much-needed dental work.
The day will also include a weigh-in for LC, who Gantug has made a point of taking for walks on her work days, as an additional way of helping.
The fundraising campaign was Gantug’s first effort of that kind, but far from her first inclination to help others – she has had a heart for helping for as long as her dad can remember.
Grant Gantug recalls that even as a youngster walking home from school, his daughter would use a twig to flick snails and slugs off the pavement and onto grassy areas, in an effort to move them out of the path of bicycles and passersby.
In 2012, while in Grade 10 at Elgin Park Secondary, she helped, alongside Semiahmoo Rotary Club, to deliver wheelchairs to disabled children in the impoverished community of Hermosillo, Mex.
Fifteen years old at the time, the teen said after – in a letter to Peace Arch News – that the experience helped her finally understand a saying she’d heard many times; that of those to whom much is given, much is expected.
“I’ve come to recognize our guilty tendency to gain blind spots in our views of life while being blessed to grow up in a developed country,” she wrote. “We are stuck behind these impediments until we encounter something that can free us. Not everyone is given the chance to experience such an epiphany, and I’m glad to say that, for me, it was because of this trip.”
During her post-secondary studies, Gantug volunteered three of her four years at the University of Western Ontario; first in the university hospital’s lab, then two years in its intensive care unit.
The latter was her favourite, said Gantug, explaining that being able to console those who were distressed brought immense satisfaction.
“Being able to be there and be a present listener,” she said. “A lot of people who are coming into the ICU, a lot of them are very anxious and very stressed.”
As with many others, the pandemic set Gantug on a new path. When it hit, she had been gearing up to follow her “intrinsically motivated” childhood dream of going into medicine, with an aim to specialize in plastics. But, while dog-sitting over the summer, she stumbled onto a somewhat different track – veterinary medicine.
During one of her weekly visits to see her parents in South Surrey, she brought one of her clients’ dogs with her, and her dad commented on how she interacted with it.
“He said, ‘You’d be an amazing vet – why don’t you think about (doing) that?’” she said. “When I look back, I’m like… Everything unfolded so naturally.”
Gantug is now focused on learning as much as she can as a veterinary assistant, and plans to apply to veterinary school “as soon as I can.”
Some say additional help in that field can’t come soon enough. Professionals and charitable representatives alike have raised the alarm in recent weeks over a growing shortage of veterinarians in B.C.; a shortfall that is projected, without action, to reach 500 by 2024.
The BC SPCA on April 24 launched a pledge campaign asking government to fund 20 additional spaces for B.C. students at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine; spaces that were relinquished by the province of Alberta in 2018. Located in Saskatoon, Sask, WCVW is B.C.’s regional vet school.
Gantug said she can’t apply until she gets more experience under her belt, but expects to reach that point in February, which will be the one-year mark of her time at the Delta vet clinic.
Her dad, meanwhile, sees big things in his daughter’s future.
“I may end up having another Dr. POL in the family one day:-),” he said, referring to the popular Dutch-born veterinarian whose Weidman, Mich. veterinary practice is the focus of a reality TV show.
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