A chocolate lab named Smokey sparked Bryce Hunter’s dream of becoming a vet, and a yellow lab fanned the spark into a flame.
This fall Hunter, a Cherry Hill resident entering the Honors Program at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, will begin working toward of his goal as an animal sciences major.
He hopes ultimately to work with large, exotic animals.
The brown lab that first captured Hunter’s heart belonged to his grandmother Betty, and became his best friend. The two grew up together, the dog and the only child together roaming the woods across from Hunter’s suburban house.
More recently, during informal training as a veterinary nurse at Marlton Animal Hospital in Evesham, Hunter found himself tending to another lab, one who had just been neutered.
“He was in a cage, just waking up from the anesthesia, when he lost control of his body and was flailing around,” he recalls of the experience. “I got in the cage with him – all 60 pounds of him – and lay down with him and just held him. I fell asleep for a few minutes cuddling him, and I woke up with him licking my face.”
The president of his senior class at Cherry Hill High School East and member of the National English Honor Society says his parents – mom Chanda, a preschool teacher, and dad Chad, and landscape designer – are solidly behind his career goals.
Hunter also finds inspiration in the family’s 6-year-old Australian kelpie Renn, named after a Star Wars character beloved by both Hunter and his father.
The honors student ran track for three years in high school. On the New Brunswick campus he hopes to participate in intramural hockey, and perhaps play guitar in a band.
The future vet says the major difference between treating animals and humans is that the animals can’t tell you what hurts.
“You have to watch for visual signs, monitor their behavior to determine their moods,” he says.
Oh, and you always have to be wary of bites and scratches. Of the many times he’s been on the receiving end he says, “Yes, there’s been blood drawn. That’s just the nature of the job.”
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Rutgers Today.