Twenty-five years ago, Leslie Hallmen’s parents brought her hamster to see Dr. Larry McAfee at McAfee Animal Hospital when she was just a kid. In 2014, Hallmen was looking to switch from her field of healthcare for patients of the human variety to something new. Remembering her experience with McAfee Animal Hospital, she followed them on Facebook and saw that they were hiring. In what she described as a bit of luck, she found her new career.
“I had my interview and a working interview and just knew this was the field I wanted to be in. I had always loved animals but had never really thought about working with them and am so grateful [McAfee Animal Hospital] took a chance on me,” Hallmen said.
And some credit should be given to Hallmen’s childhood hamster friend, too.
Now working as a veterinarian assistant, Hallmen sees her fair share of hamsters and other pets every day, some more unusual than others.
“I think people would be surprised by how fast paced and crazy our days can get, along with the variety of animals we will see walk through our doors. Just recently I carried a turkey in for an examination,” she said. “We have done work with snakes, lizards, pigs (probably my favorite), birds, skunks, and foxes (my second favorite) as pets, not to mention the wildlife that is brought in to triage as well.”
The variety of animals she and her team see every day is one of Hallmen’s favorite parts of her role, one of the many aspects that keeps the days fresh.
“The beauty of being a veterinarian assistant is our day is always a little different. Most days we come in and do morning treatments of our hospitalized patients, then start checking on our surgical patients for that day, including placing IV catheters and doing preanesthetic blood work,” she said. “We have assistants who will then prep surgery patients while the rest check in the daily appointments and assist our doctors with their exams, vaccines, and other diagnostics.”
All these elements, the teamwork that makes them work, and the trusting nature of her patients tie Hallmen to her job.
“I love helping during surgeries and dentals, I love assisting with exotics and wildlife and building relationships with clients and their pets over the years,” she said. “But I think my favorite aspect is how much variety there is. In a single shift you can go from routine vaccine appointments to emergency surgery to snuggling a puppy for its first exam in just a few hours.”
But one particular experience signalled to Hallmen how significant her field is to both her patients and their two-legged companions.
“I think the moment that I realized how special our job is was the first time I felt like I needed to be part of a humane euthanasia,” she said. “While this aspect of the job is the most difficult part of my job, it also speaks volumes of the relationships we build with our amazing clients and their pets.”
“I felt that I needed to be there for that owner and their pet,” she continued, “because they knew how much I cared for their dog and that hopefully my presence would help them a small amount during the extremely difficult situation. And sometimes those moments are just so important to share stories and try and give them some extra support.”
This bond is especially prevalent at McAfee Animal Hospital, with its focus on quality, compassionate, and ethical care.
“I think what makes McAfee's such a special place to work is how much we all care about the animals along with the family atmosphere. Even on the busiest, craziest and most stressful days we step up and get through it together,” Hallmen said. “We have a really great and talented staff that cares about each other, and I think that really shows through and is why so many clients trust us to care for their animals.”
Hallmen has two pups of her own, Bella and Gadget, that she loves to spend time with outside of work alongside her husband Mark and her daughter Amelia. Running is one of her favorite hobbies—she’s completed nine marathons!
To learn more about the McAfee Animal Hospital team, visit https://mcafeeah.com/.