“I just liked the feeling that maybe I could make his experience a little bit better,” Carmel High School senior Isabella Calcatera says of working in the Carmel Valley Veterinary Hospital with Buddy, a dog prone to seizures.
A year or two ago Calcatera had just returned from walking Buddy, when he had a seizure and started convulsing on the floor.
“I started screaming trying to get help from somebody, and no one could hear me,” Calcatera recalls.
She ended up sitting with Buddy until he came out of the seizure fine and ended up taking care of him from there on after. He is now her responsibility. The trust that formed between the animal and the 17-year-old allows them to feel comfortable and safe with each other. Calcatera cherishes how she made his experience better.
The committed animal-lover has always been inspired to become a veterinarian.
“Like every other small child on Earth, I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was in elementary school.”
It wasn’t until her freshman year in high school biology class that she reestablished her career pursuit of becoming a veterinarian. This epochal moment in her life happened while she was dissecting a frog and realized that she loved the hands-on experience. Her fear of blood, she realized, was specifically with people and not with animals.
She started to write letters to all of the vet clinics around to see if one would potentially take her on to work. When the Carmel Valley Veterinary Hospital hired her, Calcatera says, “After one day I knew that that was it…and that was the right call.”
Since then, the aspiring vet has made an impression on the doctors and staff that work there.
“Upon arrival, she was immediately ready and willing to work,” says Richard Lookinghawk, owner of the Carmel Valley Veterinary Hospital. “She never shied away from any task and wasn’t afraid to try new things. She expressed immediate interest in veterinary medicine.”
While walking a plethora of dogs, and cleaning kennels certainly is not the job that everyone strives for, Calcatera is happy that she is helping to make an impact on the animals’ lives. She works extremely hard to achieve this goal.
“I really admire her work ethic,” says peer and work partner Tor Mowatt Larssen. “She is perfectly content to clean kennels on Saturdays if it means the animals will benefit from it and their quality of life will increase.”
For this passionate and diligent student, her primary concern when working with animals is that the vet should “care more about the animals than the money, to really care for their well-being.”
What concerns the future vet the most is when owners neglect their animals and bring them in after they should have been previously put down. The animals had been allowed to deteriorate too far without care.
“It’s the people, honestly,” she admits. “Dogs and cats come in that are sick or dying.”
While looking out for the animals is her number one priority, the senior gets involved at the vet clinic in other ways as well. She makes vaccines, draws blood, fills prescriptions, ties sutures on animal necropsies, and assists in surgeries by holding clamps and sometimes even holding the animal down.
“I almost started laughing,” Calcatera recalls of her experience working in the operating room of the vet clinic. “I was in the [Operating Room] with my scrubs, cracking up, because it was funny.”
The image that caused her such amusement was the fact that the operating surgeon had a saw and hammer in hand when performing a knee surgery on a chiwawa.
“I find it intriguing to see how animal bodies…have such resilience,” the Carmel Valley native states.
Calcatera continues to broaden her knowledge of animals as she immerses herself in her science classes and reads online vet textbooks and encyclopedias about various animals.
“She not only does what is necessary for her to get a good grade,” says Michael Guardino, her science teacher of two years. “She does what is necessary for her to learn and understand something.”
After obtaining an undergraduate degree, Calcatera plans to continue through vet school. As for vet schools, the future vet has sights on University of California, Davis, the leading vet school in the country, as well as various vet schools in Colorado and in Wisconsin.
Calcatera’s passion and advocacy for helping animals inspires her to continue to pursue her dreams in veterinary medicine.
“I can’t find anything else that I could say affirmatively that I love as much as that.”