By Ellen Zoe Golden Photos courtesy of Karla Carvajal Obando
Since Karla Carvajal was a little girl she dreamt of becoming an animal doctor. She focused all her energy of reaching that goal.
First, she volunteered as an assistant on vaccination and castration campaigns, and after completing her primary and secondary studies, entered the School of Veterinary Medicine at the National University of Costa Rica chosen from the 3,500 students applying for admission.
For the last 10 years, Carvajal, who is married and has a young son, has had her own clinic in Villareal serving the community’s animals (and their owners) and also branching out into the less affluent communities as well as tending to the wildlife that have been hurt.
Here’s her story.
THE Tamarindo News: How did you become interested in helping animals? Karla Carvajal: I was always interested in animals and shortly before finishing my university time I came to the conclusion that my forte would be companion animals. At that time I lived in the metropolitan area was able to obtain a lot of experience in this field. Later on, other opportunities opened for me and I arrived in this beautiful province of Guanacaste which also allowed me to extend my professional work in other areas such as wildlife, marine animals, and larger species.
So from a very young age I wanted to be a veterinarian, I knew that I had not only a lot of affinity and love of animals but also skills such as surgery which is what I love the most. Before starting my Tamarindo clinic, I worked for a commercial house that distributed and sold veterinary drugs. As a result, I traveled all over the country and in that time I discovered in several sectors that a veterinarian was urgently required, since many of these places are remote. For that reason and after working in a while in my home, I decided to open my clinic in Villarreal.
Little by little I added quality medical equipment to offer better services to our clients and patients.
TTN: How do balance your dedication to animal care with your family life?
KC: When you are a professional in the medical area, you often sacrifice time that you would share with your family and friends, and of course being a veterinarian is not the exception because you take an oath to ensure Public Health and Animal Welfare.
As my esteemed colleague Dr. Joaquin Chacon says: ‘It is not easy to endure a race where battles are fought day after day, be it with death, human evil, ignorance, abandonment and abuse.’
Sometimes you do not know what it is to have a free day, holidays or you just know that you will be the only one who will not be able to get to this or that activity. But there is great satisfaction and reward from helping and fighting for an animal life that was in danger and by prolonging their life also brings joy to homes where the pet is more like a member of the family! We are heroes with medical scrubs and although we would like to save everyone, many cases are beyond our control.
TTN: What do you hope to achieve with your work?
KC: With my veterinary clinic, what I most want is to raise awareness among the entire population to understand that we all have the right to be part of this planet and that animal life deserves respect. We want more people to help animals rather that hurt them. I know that with time many of those heartless people will recover consciousness, but without a doubt there is a long way to go. I think the change is made from our homes and we have to start with the children. For this reason I have been interested in personally making visits to schools and places of socially marginalized people giving talks of RESPONSIBLE CONTRACTS with an animal, whatever it is–a fish, rabbit, pig, cow, horse, dog or cat.
I always stress that wildlife (deer, bear, anteaters, monkeys, parrots, parakeets, among others) should be free and cannot be held in captivity because it is also important to know that that is a crime.
There is nothing more gratifying than receiving the hug and gratitude of the children after the talks. They interact with the horses that I bring to these activities.
I usually bring with me at least five different species so that they can touch them. For them to clearly understand the value of animal life, that is my goal, because beyond the commercial part, AWARENESS is my duty.
TTN: Do we have a problem in Tamarindo with wild animals?
KC: We know that in Tamarindo we have a variety of wild animals that due to our invasion in their areas have become a threat in the territory, but we should not act against them as has happened with raccoons, snakes and crocodiles.
You should always count on the support of other entities such as MINAE, SINAC and the fire department mainly to deal with them. Both domestic and wild animals at societal risk deserve our support and if for some reason you are not part of that solution at least let other people look for other alternatives, but DEFINITELY NO BAD TREATMENT.
TTN: Any final thoughts?
KC: I have always lived surrounded by family that loves and respects the fourlegged animals. I love dogs and I am a cat lover. Personally I have several who for one reason or another have had a very sad past.
As a veterinarian we make it possible for animals to have a second chance at life, solving the economic part and although we know that our mission is not going to be easy, we make sacrifices.
Although we would like to help all those who have been victims of their own owners, many times this escapes our possibilities. I sincerely thank all of you who have believed in my professional work and I urge you to be part of looking for improvements in our community in a personal way or as a team, only that way we can achieve a positive change.