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Pittsboro resident shadows a North Carolina Zoo veterinarian

By Tom Gillespie
Posted Monday, March 30, 2009

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Asheboro, NC - When Catherine Bollinger of Pittsboro learned about the N.C. Zoo Society’s “Shadow a Veterinarian” raffle, she bought 10 tickets because she cared about the cause—to establish a Conservation Medicine Fund at the Zoo.

Bollinger never thought that she would win, but win she did. On March 25, Bollinger and her guest, Chapel Hill veterinarian Dr. Mette Tomkins, spent the day tailing Senior Veterinarian Dr. Ryan DeVoe as he jostled in and around the N.C. Zoo, caring for its animals.

Their day began as Bollinger and Tomkins followed DeVoe into the lion holding facility and shielded their ears from the lioness as she roared out her protests about an upcoming physical. Moments later, everyone stepped into the lioness’ den and stood by her while she slept and DeVoe gingerly poked, prodded and tapped his way through her physical. The lioness passed with flying colors, which sent the group back to the zoo’s Veterinary Center to treat their next patient—a ball python with a cancerous tumor.

While the raffle winners watched, veterinary staff placed the snake’s head in a plastic tube and slowly pumped in anesthesia. DeVoe monitored the snake’s vital signs as it drifted off to sleep. Next, he skillfully removed the growth and stitched up the snake’s wound. The snake’s prognosis is “fair,” and DeVoe said he was hopeful that he removed all of the cancer cells. Now, all that he and the staff can do is wait and see.

In the afternoon, DeVoe, Chief Veterinarian Dr. Mike Loomis, several other zoo veterinary staff and the winners climbed into the veterinary truck and set out for the grizzly barn. Once inside, an 800-pound bear sauntered calmly to the front of its cage and presented his paws and 4-inch claws for DeVoe’s inspection. He was rewarded with a few apple slices.

Finally, the entourage accompanied DeVoe to check on the status of a few lame antelope.

At the end of the day, Bollinger, a conservationist and professional writer, shared her impressions in a thank-you e-mail to DeVoe. Her note began, "Thank you again for the most extraordinary day I’ve experience in years. You and your team and the entire staff at the N.C. Zoo made my day wonderfully memorable…

“I have always been proud of our zoo, but I'm positively bursting at the seams with pride after watching you and all the zoo staff from behind the exhibits. Every single person I met believes strongly in the importance of her or her work. Our zoo animals could not be in better hands”

The Zoo Society will hold another “Shadow a Zoo Veterinarian” raffle in January 2010, which will be open to anyone 16 or older.

The N.C. Zoo Society is the private, non-profit organization that raises money and engenders support for the N.C. Zoo. The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment & Natural Resources, Dee Freeman, Secretary; Beverly Eaves Perdue, Governor.

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Pittsboro resident shadows a North Carolina Zoo veterinarian
Photo: "Catherine Bollinger (center) of Pittsboro and Dr. Mette Tomkins (front) of Chapel Hill watch as N.C. Zoo Senior Veterinarian Dr. Ryan DeVoe checks a grizzly bear in a back holding area at the zoo.
NC Zoo photo by Tom Gillespie

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