A love of working with cattle and praise of Canada from friends who’d worked here has brought New Zealand veterinarian Samuel Lee to Stettler to practice his craft.
The 27-year old comes from a “small farming town” on the South Island of New Zealand, and arrived in Calgary and headed to Stettler at the end of July with his partner Julia.
“I had heard many positive travel stories from friends and family members who had visited Canada,” Lee said. He decided to apply for a work and travel visa in New Zealand as part of a program for young adults under 30 years of age.
“I was interested in Canada’s beef industry and quickly learned that Alberta had a lot of beef cows,” he noted, explaining how he made the decision to choose Alberta out of all the options available to him in Canada.
“I researched veterinarian jobs available within the province, and the Stettler Veterinary Clinic had an advertised job that suited me.”
Lee takes the place of veterinarian Caroline Horsley, who, in an unrelated career decision, has gone to New Zealand to practice her craft.
Since arriving in July, it’s been a bevy of new experiences for the New Zealander, including experiences with animals — or their handiwork — that do not exist in his home nation.
“In my first week of work I was asked to assist with a ‘quill dog,’” he recalled, admitting he had no idea what a “quill dog”was. “As there are no porcupines in New Zealand, I was unaware how much damage a porcupine could inflict when a dog strayed too close.”
He admitted he was “very impressed” when he first saw the “quill dog” walk through the clinic door with his face full of black and white, and very painful, quills.
“I have quickly learned how to remove quills and help these often agitated patients,” Lee said. “I also (learned) about ‘Serial Quillers,’ a term often used by the veterinary staff to describe a dog that has had a face full of quills more than once.”
While Lee can work with companion pets like dogs and cats, his passion and focus is on livestock medicine. His story isn’t that of the farm boy who grew up on the farm, caring for animals and crops and deciding to follow in the family tradition,however.
“I did not grow up on a farm,” Lee said. “I always enjoyed learning about farming and observing wildlife as a boy.”
Even still, it wasn’t until his final year of high school that Lee decided he wanted to pursue veterinary science, a program at Massey University in New Zealand. In 2010, he graduated with a bachelor of Veterinary Science.
“I have since enjoyed learning how a variety of animals function and adapt to their environment both in the wild and in a farming situation,” he noted. Including quill dogs.
New Zealand is a very agricultural country, with a population of 4 million people, 30 million sheep, four million beef cows and eight million dairy cows, Lee noted.
His experience back home had him doing a lot of work with sheep and beef farms, dairy cows and at times deer.
“Working dogs are also very common, especially Huntaways, a New Zealand breed designed to bark at sheep,” he explained.
A desire to see the world and work with cattle brought Lee to Canada, where he’s relishing a chance to broaden his CV.
“I enjoy working with both large animals and companion animals, however my love of the outdoors and interest in farming systems fuels my interest in large animal work,” he noted. “I enjoy meeting farmers and getting my hands dirty however my view on working outside might change once I experience my first Canadian winter!”
Canadian holidays, like Thanksgiving and Halloween, are completely new to the New Zealander, who will be tackling his first pumpkin carving this month.
Canada’s lived up to the hype from family and friends, he said.
“I expected people to be friendly,” he said. “(I expected) beautiful scenery and interesting wildlife, all which have proven true. Most people I meet are welcoming and have made my transition into Stettler life easy.”
He said one of his early highlights was visiting the rocky mountains and the prairies. But not all has been as expected.
“Peoples’ love of Tim Hortons, pumpkin pie and enthusiasm about Halloween,” were all unexpected, Lee said. “I’ve been very impressed by the number of Jack’o’Lanterns and decorations seen around Stettler as Oct. 31 approaches.”