Rooted is about the people and places that make us proud to call our community home.
Animal rescue has been a lifelong calling for Naila Aqbal.
“Since I was little, I have always had a magnetism that attracted me to animals. I remember being 5 years old with rabbits in our garden. I was trying to feed them carrots even though they were wild. I have always been attracted to animals. They brought me a sense of calm,” she says.
Although his parents did not always share this enthusiasm.
“My dad is allergic to animal dander, so the only things I was allowed to bring home and keep were snails or a small amphibian. Eventually my mom would force me to put it back outside.
But it was this need to oversee an animal’s welfare that stayed with Aqbal her entire life, leading her to become a licensed veterinary technician.
Originally from Afghanistan, Aqbal and his family fled the war in 1999 and have lived in Canada ever since.
“We first lived in Toronto when we came to Canada, but then we moved around a lot. We went to Windsor, Tecumseh and eventually North Bay, where I’ve lived more than half my life now,” says Aqbal.
Faithful to Northern Ontario after high school, Aqbal was accepted into Northern College’s veterinary assistant program.
“I did very well there and it made me want to get into the veterinary technician side. This is where you go deeper into the medical side of animal care,” she says.
“I had to make sure that all my chemistry, biology and math classes were taken in high school. I wasn’t that good at math, but I was much better at biology. I actually have two learning disabilities, but I always tell people that these things shouldn’t stop you. With practice, consistency, and hard work, you can overcome these things.
Aqbal says she loved the Vet Tech program, even though he faced a lot of challenges.
“In one semester, I had 12 classes. Graduating for two years from college was more difficult than getting my biology degree in college. In addition to the 12 courses, we also had kennel duty. That means I had to be at school at 6 a.m., and for two hours you work and do herding,” she says.
Aqbal describes the work as cleaning litter boxes for cats and walking dogs, among other things. She says that some days the students worked for 16 hours a day.
“Between kennel duty in the morning, class from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., then another kennel shift after that,” she says.
“I’ve seen people drop out of the program after that first kennel shift because it was too much for them to handle, and I fully understand that.”
Aqbal stresses to anyone who wants to pursue this career as a career that they must be willing to make sacrifices and see the big picture.
“If you can keep that end goal in mind, whether you want to help animals or advance in your medical career, don’t give up. I think if you really want something, you’re going to put in that effort, no matter how hard it gets.
It was a pursuit that took Aqbal across the world. For placement for her programs, she applied for an international student program called Animal Experience International that placed her in Nairobi, Kenya, which Aqbal said was a bucket list location for her.
“Since watching The Lion King, I’ve been like, ‘I’m going to go there one day and see the Lions in real life.’
Aqbal says through Animal Experience International she did a month-long internship at a shelter called KSPCA, where they performed spaying and neutering, but details the experience saw more than just that operation.
“I went to one of the biggest slums in Africa where we had to pick up a dog that was stabbed in the chest and dumped in a dump,” says Aqbal.
“It’s a place where people live below the poverty line. People had no shoes, some babies had no clothes, and your toilet was a plastic bag. We picked up this dog and unfortunately he was already almost dead, but near this dog was a female that we guessed was his mate. The female had a large mammary tumor on her teeth. We took her to the shelter and we had to euthanize the male. After operating the woman, we also found an abdominal hernia and she died during the operation.
Aqbal says she learned a lot medically.
“There was a time when I had to euthanize 21 cats due to severe respiratory infection or because they were extremely feral and could not be rehomed. I also had to euthanize six dogs who were all positive for the I found out about some diseases that affect the animals there which we don’t see in Canada because we have a relatively healthy animal population compared to Kenya. cruelty here, but it was certainly eye-opening to see the difference between an industrialized country and a developing country.
After graduating in 2017, Aqbal immediately applied to go to Nipissing University to get his undergraduate degree.
“I chose Nipissing because it’s a small school. I really enjoyed having this one-on-one connection with my teachers. They were absolutely amazing. I never felt like a burden to them or just a number; they really and genuinely care about you and your college career,” she says.
During his first summer, Aqbal decided to go to Mexico to continue his clinical practice because “it’s very easy to forget all that knowledge if it’s not something you do regularly. »
Through this same program, Aqbal went to Aguascalientes and worked with a center called APA (Amigos Pro Animal).
“It was a clinic very similar to the one in Kenya, where we focused on neutering cats and dogs,” she says.
“In Mexico, we were doing things like pulling kittens out of a gutter. We had to put down a possum that had a fractured skull after kids attacked it with a baseball bat. There was a dog that I changed my dressing for six weeks after he was hit by a car When he was brought in his leg bone was exposed but by the end of the six weeks he was able to walk again on this leg.
Aqbal says that despite the sometimes horrific and heartbreaking results they face in the field, at the end of the day, saving animals truly remains a passion.
“If it’s your passion and you can’t see yourself not working with animals, then you’re going to find a way to accept the good and bad that comes with it,” she says.
“Animals are innocent. They cannot speak for themselves. In this business, you are their advocate. For me it is not a burden. I consider it an honor to be able to care for animals and do what we can to help them.
Aqbal will pursue that passion later this summer when she travels to Ecuador to work at a veterinary clinic and rescue organization there. Her mission is to help as many animals around the world while gaining more clinical experience.
If you have a story for the “Rooted” series, email Matt at [email protected]