Debbie’s dream to become a veterinarian started when she was 13 years old. She was down on her knees checking her puppy’s paw in front of her house when the next door neighbour called out the front door to ask her what she was doing. When she explained that her puppy had been limping and she was trying to find out what was wrong, her neighbour exclaimed, “That’s what a veterinarian does!” Upon asking what a veterinarian was, her neighbour responded, “A veterinarian is an animal doctor. It looks like you’re going to be one.” That was the decisive moment.
Debbie got the chance to live her dream, graduating from the Ontario Veterinary College and starting her profession in general and emergency practice. She eventually founded her own practice, a family-oriented companion animal hospital in Kitchener, Ontario, aptly named the Pioneer Pet Clinic. With room in her heart for helping children as well as animals, she began foster care with the Waterloo Region Family and Children’s Services.
Inspired by the values of social work, she ventured outside of the traditional career path to return to university to take undergraduate coursework in social development studies at the University of Waterloo, eventually completing a Master of Social Work degree (2005) at Wilfrid Laurier University. Debbie then merged her education as a veterinarian and social worker to earn a PhD (2012) at the Ontario Veterinary College, specializing in communication and decision-making. Debbie blends her background to create the Compassionate Care Service, a counselling service for pet owners on difficult pet-related issues such as serious illness and healthcare planning, problematic people-pet relationships, and pet loss and bereavement; and The Social Side of Practice, a fully accredited veterinary continuing education program to balance the medical aspects of companion animal practice.