It’s a commitment and follow-through not often seen: a 12-year-old boy says he will care for a puppy and then actually does. For 13 years, Ben March has shared his life with Trigger, often choosing Trigger over friends and extra-curricular activities.
March has cared for Trigger’s daily needs since he purchased the Golden Retriever as a birthday present to himself in 1999. As a child, he found the best possible veterinary medical providers he could to provide wellness care and removed fatty tumors and a mass on Trigger’s spleen. Today, a veterinary student-in-training, March works hand-in-hand with the clinicians at Cornell, describing Trigger as the best textbook he could have.
“I have learned a lot from Trigger,” said March, explaining that he has improved his veterinary knowledge while helping Trigger endure and recover from bilateral cruciate injuries, hypercalcemia, thyroid carcinoma, and currently nodules in his lungs that are a result of the thyroid cancer. “But he’s so much more than a textbook. He means the world to me. You might say I am pathologically attached to my dog. It’s probably true, but this relationship has helped me develop my empathy skills to the standard that I think would benefit every veterinarian.”
Although he knew on a subconscious level that the ability to empathize would be beneficial to his veterinary career, he was able to confirm his inclination while working at veterinary clinics as a teen. In his application to Cornell’s veterinary college, March shared this experience in his essay:
“After I had decided I wanted to be a veterinarian, I got a job working at a kennel near my school. The majority of the job was picking up poop and cleaning cages, but I didn't care, because I loved every opportunity I had to interact with the animals. I learned many valuable things, but the experience that had the most impact on me was one short conversation. A coworker had just been forced to euthanize a beloved Cocker Spaniel after 14 years. I tried to comfort her as best I could. She told me about the euthanasia, and she said that it was made better by her veterinarian. She said that he comforted her because he reminded her of me. Those few seconds were some of the happiest in my life, because I knew my existence had made her last few moments with her pet better. I knew that I could live on feelings like that.”
March is likely to experience many more instances of this type of gratitude, as he hopes to work with people who are as involved in the care of their animals as he has been with Trigger’s.
“Of course I will help everyone who comes to me,” said March, who earned the 2012 Westminster Scholarship. “But the clients who are advocates for their pets, who spend hours researching what might be wrong and come to the clinic with a stack of print-outs to share – these are the clients I feel best prepared to help. I can personally relate to the intensity of their feelings. I understand the bond that drives their relationship with their pet. Despite how much I would love to say my interest in science qualifies me to be a vet, I know it does not. What qualifies me is not intelligence or academic success. What makes me unique is my empathy, which has helped me in working with animals and people.”
March is a member of Cornell’s DVM Class of 2013. While caring for Trigger and pursuing his coursework, he has also served as the president of the Pathology Club, the treasurer of the Animal Welfare Club, an officer of the Pain Management Club, a member of the Student Library Advisory Club, and has participated in the Southside Community Healthy Pet Clinic. After graduating, he hopes to complete an internship and residency before specializing in veterinary oncology.