This is a story about a dog.
There may be a different main character in the story but, ultimately, this is a story about a dog. Specifically, a Border Collie named Liberty.
Peter Bruner is currently a second-year Veterinary Technology student at the Lancaster County Career & Technology Center. He met Liberty when he was about 12 years old. Liberty had been a birthday present for his little sister, Katie. For some years afterward, that was the extent of their relationship.
“She was just a dog that lived in my house and I was a person that lived in hers. We kind of just coexisted for a while. I loved her, of course, but we weren’t close,” Peter said.
Throughout that time, Peter lived at home in Chester County and graduated from Phoenixville Area School District, without any intention of studying Veterinary Technology. In fact, he enrolled in the University of Valley Forge to study Digital Media. However, after a couple of years of study, Peter’s interest in digital media had waned. He began thinking about options for a new professional path but he still wasn’t considering Veterinary Technology. Peter withdrew from college and took a few years at home to deal with some family and personal health issues.
Enter, again, Liberty the Dog.
“We grew a lot closer in those couple of years,” Peter said. “At that time, both my parents were working. My sister was going to her college. I was working jobs here and there, so a lot of the time it was just me and Liberty.”
Peter said that Liberty became his best friend during that time since most of his friends from college were not local and life can put distance into any old friendship. Additionally, Peter was struggling to deal with depression and severe social anxiety and Liberty’s presence, support, and comfort helped Peter cope with his issues.
“I didn’t go out much. I was home a lot. But Liberty needed me. She was the thing that kept me going. She was this spur of ‘Get up! You have to do something. You have to take care of me every day.’”
So he did. During these years of difficulty for Peter, Liberty was always there. Until she wasn’t.
“Liberty got sick when she was 11 years old. She developed a heart condition called Chronic Valvular Disease. Her heart wasn’t able to pump the blood as efficiently as it should have so fluid built up in her chest and lungs. We were referred to a heart specialist at Hope Veterinary Specialists, where I’m working now,” Peter explained. Peter has worked at Hope’s Malvern office since May, 2019.
Unfortunately, Chronic Valvular Disease is not reversible and after Thanksgiving of 2017, Liberty’s conditioned deteriorated significantly and Peter’s family made the difficult decision to have her euthanized.
“It was unfortunate,” Peter said emotionally, “but still, it was 11 good years that she had and I wouldn’t be where I am without her. Because it was her getting sick and going through that experience that made me want to be a Vet Tech. It was seeing the profound care that the Veterinarians, the Vet Techs, the Vet Assistants, and the staff all wanted to give to Liberty without even knowing her…just because she was a dog that needed them. That really made me think that this is something that I’d love to do.”
After this heartbreaking time, Peter spent a few months thinking about learning to take care of animals, to become a Veterinary Technician. In the spring following Liberty’s passing, the family got a new puppy, another Border collie named Justice. Peter started talking to the staff at Phoenixville Animal Hospital during Justice’s puppy vet visits. He researched online and spoke to veterinary staff to find out more about the field and what is involved. One of the vet techs spoke to Peter about schools for Veterinary Technology in the area. Further research identified several schools in the region and after visiting three, Peter chose to enroll at the Lancaster County CTC.
Peter selected the Lancaster County CTC “mainly because I liked the veterinary technology lab,” he explained. “It was one of the most impressive labs at any of the facilities I had seen. I also spoke to the Vet Tech Program Manager and the Program Veterinarian and they were another reason I chose the CTC.”
Peter says that he loves the CTC’s Vet Tech program. “It’s hard to get me out of the school,” he says laughing. “I really enjoy being here. There is so much to know. The instructors are great! The lab setting and my classmates are great!” He said that is interesting to see how class lessons and real-world experience tie together.
“I’ll see something on my evening shift at Hope and then sometime, we will cover it in class or I’ll learn about some particular trauma at school and then a dog will come into the emergency room with that trauma,” he said.
Peter said that he looks forward to completing school and taking his veterinary technology certification test late in 2020. He wants to earn some money, move away from home, and adopt a couple of dogs of his own. He wants to take care of animals. He wants to help to show the impact that animals can have on people. He wants to grow in his field, in his calling.
And that is Liberty’s legacy.