Traveling exhibit celebrates our pets and the dedicated veterinarians who care for them

It seems every kid wants to grow up to be a veterinarian.

"I hear that all the time," agrees Dr. Christine Jenkins, Group Director of U.S. Veterinary Medical Services at Zoetis (formerly called Pfizer Animal Health). "It seems everyone, of all ages, loves to play veterinarian."

Through a new Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit called "Animal Connections: Our Journey Together," kids and kids at heart can play veterinarian, learn about food safety and many of the ways which pets help people.

The free exhibit is also a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). It includes several interactive modules which offer visitors a chance make their own diagnostic tests, and ultimately guess at what's wrong with a pet, or even play veterinarian to a cheetah.

"I think people are sometimes surprised about the technology and the medicine comparable to human medicine which we veterinarians can now offer for our pets," says Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO.

The traveling exhibit is contained on an 18-foot tractor trailer, totaling 1,000 square feet. "Animal Connections" features videotaped footage of everything from military working dogs to a rabbit on an agility course. You can learn the wide variety of challenges a zoo veterinarian faces daily, and get a glimpse behind-the-scenes at the National Zoo.

"We all know veterinarians care for our companion animals, but they are also responsible for food safety. Some of us take for granted the very breakfast, lunch and dinner we eat daily," notes Clint Lewis, executive vice president and president of U.S. Operations at Zoetis.

"That's one point of the exhibit; people in large cities may not understand much about food production animals and our dependency on them," says Jennifer Bine, project manager at the Smithsonian. For example, who knew (except for farmers) that cows typically deliver an average of 15 one-gallon jugs of milk daily!

Bine continues, "We never had a traveling exhibit quite like this -- from the unique interactivity involved to celebrating members of the family we call pets. This (traveling exhibit) definitely aligns with the Smithsonian mission of diffusion of knowledge, and celebration of who we are, through the role animals of all kinds play in our society."

Jenkins adds, "Animals bring so much to our lives. And this exhibit illustrates that, from food production and working animals on farms to our curiosity about zoo animals. These days, more and more, as suburban sprawls intersect with wildlife at our back doors, it's wonderful, but also we've seen an increase in ticks. And, of course, our pets are family members. Pets enhance our quality of life in so many ways. For example, even walking a dog is healthy for us, as well as healthy for the community. In fact, there are so many studies now that have shown how beneficial it is to have pets in our lives."

Of course, all these animals at one time or another require veterinary care -- which is what this exhibit is all about.

"Animal Connections" kicked off its tour this month in Chicago, then heads to the East Coast. For an entire schedule, and learn more, check out http://www.animalconnections.com.

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)

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