Like paramedics or EMTs, the professionals who deliver emergency care for animals have certain personality traits. They have to be able to stay calm in a crisis themselves, keep the pet owner calm, and continue interacting and functioning, regardless of what’s going on around them.
Samantha ‘Samie’ McKilly wouldn’t have it any other way.
The head technician at Olympia Pet Emergency, McKilly supervises staff and oversees scheduling, evaluation, training, and hiring. She also thrives in crisis situations. “What keeps me going is the excitement of the cases,” she says. “You never know what you’re going to get. It’s not the same over and over again.” Olympia Pet Emergency is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and functions as the equivalent of an ER for sick and injured animals.
The ability to remain clear-headed and functional makes a difference for pets and owners alike, says practice manager Trisha Jones. “Our team members like Samie are remarkable. They’re very compassionate and they find a way to stay calm and deal with it and develop trust right on the spot. It means they can take your pet into the back and start figuring out how to help him right away. That compassion and level-headedness are really important.”
McKilly grew up in rural Winlock, where she spent time in middle school job shadowing the local veterinarian. “He was a large animal doctor so we saw a lot of cows,” she says. “I helped with a lot of vet checks for horses.”
Initially McKilly wanted to be a veterinarian but the more she learned about the process of becoming one, the less appeal it held. “I learned about the whole technician assistant side of the industry from my sister,” says McKilly. “I started at a general practice as a kennel tech eleven years ago.”
While she enjoyed the work, after a while she began to crave something different. That’s when she found Olympia Pet Emergency. “Some types of veterinary medicine can be routine,” she says. “Here it’s fast-paced one minute and the next, you’re trying to find something to clean. After I’d worked here for a year, I decided I wanted to commit.” That was five years ago.
Her love for animals doesn’t stop at the office; at home her roommates are two German Shepherds, two cats, four horses, two goats, chickens, a cockatoo, and a cockatiel.
She’s had many memorable cases along the way, but one that sticks in her mind is a pit bull cross named Murphy who had a septic abdomen. “I was brought in to do anesthesia during his surgery,” she says. “It was very long and complicated, and pretty stressful, but in the end he lived and went home.”
Continuing education is standard for veterinary technicians, but McKilly takes matters a step further, studying on her own and pursuing further knowledge whenever she can. “I love to keep learning,” she says. “I just got back from an Emergency Critical Care symposium in Texas. In this field, if you don’t educate yourself you can’t keep up, because it’s always changing.”
The patients keep McKilly inspired. “They can’t talk or tell us what’s wrong,” she says. “Often they’re scared. We want to do what we can to help them and comfort them. I always treat the patients as if they were my animals.”
For more information about Olympia Pet Emergency visit www.olympiapetemergency.net or call 360-455-5155.