MS DESIREE Anne de Souza’s mother, a teacher, wanted her daughter to follow in her footsteps.
Instead, a love for animals nurtured during her childhood resulted in Ms de Souza choosing a different career path.
“I have always loved animals. I would bring home injured animals or stray dogs that I found in the neighbourhood,” says the 37-year-old. ”I would beg and plead with my parents to let me keep them. They were understanding and always funded my rescue missions.”
It helped that her parents love animals too. At one time, they had six dogs, two rabbits and some injured pigeons in their then Seletar Hills home.
Following her heart
When Ms de Souza was younger, her parents made the decisions for her.
“I wanted to learn taekwondo like my brother, but they sent me for ballet lessons. And when I wanted to learn how to play the drums, they sent me for piano lessons,” she says.
This is a specialised role that requires specific skills and knowledge to work alongside veterinarians in caring for sick, injured or hospitalised animals.
She says: “My parents didn’t give me a hard time. They supported me and provided me with the education I needed to get to where I am now.”
Her training stint in Australia cost her parents $20,000. She completed the National Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing at the Applied Vocational Training Institute in Western Australia.
This is the qualification required in Australia to become a qualified and registered Vet Nurse. This qualification is also recognised in Commonwealth countries.
After finishing her studies, she stayed on to gain work experience.
“It is a very rewarding profession. But from the monetary point, it can be quite depressing. When I first started working in Australia, my salary was no more than a supermarket cashier’s, but the fulfilment I got from helping the animals kept me going,” she says.
She recalls an incident where she assisted the veterinarian in sterilising a cat.
The procedure went smoothly, and Ms de Souza monitored the animal as the anaesthetic wore off. But the cat woke up earlier than expected, and behaved erratically because of the narcotics it had been given.
Ms de Souza says: “It tried to leap off the table and swiped its claws violently. Fortunately, I grabbed it by its scruff. One of my colleagues ran in with a towel to safely secure it.
“I ended up with multiple scratches on both arms but, thankfully, the animal was unharmed.”
Nurturing new blood
After a seven-year stint at Malibu Veterinary Hospital in Perth, Western Australia, she returned to Singapore to work with her mentor, Dr Jean-Paul Ly.
He founded the Animal Recovery Centre (ARC) Group, which runs two clinics and a referral and training centre.
Ms de Souza is based at the Serangoon Road centre, which provides comprehensive services like surgery, laboratory, endoscopy and ultrasound imaging.
As the director of nursing and technical services, she leads a team of five nurses, including those who were trained locally.
She is well prepared for the role, pointing out that “in Australia, you are trained to handle everything”.
She says: “Veterinary nurses in Singapore generally deal with small animals like dogs, cats, birds, rodents and rabbits. Now working with Dr Ly, we do sometimes treat the more exotic animals like macaque monkeys brought in by wildlife rescuers.”
She gets a lot of satisfaction from knowing that she has contributed to the animal’s well being.
She tells her subordinates that if they want fancy clothes and expensive things, they’re in the wrong place.
She also adds: “But if you want to go home every day knowing that you’ve made a difference, then welcome!”