GT Truth About Cats and Dogs
Football’s Josh White and tennis’ Nami Otsuka doing life-altering internships to help animals
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
If I could talk to the animals, just imagine it
Chatting to a chimp in chimpanzee
Imagine talking to a tiger, chatting to a cheetah
What a neat achievement that would be.
-- If I Could Talk To The Animals, from Dr. Dolittle
While Georgia Tech student-athletes can accomplish a lot of things student-athletes at other schools can’t, alas, one thing beyond even their grasp is the ability to talk to animals.
But Georgia Tech junior tennis player Nami Otsuka and redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Josh White have found a way to do the next best thing. That is talk for them in their summer internships.
Otsuka has been very much hands on, helping out at Veterinary Medical Center in Alpharetta, while White is creating marketing plans to keep animal hospitals open in parts of Texas in his work with National Veterinary Associates.
“This is honestly the best experience I’ve ever had as far as work experience,” said White. “To be able to travel, meet all these different types of people, it’s pretty much a dream come true when it comes to working and my goals and dreams.”
“I’ve definitely learned so much,” said Otsuka. “Everyone that I’ve been working with has been really nice and are giving me so many opportunities to do things.”
The GT student-athletes actually work hand-in-hand even if they don’t actually work together.
Otsuka, who has been on the job for a little over a month at Veterinary Medical Center, one of two owned clinics by former Yellow Jackets defensive back Joe Lee Gaston (he also owns the Crabapple Knoll Veterinary Clinic in Alpharetta), begins a typical day around 6:30 in the morning. Her duties will vary from walking dogs and feeding cats in the clinic, to checking the status of the patients that stayed overnight, to preparing the animals for that day’s surgeries. She’ll help with post-surgery as needed and once that’s clear, will help in the upstairs part of the office, setting up appointments and handling other clerical duties as needed. She’s been working 25 hours a week, putting in two eight-hour days and two more four- or five-hour days. The internship will go until the end of July.
“There’s not really a specific pattern,” she said. “It’s just whatever patients come in that day and kind of go with the flow.”
The internship has already made quite the impression on Otsuka.
“That’s the profession that I want to go into,” she said. “There are specific techniques that you can use in order to tame a more aggressive animal -- especially cats. So they’ve been teaching me those kinds of things and you just get used to the way to handle them. I think it’s just experience and then practicing over and over again and seeing what kind of cats they are and how they handle certain situations. I’ll be like, ‘I remember when I did this to a dog.’ Stuff like that.”
The time in the clinic also has changed for the better her approach to a career.
“(Being in this clinic has) opened my eyes up to more options in my life,” she added. “At first I was just worried about getting into vet school and trying to raise my GPA just to get into vet school, but I realize there are technicians and you can go to the vet technician school and stuff like that. I was even thinking about taking a gap year before I tried getting into vet school so I could get myself a chance to study and sit down and take my time rather than trying to study through (in) season. That gives me more choices I feel like.”
White isn’t as hands-on with the animals. His internship focuses more on keeping hospitals in Texas open.
“National Veterinary Associates buy successful veterinary clinics from people who are ready to retire, or who don’t want their clients to be left without a veterinary doctor,” he said. “This company comes in, brings hospital managers, and kind of a support system for these hospitals. I’m going around to these different hospitals, these different independent businesses.”
NVA has been in the business of buying and saving animal medical facilities since 1996 and presently has 31 locations in the 13 states throughout the United States, including three in Georgia, as well as three in Texas, and in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
White visits hospitals in a territory that spans the approximately 240 miles from Houston and Dallas. He’s also made trips to Gulf cities Galveston, about an hour away from Houston, and Corpus Christi, nearly 300 miles away. He estimates he’ll see five or six hospitals a week, spending approximately four hours in each, presenting a marketing campaign and business plan for them. It’s a fluid task.
“Marketing isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of thing, so I really have to get to know these people, communicate with these people and understand what they’re ready for,” he said. “It means going to each hospital, understanding the demographics of each area and having to tailor a marketing campaign for these different hospitals every single year.”
Fortunately, White has a lot of time to create these plans.
Traveling in a state as big as Texas means a lot of time in the car and, since he’s 20 and can’t rent a car, that means a lot of Ubering. Traffic in Houston, which White says favorably compares with Atlanta traffic in terms of volume, gives him even more idle time.
“They go neck and neck,” he said, with a laugh. “If you leave during a certain time, you can just turn your car off. You’ll sit there for a while because traffic’s not moving.”
But the sitting in traffic, the presentations, and even the flying back and forth from Atlanta -- he leaves Monday night after practice and returns Friday to workout with the team and spend the weekends -- is time well spent. There is a bigger picture and the call that he’s answering.
“I could say I actually had some offers from some really big companies to do some internships here in Atlanta, maybe pay me a little bit better, a little bit more central, but I can see the work that I’m doing every single day,” he said. “I can see that I’m helping people’s lives, helping people’s pets, marketing for these vet clinics that might be a Google search that might save a pet’s life one day. I’m actually on the ground, helping these people out, shaking hands and really making a difference in these communities. This is really changing people’s lives and I really appreciate this opportunity and that’s the reason that I picked this company over anybody else.”