Beth Burton spends her days preparing food, cleaning pens and training big cats as part of an internship at PrideRock Wildlife Refuge in Terrell,Texas.
Burton, of Albany, has been intrigued with large cats since childhood, and after receiving her bachelor of science in biology from Southeastern Louisiana University this spring, she accepted an internship at PrideRock.
The 22-year-old concentrated in integrative biology at Southeastern and plans to go to veterinary school next year.
She hopes to eventually become a vet who deals exclusively with large cats.
Burton was raised in Albany, where she attended Albany High School. She said the high school experience that prepared her the most for college was a vet tech training class she took at the Livingston Parish Literacy and Technology Center during her senior year.
“What really prepared me is that it was set up like a college lecture: You took notes and used those notes to study for the test,” Burton said.
Burton’s parents are both teachers who encouraged her to pursue her dream of becoming a vet.
“My dad taught me freshman biology, and I really understand his teaching style, not just because I’m his child but because he’s a good teacher,” she said. “Both he and my mom fostered (my desire to be a vet). They wanted to push me more toward the medical side because they saw that I could handle it.”
Although Burton gained a lot of knowledge from her college degree, she has been using the experience she got as a vet technician assistant during her college years in her internship.
“I really enjoyed it. I wish I would have had time to take even more biology classes, but I’ve actually been relying heavily on my vet assistant experience,” Burton said. “I was an assistant for three years and did everything from bathing dogs to assisting in minor surgeries.”
Burton’s internship at PrideRock, which started in August and ends next month, includes duties such as prepping food, feeding the animals, cleaning the pens and training the cats to follow basic commands, such as “sit.”
Burton said her favorite part of the internship is being able to spend time with the animals.
“I’m starting to enjoy developing relationships with all the cats,” Burton said. “It’s really sweet, and I love that I get this opportunity to get to know such big predators.”
Burton has applied to various veterinary schools and is open to the possibilities her acceptance may bring about.
“I hope to get accepted to the University of Edinburgh for school, which is in Scotland,” Burton said. “I love Louisiana, but I’d also love to branch out.”