Flavia Vaduva: A True Hero of Animals
by Katherine. J. Chen
Flavia Vaduva, 19, is the proud owner of seven dogs (Sam, Spunky, Scrappy, Ignacio, Armando, Roxsan, and Boss Money). In addition to taking care of her pups every day, she is a current sophomore at the University of Florida (living off campus with her own mortgage) and a pet nurse at the local Banfield (where she oftentimes works 12 hours at a time).
Flavia’s course load at UF would overwhelm even the most disciplined and hard-working individual (she can’t help but take on the maximum amount of classes allowed each semester). She even finds time, aside from her responsibilities at home, in school, and at the workplace, to volunteer at the local Humane Society. So how does she do it? How does a student still in college manage all of this: a tight working schedule, a crazy number of classes, and seven dogs at home?
“I think the biggest trick to being a multiple dog owner is knowing how to multitask. I am a pre-veterinary college student studying neuroscience (though I am currently a biology major) and working at a clinic. I also own a house, so I am usually very busy. But that doesn’t mean I can’t incorporate my dogs into my lifestyle. For example, if I have to study for an exam, I try to exercise the dogs during my study breaks or give them rawhides to keep them busy. Or when I’m working a full day, I always come home for lunch so they can go play out in the yard or in the pool. I try to bring them out for car rides as much as I can when I’m doing errands (never leaving them unattended in the car) because it makes them feel like they are a part of my life, which they certainly are.”
Flavia’s schedule, both in and out of school, revolves frequently around the comfort of her dogs, making her a true lover of animals. She pampers all seven of them by taking them on long hikes at local state parks like San Felasco and Hawthorne Preserve. At least twice a week, she goes swimming with her dogs, and once a month (especially during the summertime), she takes them on road trips to islands like St. George and Cedar Key off the coast of Florida.
Her success as a multiple dog owner is also due to her extensive knowledge of each dog’s individual medical and pampering needs. “Each of the dogs,” she says, “has their own favorite activity that I spoil them with. For example, the love of my life, Roxsan, a chow chow mix, loves to go for car rides to get coffee with me on Saturday and Sunday mornings when I am not working. For my two younger pups, Ignacio and Boss, I set up a kiddy pool in the backyard for them so they can cool down after playing outside in the yard. But all the dogs get Milkbones daily and rawhides at least biweekly. Additionally, on the first of every month, along with their flea and heartworm medicine, all the dogs have a ‘spa day’ when they get bathed, conditioned, nail-trimmed, and ear-cleaned.”
Flavia’s rescue efforts, however, go far beyond adopting dogs and giving them a warm, loving home. When she first moved to Gainesville in order to attend UF, she spent most of her 2008 summer volunteering to walk dogs at the Alachua County Humane Society. In the fall and spring semester, she fostered a dog from the Helping Hands Animal Rescue. Even outside of organized rescues, she is always searching for an opportunity to help her less fortunate furry friends. She says, “I’ve dedicated this summer to caring for my latest rescued addition – a stray pit bull I found wandering in my neighborhood whose owners never claimed him. I’m happy to state that he is now current on his vaccines. He’s neutered, on monthly flea and heartworm prevention, and is finally housetrained!”
Flavia’s dream is to one day become a successful veterinarian, an aspiration which she has subconsciously yearned for ever since she was 14 months old.
“I was 14 months old when I babbled my first word, ‘Ham ham’ which is the barking noise that dogs make in my native language – Romanian,” she says. “Practically, though, I’ve been certain that I want to be a veterinarian since I started working in a clinic about 2.5 years ago. To me, there’s no career comparable to one that allows me to combine my love of medicine with my passion for animals.”
Wherever Flavia is working, in the lab, at home, or in the office, she is bound to be improving the lives of not only her own dogs but also the dogs she treats and saves from abuse or disease. Her work and community efforts reach far beyond the classroom where she is a diligent student to her everyday schedule.
In short, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to make the claim that for Flavia, doing work for dogs is a 24/7 commitment.