By SANDI TERFORD
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Jenna Steinkamp got her start in animal care at a very early age when she showed an affinity for all kinds of beasts.
"I can remember my summer days as a child would be spent searching for creatures that I could fit in a shoebox," Steinkamp said.
"My natural animal nursing skills developed early, even though none of my patients lasted longer than one week. Since then I have learned and improved."
Part of that improvement has included training as a veterinary technician and rehabilitation therapist. She puts those skills to use caring for animals at Klingele Veterinary Clinic.
"My interest in animal rehabilitation and fitness was sparked during technical rotations at the University of Illinois," she said. "I took my curiosity to Chicago and worked at a physical rehabilitation referral center for three years. After I became entirely captivated by this alternative technique, I wanted to bring it back to my hometown."
Why do animals need rehabilitation therapy?
Most of the patients I am currently treating are dogs. They are more likely to have a noticeable orthopedic, muscular or neurologic problem. Dogs also have the ability to recover from these conditions quickly due to their cooperation and toleration of rehab. Cats can hide symptoms and become very stressed when in pain. However, many feline patients will gain trust when they understand you are trying to help. Rehab is not just limited to animals with injuries or recovering from surgery. Weight loss, general fitness and wellness programs are rewarding to animals and owners.
Describe a typical day.
It's true that I learn something new every day. No day at the clinic is typical. I begin by preparing the "rehab room" which is where all treatments take place. It is home to the underwater treadmill and other unique equipment used daily. I strive to make it a calming environment for my patients by playing calming music and using lavender essential oils. After that, I see my regularly scheduled rehab appointments. In between appointment times, Dr. Klingele and I will collaborate on physical evaluations of new patients and develop tailored plans. All this is usually done wearing flip flops and swim trunks.
What is the best and worst part of your job?
The ability to aid in the relief of an animal's pain and encouraging earlier return to independent function is the best part of my job. I tend to develop a close bond with my patients and their owners, so when the times comes to say goodbye for whatever reason, it can be very emotional.
Do you have any hobbies or passions?
Since veterinary rehabilitation is regarded as the fastest growing area in veterinary medicine, I have made it my passion to keep up with the latest research, equipment and techniques.
Who is your inspiration?
Each member of my family has been an inspiration. They have instilled qualities in me that keep me motivated and humble. I am thankful to my dad for a strong work ethic and strong faith, to my mom for a compassionate heart and to my sister Jayme for reassurance and trust.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I am a new member of the Dark River Derby Coalition. I am also deathly afraid of clowns.
How do you unwind?
Nothing is better than a relaxing conversation with a good friend over a cup of Starbucks coffee -- or a margarita.