Meet Susie: The Empath Who Found Her Calling in Helping Animals

Susie is a veterinary technician at Animal House of Chicago.

I kicked off my career in the veterinary field in 1991 after going to school for interior design and working that area for a bit. I wasn’t truly passionate about design work, so I decided to make a change and start working with animals. It made sense because I’d always been the type of person who took in hurt and/or abandoned animals growing up.

Susie and her husbandI started out as a veterinary technician at Niles Animal Hospital which is actually where my friend and current hospital manager, Tracy, met her husband, our Chief of Staff, Dr. Byron de la Navarre. At Niles, I worked my way from veterinary technician to technician manager.

When I had my first child, I took some time off to raise him. By the time I was ready to return to work, Tracy and Byron had opened their own animal hospital, Animal House of Chicago, which is where I work as a technician. It’s funny, actually, because when Animal House first opened, I’d take home any animals that needed extensive care - much to the dismay of my family.

As a self-proclaimed empath, I feel that I connect with animals very strongly. I find them very easy to work with and, honestly, I believe I have a natural gift for this type of work. My coworkers tease me because I’m always running around to make sure every patient’s needs are met right away and keeping a very close eye on them.

Outside of work, I stay busy. I’m involved in my church’s choir, I sing as an alto in the Chicago Artists Chorale, and I volunteer at the local nature museum, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, as a turtle walker. And, yes, I’m completely serious. Turtles need quite a bit of vitamin D to thrive so, every Thursday, I head over to the museum, set out a pen, and let the turtles walk around outside. You’d be surprised at how quick they walk - they can be very fast!

Fun fact: I still live in my childhood home in Edgewater, Illinois. The way I ended up living there is a bit peculiar but, as it turns out, I’m not the only person in the neighborhood to stay in the house they grew up in, so their parents could move. My mom loved our house and the local community. Though she wanted to move, she refused to leave unless one of us kids bought it. So now I live there with my many pets.

My menagerie of animals include two dogs that can’t get along for the life of them; two cats, one of whom is a 19-year-old senior; two finches, an Amazon parrot, a blue and gold macaw, and Nina, a parrot I’ve had for 30 years. Having all these pets is a huge responsibility, but I love every single one of them and wouldn’t change a thing.