COLUMBIA — Leaning intently over their work, children carefully wove large needles threaded with plastic string in and out of eyelets attached to stuffed cats and dogs.
“It’s a good thing I’m not going to be a doctor,” said Molly Vornholt, 10, who pulled the stuffing out of her dog in excitement after she sewed a suture on the animal.
Molly and her brother Jack, 13, were participating in a hands-on exhibit as part of MU College of Veterinary Medicine’s open house on Saturday.
The annual event was a chance for prospective students to tour the school and for the public to come out and enjoy exhibits and performances that highlight veterinary education. This year’s theme, “Come, Sit, Stay,” featured a number of events for the audience, including the Budweiser Clydesdales, the Purina Incredible Dog team, a horse show and a petting zoo.
The open house, run by second-year veterinary students, was held on the veterinary school grounds.
Kacie Ulhorn, a second-year student and the event organizer, said the challenge of planning the open house is trying to find activities that will appeal to a large audience.
Nikki Thaller, 15, of Higginsville, drove up for the open house to tour the school and to take part in the other events. Of all that was offered, she said the reptile room was her favorite.
“I want to work with exotic animals, so I like the reptile exhibit they have,” Thaller said. “It’s really exciting. I didn’t expect to see reptiles. I was glad not to see just dogs and cats.”
In the reptile room, visitors were able to pet a number of reptiles. Dozens of people crowded around for their chance to touch a large albino Burmese python. Some of the other species had to be kept behind glass, though, including all five species of venomous snakes found in Missouri.
Quentin Hall, president of the MU Herpetological Society, said that it was a challenge to bring in all five because one snake, the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, is on the state’s rare and endangered species list.
“We try to bring things that people can handle,” Hall said, “but also educate them about what they can find in their backyards and while hunting.”
The performance by the Purina Incredible Dog Team, which included dogs catching flying discs, jumping rope and performing a “twirly-dance,” drew one of the largest crowds.
Tony Hoard and his four Australian shepherds, Elektra Blu, Q, Rory and Zaniee J., were the main attraction. Rory is a two-time world champion in the sport of flying discs. Hoard explained to the crowd that his dogs Rory and Zaniee J. were former “cast-away” dogs.
“All they needed is training and love,” Hoard said. “They’ve been great dogs.”
Hoard said that he has been involved in canine flying disc since 2004, and that this is his second year touring with Purina. This is also the second year Hoard has come to the open house. He said that he hopes to come again next year.
Norma Wallendorff and her family drove an hour from Steedman to come to the open house to see the Budweiser Clydesdales show. Wallendorff said her daughter Ashley, 12, even missed a dance show to come to the event. It was her daughter, Megan, 5, however, who was left the most impressed.
“She told me when she grows up she wants to be a barrel racer, after she got to see that today,” Wallendorff said.
Norma Ullman, who came as a chaperone with her two grandchildren and a group from Blair Oaks School in Jefferson City, said she was most in awe with the fistulated cow on display. A fistulated cow is a cow that has a hole cut into its stomach for scientific research.
“I stuck my arm in the stomach of a cow,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”