Erica Marshall- Staff Feature “Make a plan. Be willing to change the plan.”

This is Erica’s work and life motto.

Her life path might seem winding—a straight-A, biology-loving high school student becomes a computer repair person, a professional photographer then discovers her passion for animal care in a spay-neuter clinic. 

But her curiosity is the binding thread.

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Ever since her parents gave her a microscope as a kid, Erica fell in love with connecting with the mysterious workings of her environment. She earned a biology degree after high school, then accepted a job offer from a friend to fix computers and networks. It was a well-paying job, but boring. Weeks passed with no system to fix, so Erica read medical journal papers to keep occupied and began to volunteer at a spay and neuter clinic.

She was invited to assist with the surgeries and that was her a-ha! moment. Erica was always interested in medicine but didn’t want to be a nurse.  “Animals don’t judge you,” she explained, “while humans...do.”

Ever since her parents gave her a microscope as a kid, Erica fell in love with connecting with the mysterious workings of her environment. She earned a biology degree after high school, then accepted a job offer from a friend to fix computers and networks. It was a well-paying job, but boring. Weeks passed with no system to fix, so Erica read medical journal papers to keep occupied and began to volunteer at a spay and neuter clinic.

She was invited to assist with the surgeries and that was her a-ha! moment. Erica was always interested in medicine but didn’t want to be a nurse.  “Animals don’t judge you,” she explained, “while humans...do.”

Ever since her parents gave her a microscope as a kid, Erica fell in love with connecting with the mysterious workings of her environment. She earned a biology degree after high school, then accepted a job offer from a friend to fix computers and networks. It was a well-paying job, but boring. Weeks passed with no system to fix, so Erica read medical journal papers to keep occupied and began to volunteer at a spay and neuter clinic.

 

She was invited to assist with the surgeries and that was her a-ha! moment. Erica was always interested in medicine but didn’t want to be a nurse.  “Animals don’t judge you,” she explained, “while humans...do.”

Folks at the clinic told her about the veterinary technician career path and she knew that’s what she wanted to pursue. 

As luck would have it, she lived close to an excellent AVMA accredited school, the Joliet Junior College in Illinois.  The school put her on their long waiting list, and after a year she began her coursework.  Erica was still terrified of cats then, so she faced her fear and worked in the cat ward of a local animal shelter. Good news! She is no longer scared of cats. Only birds. She’s working on it.

Erica’s two-year vet tech program required her to complete two internships. In a moment of “crazy synergy,” a coveted internship opened up at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito and her partner at the time was offered a job at Twitter in San Francisco.  Erica’s exotic animal teacher encouraged her to make the move to California, even though she would be far away from family and friends.

In 2012, she tasted Calfornia’s sun-drenched flavors and decided to stay.  Erica returned to Illinois after her internship ended to walk for graduation and see family, then moved back to the Bay and started work at the VCA Animal Hospital in Oakland.

“It was the perfect first job. There were lots of drop-ins and emergencies. The emergencies were frightening at first, then I got really good at them,” she recounted. After three years of dedication to the hospital, Erica accepted a temporary position at The Marine Mammal Center.  

Like many kids, Erica dreamt of being a marine biologist. She slid samples of local waterways under her microscope to observe wiggling organisms.  Now she was overjoyed to get to know all the marine species at the Center. “But we had to lower their stress levels, so we couldn’t get excited about their cuteness,” she cautioned. 

Erica helped researchers do sea lion fieldwork on Año Nuevo Island. She donned a wetsuit before sunrise and jumped into an inflatable boat to navigate through rough seas. Sea lions were everywhere, onshore, and swimming around the boat. Once the boat landed on the beach, the team crawled on their hands and knees through bird poop and flies to net sea lions. 

“I was there as a sampler, so I drew blood and placed catheters in the sea lions to collect urine,” Erica explained.  “Conducting a sterile process in that environment was challenging, but I did it!”

She decided to move to Santa Rosa for love. Erica separated from her partner at the same time as they moved to California.  A few years and many bad dates later, she’d finally met an awesome guy. They live together with their nervous yet hilarious pitbull mix named Lemmy (in honor of Motörhead’s lead singer). 

Erica started working with Dr. Krome at the Santa Rosa Veterinary Hospital in December 2019.  “I love what I do. I love the variety,” she gushed. 

She is Fear Free trained and is grateful to have the knowledge about how to reduce the stress of all involved, pets, and pet parents alike. “I want pet parents to know that pets don’t have to be terrified to come to the vet,” she advocates. With all parties in a more relaxed state, “owners are more likely to bring their pets in to get checked, which can help save pet lives.”

As much as Erica loves Dobby, the resident hospital cat, and scratching his chin, Noodle is wildly hilarious. “Noodle is such a hunter even though she only has one eye and lack of depth perception,” Erica laughs, “I love playing lasers with her and watching her enjoy the squirrels and birds on Cat TV.”

Oh, to live the Noodle life. 

Come say hi to Erica at the hospital and share your life motto with her! 

Written by Roxanne Darrow - 10/8/2020

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