Dr. Heather Johnston, Medical Director at Busch Wildlife Sanctuary

by | Mar 23, 2022

Dr. Heather Johnston—a veterinarian who serves as the Medical Director at Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, a multifaceted operation in Jupiter, Florida that, in celebration of March being Women’s History Month, is slated to present a “Women in Wildlife Panel Discussion” there on March 29 (featuring Johnston)—recalls that she wanted to be a vet since she was a young kid, and other than a fleeting flirtation with becoming a jockey, that desire never wavered. Indeed, she graduated from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and Johnston recalls, her earliest experience as a vet included working at an animal clinic and a wildlife facility, establishing a sort of dual storyline that, twenty years later, still courses through her career narrative: In addition to her duties at Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, Johnston practices at Harmony Animal Hospital, predominantly treating cats and dogs, though in a given day there, she says, she might see a rabbit, a guinea pig, or various reptiles. Johnston also maintains a strong interest in birds of all kinds—professionally and personally (having become a birder in her youth)—noting she can probably find something interesting about any bird, plus always being enchanted that they can fly, and we can’t. She was particularly rapturous about raptors, but is enthusiastic about all the birds she mentions, pointing out that parrots not only can talk, but some research has shown they can read and understand what they’re reading. Johnston touches on her likely contribution to the “Women in Wildlife Panel Discussion” (which happens March 29, 11am-12:30pm; it’ll be filmed and subsequently posted on YouTube). Using the then-breaking news of a tiger attack earlier that day at an animal sanctuary in Collier County, Florida—apparently, an employee not authorized to be with the tiger entered the enclosure—as a jumping off-point for Johnston describing the safety protocols at Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, which houses bears, Florida panthers, bobcats, alligators, crocodiles, and other critters that can be dangerous. Because the Sanctuary is gearing up to move to a parcel of land almost twice its present size, I asked Johnston to address—as Medical Director—the plans and logistics she needs to formulate for relocating an enormous number of animals, across a sizable array of species. (https://www.buschwildlife.org, https://www.facebook.com/BuschWildlife/, https://www.instagram.com/buschwildlife/?hl=en)

ALSO: I spoke briefly with chef Thalia Tatham, who this week opened House of Vegano, a restaurant in Saint Petersburg, serving vegan sushi that many may be familiar with from being offered at her pop-ups, at festivals, and at other temporary outlets. By contrast, this new venture is a permanent, brick-and-mortar restaurant, and Tatham notes that after offering her food in those ephemeral settings, to enthusiastic response, she felt like the right time had arrived to open her own restaurant. She outlined the key offerings of the House of Vegano menu (sushi, ramen, dumplings, poke bowls, salads—all plant-based), and describes a bit of how she creates the vegan sushi that delights her customers, many of whom previously loved the Real McCoy. Tatham observes that she hopes the House of Vegano menu and format may prove to be an approach that can be duplicated in additional locations. (https://www.instagram.com/houseofvegano/, https://www.houseofvegano.com)


COMEDY CORNER: Brian Regan’s “Doctors and Veterinarians” (https://brianregan.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.


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