Rural Notes 04



The belated onset of some welcome summer sunshine coincided with an invitation to a barbeque, thrown by the family of a former student of mine, marking her imminent departure on a new and distant adventure.

Lisa Baxter lived with her family in Gullane, and as soon as she was old enough, became the mainstay of babysitting in the Watson household. She has always had a passionate interest in animal welfare and husbandry and when just 16, became a volunteer at Links Vets, either helping in the surgery or accompanying me on my rounds. Her enthusiasm was only ever surpassed by her imagination and determination, and foregoing the slog of years of studying veterinary medicine to allow her close access to indulge her vocation, she undertook a course at Telford in Animal Health & Care, and then immediately set about finding a job as a lion carer in a wildlife safari in South Africa, followed by a post as a guide in another safari park, this time in New Zealand.

Regular readers of the Courier may recall that she suffered a mauling whilst there, suffering extensive damage to her hands. Her injuries necessitated a brief return home, but undeterred, she redoubled her efforts to pursue her chosen career, and within months had secured a position as a trainee dolphin trainer at a prestigious dolphin aquarium in Mexico, a post which saw her qualify as a fully-fledged dolphin handler. After some three years there, ambitions drove her to apply for a visa to allow her to work in a Dolphin and Porpoise sanctuary in Australia, one of the premiere such facilities in the world.

It came as no surprise to me that whilst back in East Lothian awaiting her Visa application, she secured a job as a keeper for the soon to arrive Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo. Indeed, it was during this time, her former teacher turned pupil; I was never more grateful to find myself heading South on the M6 than in April this year. I was called by my surgery to be told the police had requested we attend a stranded Pilot Whale at Tyninghame beach, with a view to assessing its viability, and euthanase it if necessary. Little in my professional life has equipped me or my colleagues to fulfil the former, or effect the latter. Happily, Lisa was at home, and as a qualified member of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue Team (, she had already been alerted and was on site, offering expect help and opinion. On this occasion, the rescue was unsuccessful, although only 6 months earlier, the same body, working with Dunbar Coastguards had successfully saved a 40 foot Humpback whale near Dunbar.

Lisa arrived in Australia last week, and with her boyfriend Steve Webb from North Berwick, another BDMLR member, she has started working as a senior carer at Pet Porpoise park in Coffs Harbour, helping rehabilitate injured dolphins and porpoises back to the wild, or to manage their transition into the sanctuary if needs be. Scotland’s loss is Australia’s gain in my opinion. When 147 Pilot Whales beached at Thorntonloch in 1950, all perished. Their chances would be better now thanks to the skills of Lisa, Steve and the BDMLR.


article glen

Glen Watson
Partner at Links Vet Group