Sergio Gonzales

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Sergio Gonzales

Some people get nervous around animals. The more agitated the creature, the more alarmed the individual. But Sergio Gonzales, animal care professional in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Large Animal Hospital, is not one of those people. Years of bull-riding as a youth in his native Guatemala taught Gonzales how to read animals and contain his anxieties.

“Initially there’s a fear, but that dissipates and you can stay on the bull,” he says. “There’s definitely an adrenaline rush.” In his short career as a bull rider, Gonzales managed to win two national championships.

Sergio GonzalesSergio Gonzales with Hercules at the Leatherdale Equine Center.

Gonzales moved to the United States in 1986 and a decade later began working at the large animal hospital—first part-time, then full-time. He manages roughly 15 to 20 students, who help him clean stalls and feed and groom animals.

“It’s mostly pre-vet students,” Gonzales says. Sometimes it’s a challenge to get them to show up consistently for a 6 a.m. shift, but as their supervisor, he tries to impress upon them the value of their work.

“I tell them, ‘The animals are depending on you,’” he says. “I like interacting with students, interns, residents, and professors every day.”

Gonzales raised two boys, now adults, and he likes to go fishing and camping with them when he has a long weekend or takes a vacation.

 “We’ll go to the Boundary Waters and rent canoes or kayaks,” he says.

He hasn’t ridden bulls in years. But he remains proud of his national titles, in part because they remind him of the discipline it took to succeed.

“It takes a lot of practice,” he says. “You fall off. You get back on. You practice and practice and practice.”