These jobs working with animals require patience with people, not just pets.

Despite their diverse backgrounds and occupations, most professionals who work with animals share one trait: a lifelong devotion to creatures great and small.

"It was an early childhood desire, a love of all animals," that inspired Dr. John de Jong to pursue his career as a veterinarian, he says. "I would bring all sorts of animals and pets home, much to the chagrin of my parents."

Translating that passion into a profession requires specialized training and sometimes sacrifices in terms of job opportunities and salary. But many workers are willing to do whatever it takes to collaborate with furry, scaly and slimy co-workers.

"The riches I've gotten out of this profession far exceed anything I expected," de Jong says. 

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