Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton & Temple Grandin

I have always been in awe of Temple Grandin.  I saw the movie depicting her life, staring Clare Danes, several times.  She just seems so passionate about her love of animals but so practical in the application of their care.  My fervent wish was to one day meet Temple Grandin and possibly speak with her.


That wish more than came true at the 3rdInternational Veterinary Social Work Summit at the University of Tennessee April 11-13, 2013.  This Summit brought together the best and brightest professionals from many walks of life, especially veterinarians and social workers, who work with people and animals.  It was truly the best of animal activism taken together with the best of veterinary medicine and social work.  There wasn’t a keynote presentation or breakout session you could afford to miss.  Each one provided you with a unique prospective of dealing with people and animals.  You learned something invaluable, the cutting edge of how to live with animals.


Temple Grandin’s keynote speech came first thing in the morning opening day.  I was mesmerized.  I wanted to rush right up and introduce myself but you realize early on that to do so would overwhelm this fantastically smart autistic woman.  I listened intently to her discussion and took copious notes.  Her passion for the humane care of animals transcends the fanatic and meets everyone where they may need to be, in the practical application of animal husbandry.


Temple told her audience she sees things in pictures.   She said if her colleagues speak in the abstract or esoterically about animal care and its application, she asks them to put it in a practical context where it can actually be applied.  She thinks in an orderly manner.  To get it she needs concrete application of fantastic hypothesis.


It made so much sense to me.  I realized I do the same thing in my mediations.  I asked conflicting parties to use a practical application approach when examining their wants, needs and desires regarding the issues at hand.  Temple and I thought similarly in the application of group solutions to posed problems.


At dinner that evening I had the chance to talk with Temple and ask what were her thoughts on mediation.  To my delight she felt it was a practical way to handle conflicts among people involving animals.  This is high praise from one of my all time heroes.  I am redoubling my commitment to bring mediation to the animal conflict world.  Now, with Temple Grandin’s blessing, I feel the stars have aligned and the sky is the limit.


Check out the courses offered at the International Veterinary Social Work Summit at

—Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton