The New Year's Puppy

January 10, 2011

by Eric Davis, DVM

It was New Year’s Eve, and I was taking care of the horses at our little sanctuary in Mud Creek Canyon, when my wife, Dr. Ila Davis, a veterinarian at the local shelter, called to inform me that we’d have a houseguest this year.

She had gone to the shelter to look at a puppy that Animal Control had picked up the day before. The little Doberman was about 9 weeks old, severely emaciated, and had recently suffered through a home ear-cropping job. Starvation, parasitism, and, quite likely, some blood loss had left the little guy—who we temporarily named Little Critter—in a weakened state, and he was now coming to our house for a few days of intensive care.

Granted, the shelter staff had done their very best. Little Critter had gained almost a pound in just one day of judicious and consistent feeding. But with county budget cuts hitting animal services first, the facility and its staff wouldn’t be able to provide the puppy with the care and attention he deserved over the holiday weekend. So, in our county, the cases needing intensive care end up with Dr. Ila Davis, who keeps leashes and dog cookies in her car at all times, should she need to rescue a stray on our country roads.

Welcome, little one

Critter rests in crateCritter resting in his crate.

When the puppy arrived at our house later that day, the rest of the family was right there to welcome the waif. Fred, who—despite his current sleek pudginess—still wears the scars of mange and battle from his years as a Rez dog in White River, Ariz., was immediately ready to play. Allie, the puppy mill-reject who brought such joy to my parents in their last years and has successfully converted to farm dog, was right there, too.

Pretty soon, we had the playpen out, a bed filled with blankets, and plenty of toys in the hall by the heater. After appropriate introductions and a walk outside, Little Critter got Allie’s old dog sweater and was buried in a soft spot, fast asleep. The rest of the crew quickly lost interest; after all, animals in need regularly show up around here and there were other animals on the property to amuse them (wasn’t it about time to clean the horse and ox stalls?).

Like so many others, Ila Davis’s new charge will get rehabilitated and go on to find a happy home. While we’ve given plenty a permanent home, we can’t take them all, as there will no doubt be many more who need the shelter vet’s care.

What can we achieve in the New Year?

As I watched our new houseguest resting comfortably, I wondered what will come about in the New Year. Will people—especially those who can do something like cut a puppy’s ears, leave him to starve and abandon him—learn to be better? Will shelters get the recognition and community support that they desperately need and deserve? Will we attain world peace? My guess is probably not. Let’s face it—these things will almost certainly not transpire.

But what about the resolutions that actually have a chance at succeeding? Can those who care for animals become more dedicated? You can’t get much more dedicated than Dr. Ila Davis, and we should all aspire to do as well in 2011. We have complete control over our own dedication and aspiring to do better is a resolution that we are all capable of keeping.

Special note: We're happy to report that Little Critter has already been adopted into a loving, permanent home.

Dr. Eric Davis developed the HSVMA Rural Area Veterinary Services (HSVMA-RAVS) program in 1995 and has served as mentor and inspiration to hundreds of young veterinary professionals over the years. He continues his hard work in the field and is currently a consultant for the program.