Vet Students Double Up as Care Givers — and Adopters

July 7, 2009

by Julie Hauserman

Gulliver and family
This little guy, Gulliver, is now living in his own home with Terry and Gwen Henrickson.

Adam Bauknecht had never seen a dog so matted. He had just graduated from University of Wisconsin’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and now he was in the middle of a massive rescue effort for hundreds of badly neglected dogs.

The dogs were rescued on May 19 from the Thyme and Sage Ranch in Cazenovia, Wisc. The facility operated as a non-profit "rescue" operation and served as Animal Control for Richland County. Sheriff's deputies served a warrant after an investigation set into motion by HSUS investigators, who had received numerous tips about cruel conditions at the property.

For Bauknecht,the Old English Sheepdog stood out. The dog’s entire body was basically one big, uncomfortable fur mat, from his head to his tail, Bauknecht said. After rescuers shaved him, they weighed the fur mat: It was a whopping six and a half pounds. For the dog, it turned out to be quite a relief.

A Little Care Goes a Long Way

“When (the sheepdog) came in, he was distrustful,” Bauknecht said. “By the time we got all the hair off, he was acting normally. By the next day, he was a friendly dog again.”

For weeks, the story of this sheepdog’s transformation spread all across the emergency shelter set-up at the Dane County Humane Society, where the dogs had been brought after their rescue. At the shelter, some 25 vet. students had been volunteering to get the dogs into shape for new, happier lives. 

A Group Effort

“They worked from sunup to sundown helping these dogs,” said Alyson Bodai, Wisconsin state director for The HSUS.

Thyme and Sage
The dogs at Thyme and Sage were found in deplorable conditions.

Adam Baucknecht, who helped with the sheepdog, said it was one of the most incredible experiences he'd ever been involved in.

“What hit me most was the huge scale of everything.”

For many of the students, this was their first experience working in emergency animal medicine or a rescue situation. A few were so touched by their furry patients that they ended up adopting them.

Third-year vet student MacKenzie Pellin is adopting a black Schnauzer mix. The dog, unfortunately, had to have his eye removed because an ulcer was left untended. Pellin’s parents got into the rescue operation, too: They adopted a dachshund-terrier mix who had to have surgery for a severe hematoma on his ear.

“Now his ear isn’t bothering him anymore,” Pellin said. “He’s playing with the other dogs, and playing with toys, and he’s just great.”

Pellin still thinks about one rat terrier mix she saw at the emergency shelter. The little dog’s poorly healed broken jaw made it impossible for him to close his mouth properly. Thankfully, he was adopted by an out-of-state volunteer.

Too Busy To Cry

Jazzy and Jamie Anne
Jazzy is a happy dog with her new companion Jamie Ann Zimmerman.

“You wanted to cry, seeing all these dogs, but you were so busy you didn’t have time to,” Pellin said.

“The dogs were in pretty rough shape, but we were able to immediately make them feel better with ear and eye medications, cleaning them up, shaving off their (fur) mats, and putting them in clean cages,” said Brooke Groskopf, who is president of the student-led  Shelter Animal Medicine Club and an HSVMA student member at UW’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Groskopf said she learned so much during the rescue that she plans to make animal rescue and emergency animal medicine a theme for the club this fall term. HSUS Wisconsin state director Bodai will come to do a presentation and provide information about Disaster Animal Response Team—known as DART—training in Wisconsin.

Jamie Ann Zimmerman, who will be a sophomore in the fall, said this was her first experience helping in an animal rescue operation.

“I learned a lot about the behavior of dogs in a stressful situation,” Zimmerman, an HSVMA student member, said. “Each dog responded differently to being handled and walked. It was very rewarding to know I could help out—whether I was doing medical rounds or cleaning cages. There was so much to do.”

Zimmerman was touched by a certain little Pomeranian mix, and she couldn’t resist adopting her. 

“She was very sweet, playful, and very calm through everything,” said Zimmerman, who named her new pup Jazzy. “I thought she would fit in great with my little family of dogs, and she does.”