Rescued Puppy Finds Forever Home With Veterinary Hospital Administrator

Story by Harley Nokes, VMBS Communications

A white scruffy puppy standing on a table and being loosely held by a veterinary technician in scrubs
Gertie and Dana Whitaker

While on a walk at Lake Bryan, a couple’s dog encountered a box and became excited after smelling something inside. Curious to see what was causing their dog to react, to their surprise, they found a puppy inside the box.

Immediately, the couple brought the puppy, who would soon be known as Gertie, to Texas A&M’s Small Animal Teaching Hospital (SATH). It was unclear how long the small, white terrier-mix was left alone in the box, but she appeared to have broken bones and was covered in fleas, dehydrated, and malnourished.

After Gertie’s initial examination, the couple, despite having no intentions of keeping her, brought Gertie back to the SATH for an orthopedic appointment with Dr. Laura Peycke, a clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS).

At the appointment, Peycke and a veterinary technician, Wendy Greathouse, schemed to bring together Gertie and Dana Whitaker, an SATH assistant hospital administrator. Whitaker had had a running joke that she would eventually get a “scruffy purse dog,” and Peycke, in introducing her to Gertie during the examination, made that joke a reality.

Meeting For The First Time              

While in the SATH emergency room during her initial visit, radiographs revealed that two of the most concerning injuries Gertie sustained included a partially healed left femur fracture and partially healed right pelvic fracture.

“I think someone stepped on her and they panicked because they knew she was broken and discarded her,” Whitaker said.

Specialty appointments at the SATH can be hard to schedule quickly because they are typically booked months in advance, but Gertie was able to get an orthopedic appointment with Peycke only two days after her first ER visit to have her fractures examined and to ensure she would not need surgery to repair the fractures.

“When Dr. Peycke saw this little thing in her orthopedic appointment and found out the people who brought her in were not planning on keeping her, she and Wendy plotted together to get me in Gertie’s path,” Whitaker said.

Walking to the exam room, Whitaker wasn’t sure if she’d keep Gertie but upon meeting her, she couldn’t resist taking Gertie home to ensure she was cared for throughout her healing process.

“When I met Gertie, everything clicked,” Whitaker shared. “Gertie needed to end up with me, and she’s mine now.”

Since then, Whitaker and Gertie have been a team on the road to recovery.

A Healthy Puppy Means A Happy Puppy

A white, scruffy puppy with one ear up and one down

Gertie’s journey to becoming a happy, healthy puppy was off to a good start now that she had Whitaker and the SATH veterinary team looking after her.

Gertie required surgery in January to repair an inguinal hernia, a tear in the body wall that would allow organs to pop out of their place underneath the skin, and her fractures have since improved.

“Gertie’s fractures are now healed, but not in the place we would want them to be healed if we were in control of her recovery immediately after they occurred,” Whitaker said. “If we saw her the day she was injured, we could have fixed things.”

Because these fractures were not properly taken care of when they occurred, Gertie developed quadriceps contracture, the physical shortening of muscle length that leads to stiff muscles and prevents stretching, full range of motion, and joint mobility in her left leg.

Even though her left leg does not function like her other legs and is only used for balance when necessary, her daily activities of running and playing are not disrupted, allowing Gertie to expel her puppy energy.

“When she runs, she runs fast and her left hind leg, the one that was fractured, tags along with her,” Whitaker explained. “Because she has quadriceps contracture, there is no way to recover the muscle because it’s bound up so tight. There’s not anything we can do, but it doesn’t cause her any pain.”

There is concern, though, that as Gertie ages, the head of the femur and the pelvis it sits in will rub together when the cartilage coating the two bones wears down, causing Gertie pain.

“If she needs any orthopedic work in the future, we’ll probably have to do a femoral head ostectomy,” Whitaker said. “We would cut the head of the femur off, so the muscle would be holding everything together, and there’s no bone sitting in the pelvis.”

But for now, Gertie is a pain-free, energetic, and happy 8- or 9-month-old puppy, whose favorite pastime is chasing balls and toys and bonding with other furry visitors during her adventures visiting the SATH with Whitaker.

“She is a hundred percent mischievous and just a happy-go-lucky pup,” Whitaker shared. “I look forward to seeing how her personality will grow and settle as she becomes an adult.”


For more information about the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of VMBS Communications, Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences,, 979-862-4216

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