Story by Megan Myers
In her seven years of serving as a medical foster, Denise Camp has helped more than 250 huskies return to full health and find their forever homes.
As a medical foster, Camp makes medical decisions for the dogs that come into her care and pays for any treatments or procedures they may need, usually out of her own pocket.
So, when rescues and shelters in the Bryan/College Station area accept a husky with injuries, mange, or other health concerns, they know that Camp is the person to call.
And when Camp comes across a dog with problems that are too severe for local practices, she turns to the Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital (SAH) for help.
In one case, Camp brought a light red husky named Nilla who had broken both back legs to the SAH, where Dr. Katherine Barnes, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS), repaired the breaks. Nilla then began a long-term physical therapy plan.
“She’s still got a lot of muscle to rebuild, but her healing appears to be going fine,” Camp said. “She’s got some way to go, but not if you ask her. She will pull on the leash as hard as her little puppy body can pull and she just wants to play.”
Nilla, renamed Vanilla Bean, has been adopted by her new family, with whom she will continue her physical therapy.
A Divine Recovery
But even Nilla’s case paled in comparison to that of a black and white husky named Divinity, about whom Camp wasn’t even sure if recovery would be possible.
After escaping from her first owner’s home and harassing a neighbor’s livestock, Divinity was shot in the face at close range and was subsequently surrendered to a rescue, which contacted Camp. Despite being unsure that Divinity could survive surgery, Camp and the SAH veterinarians decided to do everything they could to help her.
“She’s probably the only dog I have had that I questioned if I was making the right decisions, because there was a possibility that she would never even be able to eat on her own,” Camp said. “I finally just said, ‘You know what? We’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it. If she’s meant to live, then she’s going to live.’”
Thanks to her talented team of surgeons, led by CVMBS assistant professor Dr. Vanna Dickerson, Divinity survived, despite losing half of her tongue and the top part of her snout, including her nose.
“She has a very unique look now, but it took no time for her to get adopted,” Camp said. “She bounced back so quickly and she has the best personality; she did not let anything get her down. It turned out that saving her was the right decision.”
Today, Divinity, renamed Skyla by her adopters, lives a normal life like any other dog, besides making a bigger mess while eating.
A Passion For Helping Huskies
Camp found her calling as a husky lover 15 years ago, when an extensive search of the Houston area led her to Kya. At that moment, she said, huskies became “her breed.”
Soon after, she started volunteering with animal shelters and gradually began fostering the huskies that came her way.
“I’m not a traditional foster because the dogs are in boarding at my vet’s office,” Camp said. “There’s a lot of reasons for that, mostly because a lot of them need some level of veterinary care, but also because I know if I brought these dogs home, they wouldn’t leave.”
As a foster, Camp not only helps huskies find their forever homes, but she also saves the lives of those that others might not be willing or able to help.
Because animal shelters typically have to choose to care for healthier dogs over sicker ones, Camp can save many dogs that otherwise would not get the opportunity.
“I’m a sucker for the underdog—the literal underdog,” Camp said. “The benefit is seeing these dogs that were considered ‘unadoptable’ end up being adopted and having a perfectly normal, happy, healthy life.”
Camp also loves educating potential adopters about the breed’s unique personality traits.
“When huskies were used for sledding, the best dogs were the ones that were willing to disobey the sled driver,” she said. “If the driver told the dog team to go straight over a frozen lake that the dogs knew was not safe, they had to make their own decisions to keep everybody safe. That stubbornness and decisiveness was bred into them and are still part of their personality.
“So, potential owners have to have a good sense of humor to have a husky,” she said. “You have to be able to laugh at their stubbornness and their innate desire to escape from your house, even though you’re the one feeding them and giving them a cushy life.”
Camp encourages anyone interested in fostering to give it a try, as every additional foster means more dogs being saved.
“I know people think they’d never be able to give them up, and sometimes you can’t and you end up keeping them, but the truth is, most people love to see the dogs go off and be adopted,” she said. “They know that opens up a spot for them to foster another dog. If you look at it that way, all you’re doing is just freeing up space for you to save another one.”
Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of CVM Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; firstname.lastname@example.org; 979-862-4216