Friday, August 19, 2011

In Memory of Gena Austin by Shann Ikezawa, DVM

Whenever Gena answered the phone, so did five to eight Pugs and sometimes a French Bulldog and Shiba Inu. You could always hear her family of dogs barking along in the background happily talking with her as she tried to have a conversation. There are many animal advocates in this world, but few were as dedicated and caring as Gena Austin. We all suffered a great loss when Gena Austin passed away on July 19th of this year. Every dog she ever encountered had their life made better because of her and all of us who knew her recognized it was a privilege to have spent time with her. She was always positive, always thinking of others, and always working to make the world a better place, one snort and tail wag at a time. I felt the need to write this story because on a more personal note, I feel she was pivotal in my career and now, my lifelong love of pugs and all things canine and short nosed. 

Gena Austin was the president of PROS Pug Rescue and a member of French Bulldog Rescue. She worked tirelessly to rescue as many dogs as possible. Those with birth defects, dumped at shelters by thoughtless puppy mills or backyard breeders were given medical care, surgery, or even fitted with specially designed wheelchairs, then placed in loving forever homes. One famous Pug can be seen in her special wheelchair on Youtube if you look up Princess Daisy Pug. Abused, scared dogs with behavioral problems were slowly won over and patiently worked with. The old and ill, deemed too sick to be adoptable, were not euthanized or turned away, but were given humane care to make them comfortable and placed in long term hospice homes until they no longer had a good quality of life. Gena and her team of dedicated volunteers made sure that these dogs had a wonderful end to a life that may have been filled with fear and trauma. When fosters were overloaded, she always found a spot for another Pug in her home. I'm probably just describing the tip of the iceberg as far as what Gena did for Pug Rescue, but from my perspective, she was wonderful to work with, always had the dogs' best interest in heart, and there was nothing she wouldn't do to make their lives better. It sounds so cliched, but she was an inspiration to me. On days when it would be difficult to do my job because I couldn't save them all, Gena would come in with someone new in need of help and a desire and will to do whatever it would take. My part was easy... diagnosis, medication, surgery, maybe a day or two in the hospital. Gena and Pug Rescue had the hard work. They had to take the little guys home and nurse them back to health, train them to be adoptable, and get their spirits back into shape. It was always so rewarding to see them come back, completely new, under the care of someone who really cared and loved them.

I considered Gena a friend and a colleague. In our own ways, we both dedicated our lives to the welfare of animals. I always knew Pugs were cute with their wrinkles and corkscrew tail, but she was the one who allowed me to work with them daily and see that their quirky personalities, unique medical problems, and unbreakable spirits make them very special. I've even grown to love their loud snorts and snores. I feel very lucky to have known her and know that all of us at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center feel the same and we will all miss her dearly. She wanted to make sure that her good work would continue and I promised her that I would do all I could to ensure that it would. Pug Rescue is part of our family here just as Gena was.  

You can read Gena's newspaper obituary here and from Pug Rescue here. If you would like to make a donation in Gena's honor to PROS (Pug Rescue of Scaramento) you can visit their website at or mail a check or money order to PROS P.O. Box 5094, Concord, CA 94524.