Marla Lichtenberger with one of her K-9 pals.
Lichtenberger sees a lot of police and sheriff’s department K-9s at
her Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals and Specialty Services in
Greenfield. The board-certified critical care veterinarian not only
provides health care for the dogs, but she trains the officers in first
aid and CPR so they can help their K-9 heroes in an emergency.
learned that dogs are often the first to apprehend suspects, and
"they’re the first ones shot or stabbed." So she founded the
MECA Foundation, with a goal of purchasing safety vests for all the
police dogs in Wisconsin. The foundation also purchases dogs, mostly
from Europe, for smaller police departments that otherwise would not be
able to afford them.
been such a wonderful fit. These guys are so wonderful," she says.
"We’ve supplied probably about 10 dogs and many, many vests —
maybe 25 or so." Every summer, the MECA Foundation hosts a
fundraiser to provide even more life-saving vests and law enforcement
24/7 emergency veterinary practice goes far beyond dogs with a badge.
"We see a lot
of dogs hit by cars, a lot of dogs with hypothermia," she says.
"People don’t realize that once it’s below zero, especially
older dogs and the thin and smaller dogs can’t tolerate temperatures
that are so low. Five minutes is enough for them to get frostbite."
chinchillas, birds, rabbits and hamsters get into their share of
emergency situations, too. The hospital has seen them all. Lichtenberger’s
own dog, Packer, often greets them at the door. The terrier mix has
three legs and is missing an eye.
Lichtenberger’s most difficult case was a terrier mix named Beatrice,
who was found roaming the parking lot at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino
last March, her skin essentially burned off. The Milwaukee Area Domestic
Animal Control Commission (MADACC) was called, and the organization
found the owner because luckily, the dog had a chip.
"shakey and cold and in really bad shape," Lichtenberger says.
The dog had been abducted from the yard of the owner, who’d spent six
days frantically trying to find her pet. After a reward was posted for
information about the case, a tip led police to a man whom they arrested
for animal abuse. He was charged with burning Beatrice intentionally, in
treated Beatrice for "months and months," she says, but when
the dog’s skin became infected, she called on Dr. John Weigelt at
Froedtert & the Medical College for help. Weigelt, a veterinarian
turned surgeon, was able to secure donated pigskin, which was grafted
"After we put
that pigskin in, everything started turning around," Lichtenberger
says. "It’s super fun to have a good outcome. And (Beatrice) is
such a sweet little thing. She would lick our faces every time she came
every day at the emergency medical center brings a new challenge.
thrilled to death to help all these animals, and everybody here has the
same kind of energy," she says. "You never know what’s going
to come through your doors."