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Animal hospital advocate wins Diebel award at Community Foundation gala


"I was completely surprised, shocked, to receive the Gerald H. Deabel Award for outstanding volunteerism,” Animal Companions of Las Cruces (ACLC) founder and chair Dawn Duncan told the Las Cruces Bulletin. She received the award and its $20,000 cash prize at the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico’s (CFSNM) gala “Spirit of Giving” Saturday night, Oct. 7, at the Las Cruces Convention Center.

“As I was listening to the first sentences describing someone working in the area of animal welfare, I was thinking of the many people I know who are tireless in such work,” Duncan said. “Then, when I realized it might be me, I was overwhelmed. When they called my name, I felt myself shaking as I went to collect the award. I am beyond grateful. On my hardest days doing this work, I will hold on to that moment and keep going."

“Dawn has been immensely successful in outreach to veterinary students in conjunction with ACLC’s efforts to recruit more veterinarians to our region so that our local animal clinics can expand their operating hours,” ACLC treasurer/webmaster Miguel Marquez said in a news release. “Eventually, ACLC will be able to achieve its core mission of staffing a 24/7/365 emergency veterinary hospital that will serve Las Cruces and our neighboring communities. Dawn’s tireless work and her selfless devotion to the welfare of our fur babies and to the community are perfect examples of the spirit of the Deabel Volunteer Award.”

“We’ve accomplished so much, but we still have quite a ways to go to make our core mission a reality and we’re counting on the continued support of our generous pet-loving community,” Duncan said in the news release.

Watch the CFSNM award presentation to Duncan at www.YouTube.com/watch?v=MsyG8FZpWKY.

“There hasn’t been 24/7 emergency care for pets available since 2018 without a drive to El Paso,” Duncan said in an August 2023 Bulletin story. “Animal Companions of Las Cruces is working hard to change this situation.”

Duncan’s Basenji and redbone hound mix, Barney, was attacked by two other dogs and suffered serious injuries in June 2020. Duncan was able to take him to after-hours emergency care in Las Cruces. But, when Fergus, a schnauzer/beagle cross, started bleeding on a Saturday several days after surgery earlier this year, Duncan discovered that around-the-clock emergency animal care was no longer available in the city and had to rush him to an animal hospital in El Paso.

“I was shocked to learn that the second largest city in New Mexico does not have a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour emergency animal hospital,” Duncan said in a letter to the editor.

“My dogs are my family,” she said. “I have a responsibility to care for them.”

Duncan is professor emeritus of English, film and global studies who taught for 25 years at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. She is a master practitioner and college/university trainer for the international nonprofit Narrative 4, which uses storytelling and story exchange to help young people develop empathy, learn to “listen deeply” and better understand themselves and their “power to change, rebuild or revolutionize systems,” according to https://narrative4.com/.

The Deabel Legacy Society was founded in 2003 by Gerald H. Deabel (1934-2017). The society, chooses a volunteer each year from Mesilla Valley Hospice, the Salvation Army of Las Cruces or the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico to honor.

Deabel, a native of Chicago, had a successful career in real estate and moved to Las Cruces in the early 2000s. When he died in December 2017, Deabel donated most of his estate to charity, including a $10 million donation to MVH.

Visit https://animalcompanionsoflascruces.org/.