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Desert Willow Hospital Nears Completion

By Michele Robertson

Desert Willow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (DWRRC) was established in July of 2014 to provide care for injured and orphaned wildlife in Southeast New Mexico. Executive Director, Dr. Sammie Uhrig shares exciting updates about the center and tips for keeping pets safe in our hot climate.

Construction began in 2019 for a new hospital on site which is nearing completion. Funding for the hospital came from a combination of private donations and grants from Mosaic and Benjamin P. Duke foundation. The inside is finished with a few things left on the outside to complete. Staff could be working inside the facility within a month, while public access is still two to three months out.

“Our new facility will be strictly for wildlife operations,” Uhrig said. The building brings a larger space, better facilities, and more enclosures. The current building will be for veterinarian services.

Dr. Audra Blasi will be leaving the clinic around the end of July, and Uhrig wishes her the best in her new endeavors. Appointment times will then be cut down and surgeries will be spread out. Large animal, wellness exams, vaccinations, and acupuncture are services that will continue.

Ideally, the opening for the new hospital will take place in the fall, concurrent with the annual fundraiser. The fundraiser will primarily be online this year with auction items to bid on similar to last year. Follow DWWRC on Facebook and Instagram for more information, visit them at or 512 E Fiesta Drive. By phone at 575.885.3399.

If you find injured wildlife, call the clinic before you touch the animal. If you reach the voicemail, keep listening as it has instructions on what to do if there is no answer. Facebook is good for general questions, always call for emergencies though.

“We have a small staff, it helps us tremendously if you call and give us some information and answer a few questions. If the animal needs care and you are able to bring it in, that is also a big help. It’s not that we don’t want to go get the animal, we are not always able too,” said Uhrig.

Calls come from all over the Permian Basin and southeastern New Mexico.

“We are still growing and working to improve what we do,” stated Uhrig. “ I never thought we would have what we do now. I’m seeing a dream come true. We are a good 10-15 years ahead of where I thought we would be at this point,” she added.

Donations to the center are tax deductible and always welcome. Items like towels and cleaning supplies are also needed, a list of items can be picked up at the center or emailed. They are also a charity organization through Amazon Smile. When you are shopping on Amazon Smile a portion of the sale goes to the charity you choose at no extra cost to you.

Volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks including meal prep, cleaning stalls, or helping with educational programs. Contact the center if you are interested in volunteering.

With hot summer days here, pet safety is important. “Our heat season is long here, roughly from March to October,” said Uhrig.

The following tips from Dr. Uhrig can help keep your pet safe during our hot months.

Check the sidewalk with your hand, if it is too hot on the palm of your hand, it is too hot for your dog’s paw.

If you can, keep your pet indoors in the air conditioning.

If keeping your pet indoors is not an option, the following steps can be taken to create a safe space. Provide shade and the ability for the animal to move freely with the shade. Have plenty of water available, a small pool or mister for them to cool off with is helpful. Short nose dogs (like pugs and bulldogs) overheat quicker. A dog’s nose helps it regulate its temperature and theirs is so short it is difficult for them to cool off.

“Pay attention to cues from your dog, if it is hunting out shade, it’s too hot,” Uhrig added.

Walk your dog early in the morning or in the evening, but not in the middle of the day. Ideally, a temperature of 80° F or less is best for a walk.

Don’t leave pets in cars without the air conditioner going, car interiors heat up quickly. If your dog does get hot, through the paws is the best way to cool them off. You can pour rubbing alcohol on the pads of their feet, this causes evaporative cooling. You can also put a cool washcloth around an ice pack and place it on the feet or belly.

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