SANDPOINT — He came from up North to bestow gifts upon the animals at Panhandle Animal Shelter.
No, it wasn’t Santa Clause. Even better, it was “Santa Paws,” better known as “America’s Veterinarian,” Dr. Marty Becker.
Each year, Becker comes from Bonners Ferry to visit the animals at the shelter, bringing many family members, gifts and hugs with him, said Mandy Evans, executive director of PAS. This year, he braved the Dec. 19 snowstorm to make his annual visit.
“We appreciate him because every year he does this for us and he brings, pretty much, enough treats to last us a whole year for the dogs,” Evans said.
He brings toys as well, she said, for the dogs and cats, which Evans said helps with enrichment.
“His goal is to give each of the cats and dogs a Christmas gift, and then also the promise to try and work double-hard to find them homes,” Evans said.
Becker has spent his life working toward better health for pets and the people who love them, according to his website, drmartybecker.com. He practices at North Idaho Animal Hospital because he loves veterinary medicine, pets and the people who care for them, the website says.
Becker was the resident veterinary contributor on “Good Morning America” for 17 years. He is currently a board member for the American Humane Association as well as its chief veterinary correspondent, a founding member of Core Team Oz for “The Dr. Oz Show,” and a member of the Dr. Oz Medical Advisory Panel.
In addition, Becker is the founder of Fear Free, an initiative to “take the ‘pet’ out of ‘petrified’” and get pets back for veterinary visits by promoting considerate approach and gentle control techniques used in calming environments, according to the website.
He wrote 25 books that have sold almost eight million copies, including three New York Times best-sellers — one of which, according to the website, is the fastest-selling pet book of all time, “Chicken Soup for the Pet-Lovers Soul.” He has been a contributor to “Parade” magazine, “Reader’s Digest” and AARP.com. Animal Radio hosts him monthly as their Chief Veterinary Correspondent. He also writes the weekly nationally syndicated newspaper feature, “Pet Connection,” with his writing partner, Kim Campbell Thornton, and is featured in Dogster, Catster, and on Vetstreet.com.
Dr. Becker is an adjunct professor at his alma mater, the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and also at the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine at both Colorado State University and the University of Missouri. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
He is an honorary board member of Pet Partners and the Humane Society of New York, as well as a past board member and strong supporter of his local pet rescue group, Second Chance Animal Adoption of Bonners Ferry and a supporter of the Panhandle Animal Shelter, the Kootenai Humane Society in Coeur d’Alene, and the Whitman County Humane Society in Pullman, Wash.
Evans said Becker is always supporting the shelter, even when it is not time for his annual Christmas visit. One time, she said, when the shelter animals suffered from a bout of distemper, he “really stepped up” and played a significant role. He helped bring awareness to what was happening so shelter staff could fundraise for veterinary medicine. He also supported a dog the shelter had to send to WSU, paying for the animal's care.
“So he is just a really great supporter who believes in helping shelter animals,” Evans said.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.