Nature Wisdom

with Pat Tuholske



A Joplin Hero


Finn and I worked the Joplin Tornado Disaster for six days. We met Dr. Ben Leavens when two of the dogs on our team sustained paw injuries. Dr. Leavens came to our search site to render veterinary care. He immediately brought a calming presence as he tended injuries and administered fluids, antibiotics and nutritional support.

After treating Buddy, my partner’s dog, I saw Dr. Leavens gesture to everyone to back away from Buddy as he put his arms around him and began “whispering” to him. Dr. Leavens “whispered” to Buddy for a couple minutes then kissed his ear. I wondered at this vet who had personally come to treat our dogs. Navigating the destroyed streets of Joplin was not an easy task and he had left K9 Ops to come to us.

Dr. Leavens had lost his home two months ago in a flood. He moved his family (wife and six adopted children) into the apartment complex that we were searching. It was destroyed like much of Joplin. Dr. Leavens’ clinic, Main Street Pet Care, sustained massive roof damage. Yet, here he was sitting on the hot asphalt with his arms around Buddy.

Dr. Leavens began telling me about a manufacturer who donates medications to search dogs – medications that would rebuild Finn’s cartilage and extend his quality of life for several more years. Dr. Leavens apologized that he didn’t have the meds with him to give to Finn but hoped they would arrive the next day. I kept thinking, “Who was this guy”? He’s lost most of his possessions and HE’s helping US?

Next day, at our final vet check at his improvised clinic on the parking lot of K9 Ops, Dr. Leavens was beaming that Finn’s meds had arrived and proceeded to treat Finn with Adequan. He then gave me all the necessary supplies to dose Finn myself. Over $400 worth of meds! I couldn’t thank him enough and he just kept saying we were the ones to thank for being there.

Two days after our deployment, Finn was admitted to the Emergency Animal Clinic and diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia. During his intake tests, I was desperate and called Dr. Leavens. I was worried about Finn’s prognosis and the cost of hospitalization. Dr. Leaven assured me not worry about the cost and to get him the treatment he needed. Dr. Leaven said he could cover up to $1000 of Finn’s hospitalization.

He felt that veterinarians and the public needed to be more aware of the needs of search dogs and their handlers and step up to help them in such times. Within several hours of posting on Main Street Pet Care’s Facebook page, donations for Finn started coming in. Dr. Leavens collected over $300 for Finn’s expenses and made calls to his contacts to cover the balance! I was overwhelmed by this man’s generosity and compassion.

Dr. Leavens is a member of VIN – Veterinary Information Network. Through VIN, Dr. Leavens has established a Search Dog Fund to assist handlers with vet expenses and medications. When my team’s chief authorized payment for Finn’s hospitalization bill, I told Dr. Leavens to use the donations they collected for Finn towards the Search Dog Fund.

VIN and Dr. Leavens have provided invaluable assistance to the Joplin disaster and the K9 Search and Rescue community. What a relief it was to know that such quality emergency vet care was available to all dog teams working the tornado damage. Dr. Leavens and his staff showed selfless dedication to ensure the welfare of canine emergency responders.

Dr. Leavens is a remarkable man who praises his staff and accepts none of the credit. He is an outstanding human being, a compassionate doctor and healer in the highest sense. Hero is the word to describe Dr. Ben Leavens. A Hero for all he did for the 4-legged warriors working in Joplin.

My deepest thanks to this Hero for helping my big old yellow dog!

If you’d like to donate, send checks marked for SAR Fund to: Main Street Pet Care, Inc, Attention SAR, 1910 S Main St., Joplin, MO 64804. For more on the Joplin tornado and links to Dr. Ben Leavens, check out Pat Tuholske’s blog at www.elementalearthcamp.com. Pat is the facilitator of Elemental Earthcamp “off the grid” eco-camp and shamanic retreat in the Missouri Ozarks.

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