In recognition of a more than four-decade-long career dedicated to helping others, veterinarian Dr. Laurelle Danton (’83 DVM) has been awarded the Washington State University Alumni Association’s most prestigious honor, the Alumni Achievement Award.
Danton was presented the award by the College of Veterinary Medicine’s senior director of development, Lynne Haley, during a presentation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“Your dedication to nurturing the profound connection between humans and their beloved pets, especially during those tender moments of the pet’s final journey, represents an extraordinary talent that has given solace to innumerable families grappling with loss,” Haley said during the awards presentation for Danton.
The award was established in 1970 to recognize and honor WSU alumni who have served or provided significant contributions to the university or their community, profession or nation. Since its inception, the award has been presented to just more than 550 alumni, representing roughly .02% of the estimated quarter of a million people who have attended WSU over the years.
“I was totally shocked that I got this award, but it makes me feel good to know that I have had an impact on a lot of people’s lives,” Danton said.
Since 2009, Danton has owned and operated Kokopelli Veterinary Care in Edgewood, New Mexico, just outside of Albuquerque. Danton offers house calls and provides much-needed services to clients who may find it difficult to travel.
“I’ve been really lucky to be able to do what I do to help people. I meet wonderful people, and probably the majority of the friends who I have started out as clients,” she said.
While Danton offers many services, she specializes in home euthanasia for pets.
“This allows them to be in their special place,” Danton said. “They’re on their special bed. They’re outside under their favorite tree. I’ve done several at parks. One the dog took his last swim in the pond. Another one all of the friends and their dogs were there to say goodbye.”
Her empathetic approach to the grieving process involves actively listening to pet owners and encouraging them to share joyful memories of their pets’ lives.
“I do a lot of listening,” she said. “I ask them to tell me about when they got their pet. How old was he or she? Where did they get him? I have two reasons for asking: one, I didn’t get to know that pet when it was happy and healthy, but the main reason is I want people to have happy pictures in their minds other than what they see that day.”
Danton’s long career has had a consistent theme of serving her communities, including as a trained volunteer peer counselor from 1996 to 2003 at the El Dorado Women’s Center, where she helped people dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault. She also served as a firefighter and emergency medical technician from 1995-97 in California. During that time, she assisted in the revision of the protocol for first responder training as a member of the El Dorado County Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Task Force. The deaths of children led to high divorce rates among the affected parents and staggering turnover rates among the first responders. The changes Danton championed resulted in a remarkable transformation, with the divorce rates dropping from 95% to 30%, and the rate of First Responders quitting decreasing from 90% to 30%.
“After that, I realized why am I not helping my clients during their most difficult times. So that’s when I started doing home euthanasia,” Danton said.
Danton was nominated by Dave Farbrook, her close friend and writer. Farbrook said as he spoke to people about Danton and reflected on her lifetime of service, it was impossible not to see the deep and far-reaching impacts she has had on others.
“She has this humility about her that really changes people’s lives,” he said. “She has given so much of herself into veterinary medicine and caring for pets, and she has made such a difference in so many lives.”