Grateful Clients: Russell and Noel Vance

Shivering in sub-zero temperatures, Russell Vance knew the long days ahead were only a small sacrifice to care for his beloved black lab, “Ninja.” Russ and Ninja camped for 51 days in a small trailer outside the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital in 1998, while Ninja received multiple life-saving surgeries to remove bony scar tissue in her nasal cavity that grew after she had been treated for a fungal infection. The scar tissue obstructed her airways, forcing her to breathe through her mouth. Russ provided round-the clock care for Ninja in his trailer, parked next to the building so he could plug in during those cold winter nights.

So grateful for the care Ninja received, Russ, and his wife, Noel, included the College of Veterinary Medicine in their estate plans—a gift valued today at around $1 million. 

“Our gift is a reflection of the way we were treated at WSU,” said Russ. “Everyone—the doctors, students, main desk— all were totally wonderful to me.”

Their generous gift will go toward student scholarships and the Good Samaritan Fund, created to help animals in need of special care, but who are ownerless or whose owners cannot afford treatment.

“I simply feel that you can love your animal as much as a human, but your financial circumstances may prevent you from giving the care the animal needs,” said Russ. “If I can save a few dogs or even cats, then I will smile a lot.”

Despite all efforts, the scar tissue returned. But, Ninja and Russ enjoyed six more wonderful years together after those cold nights in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital parking lot. Ninja died at age twelve and she was buried under three large spruce trees on the Vances’ Montana property.