Every month, we like to shine the spotlight on a Hillside family member, whether they are an employee or client who has touched our hearts and made daily life at our beautiful facility a bit brighter. This month, we are taking a look behind the scenes and introduce to you someone you not have seen in your visits, our Kennel Technician in the “Barn”, David McMurtrey!
3 years ago, we were fortunate enough to have been discovered online by a local animal enthusiast, David, who was looking for supplemental work with dogs. Since the day that Shawn, Hillside K9 Academy’s head trainer reached out in response to his inquiry for a position, he has played an integral role in the overall quality of life for our dogs in residence. Whether it is taking our canines-in-training out for exercise, making sure their kennels are clean, and keeping a very close eye on any concerning behaviors or health matters, David has always gone above and beyond in his daily work, with compassion and attention for detail.
“I have had dogs of all kinds since childhood. Not being around them or loving my own is an unimaginable thought.”
A Tucson native, David grew up surrounded by beloved working cattle and ranch dogs on his family’s property. Also the son of a veterinarian, he was exposed to the animal medical world through his mother’s work at a local private clinic. This sometimes-sobering daily experience combined with the closeness to his furry childhood companions led to many years of passionate animal work into his adulthood. “I have had dogs of all kinds since childhood. Not being around them or loving my own is an unimaginable thought.”
In 2011, David migrated to the Verde Valley to be closer to the majority of his family who have settled in this area over the last decade. He immediately began work at the Verde Valley Humane Society as a Kennel Technician and spent the next several years fulfilling his animal interests through care for local dogs and cats in need. “At the humane society I developed a strong set of organizational skills and really learned how important cleanliness is to the over-all well being of rescue animals. I work to apply this daily in my time spent at Hillside.”
Work ethic wasn’t the only thing that David picked up in his time at the shelter. He also gained an important companion, in the form of Athena. “Athena was 1 of 3 Belgian Malinois pups that were unfortunately shoved into a crate together and abandoned outside the shelter one day. Sadly, we saw this situation often, and frequently found loose dogs roaming the property with a food dish and belongings sitting by the front door.” Something about the lively spirit of Athena, however, spoke to David, and he brought her home to meet his Shepherd-Malinois mix, Ruger. Despite their very different personalities, through time, Athena and Ruger became inseparable. “Ruger is very much a clingy and needy dog. He loves to cuddle and is a big teddy bear. Athena is a bit ornerier and can be jealous for attention. In their dynamic, she has established herself as the alpha dog, which he seems to accept.”
[This] was not part of my plan, but sometimes animals just choose you... I think we are both resigned to the fact that we are stuck with each other for life.
Just last year this unique pair produced their first litter of puppies. David did not plan on keeping their offspring, as the two of them keep his hands full daily, and easily found good homes with friends and family for 7 of the 8 beautiful pups. “Keeping ‘Puppy’, as I fondly call him, was not part of my plan, but sometimes animals just choose you. The last remaining of the litter was so well behaved, and we already have developed a strong bond. I think we are both resigned to the fact that we are stuck with each other for life. Now he is almost 50 lbs. and has become an affectionate cuddler like his dad,” David shared warmly.
When not working with the dogs at Hillside, David spends most of his time with his four-legged family, often hiking, swimming, and exploring the area’s beautiful landscape. “Both at home and in my career, I truely believe that my passion for dogs will never end. I plan on doing this for the rest of my life.”
And we at Hillside are so thankful for that resolution! David is a stable and inspiring player in our daily operations, both at the Resort and the Academy. We look forward to many more years of growing alongside him in our service to the local dog community.
Kaila Haas - Passionate animal lover and fan of the Hillside Canine Resort & Spa family!