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Scholarship in the name of a uni vet’s best friend

11 August 2017
Who was Ruggles and why has he endowed a scholarship?

The Ruggles Scholarship is helping veterinary science students achieve their dreams. We investigate the story behind the scholarship and chat to the grateful students receiving a financial paw.

Ruggles the dog in between two giant inflatable balls

Ruggles was not your typical pooch.

A gentle giant with an untidy tongue that always hung out the side of his mouth, Ruggles – a Newfoundland – was a very outgoing, effervescent canine that made an impression wherever he went.

Sadly, Ruggles is no longer with us, but his memory lives on in the form of a scholarship for budding vets.

This is really to let everyone at the University who had been looking after Ruggles know that their efforts were appreciated. It just seemed right.
Ruggles' Dad
Ruggles at home with a bib that says "I love Sydney Uni vet students".

The beloved pup, Ruggles.

Ruggles was a patient of the University of Sydney’s Veterinary Teaching Hospitals at Camden and Camperdown from puppyhood until the end – a little more than seven years.

Ruggles’ Dad said: “It’s a shame it wasn’t for longer.”

“The amount of care and dedication of everyone at Camden and at Camperdown where Ruggles came for specialist treatment, was just totally amazing. Everyone put in the extra miles to keep him going, keep him happy and keep him being… Ruggles.

“It was mind-blowing the amount of attention they gave him, plus all the extra behind-the-scenes work they put in researching his conditions and trying to get the best outcome for him.

“Because I spent so much time at the vet’s with Ruggles, I came to learn that the staff and students were the same with other patients. The attention and care wasn’t just uniquely for Ruggles.

“I was inspired to help out.”

‘Help out’ is an understatement. Ruggles’ Dad has endowed a scholarship in the hope that many future vet’s dreams come true.

“Observing the students over the years, I’ve witnessed the enjoyment and passion for what they are doing, and the anticipation of what they will be doing one day.

“I hope the recipients will emulate and live up to the standards of the vets I encountered. The depth of knowledge of the staff and the compassion they had for Ruggles and the reassurance provided to me was tremendous.”   

“This is really to let everyone at the University who had been looking after Ruggles know that their efforts were appreciated. It just seemed right,” said Ruggles’ Dad.

The only person in the donor’s circles that knows about his gift is his accountant. But the endowed scholarship - the first to be offered to both international and domestic students - is certainly well known at the University.

The sheer number of applicants in its inaugural year prompted Ruggles’ generous Dad to offer two additional scholarships to Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students, supplementary to the endowed Ruggles Scholarship.

The donor named the scholarship after his canine companion to ignite interest in the recipients to find out who Ruggles was.

“I hope this leads them to the story of the excellent care, dedication and passion that was displayed at Camden and at Camperdown for Ruggles and all their other patients.

“The scholarship is not to honour Ruggles, but to commemorate the fantastic care that everyone has given to Ruggles.

“He had a much longer and better life than he would otherwise have had without all the special care he received at the University’s teaching hospitals. And I’m very grateful for that.”

And the recipients - all at different stages in their degree and with life-long aspirations of becoming vets - are incredibly grateful to Ruggles’ Dad.

Sarah Houseman feeding a koala that is sitting in a tree in an outdoor enclosure at a koala hospital.

Scholarship recipient Sarah Houseman feeding Xavier at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.   

Sarah Houseman grew up in country Wauchope and is in her second year of the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine course.

“The scholarship was a huge unexpected blessing for me and my family. It has taken the pressure off them immensely and enabled me to continue to live in Sydney to study veterinary science. Without this incredible support from such a wonderful, generous and humble person, I would have struggled to stay in Sydney.

“Knowing how well the staff and students treated Ruggles and his Dad has inspired me to work extremely hard at uni, and into my career, so I can help animals and their owners with the same dedication and selfless nature vet clients value so highly,” Sarah said.

Fiona Emdin crouched in front of a lake with her two dogs.

Scholarship recipient and international student Fiona Emdin.

Fiona Emdin is an international student who grew up volunteering her time to care for a range of animals in Ontario, Canada.

“Earning the scholarship was the highlight of my year. I felt so honoured to be selected as a recipient among equally hardworking, capable classmates.

“I am grateful that the scholarship was made available to international students. I am from a single parent, three-child household in Canada.

“The Ruggles Scholarship has allowed me the opportunity to be involved with research at University of Sydney, pursue internships and work with feral dog populations in less industrialised countries.

“I’ve also been reminded of the enormous role companion animals play in our lives; what treasured members of families they become. Throughout my days as a student and career as a veterinarian I will strive to emulate the vets that treated Ruggles,” Fiona said.

Rachel Booth crouched with a dog.

Ruggles Scholarship recipient Rachel Booth.

Rachel Booth is in her third year. She said: “This financial support means the world to my family and I will forever remember that Ruggles and his owner played such a pivotal role in my achievement of becoming a veterinarian.

“I have an immense amount of pride in studying vet medicine. I would like to thank Ruggles’ Dad for truly changing my life and for granting me the greatest gift I could ever ask for - the opportunity to meet the financial demands of my degree so that I can achieve my life-long dream of becoming a veterinarian. I am so appreciative of this generosity and will cherish the memory of Ruggles with every patient I treat in the future.”

The recipients are hoping to go on to work in varied veterinary roles, including rural practice with a mix of animals of all sizes, emergency medicine, and population control and education programs surrounding feral animals in developing nations. But wherever they end up, they will have instilled in them quality veterinary skills taught to them at the University, an excellent kennel-side manner, gratitude, and the memory of their scholarship’s namesake.  

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