A champion gets a second chance

By Alec Lee | Photos submitted by Lee and Dave Walker

From the moment he was born, Major was destined for greatness. Born at the home of his trainers, Dave and Lee Walker, Major comes from a line of champions.

Dave and Lee are bird dog trainers and handlers who specialize in German shorthaired pointers. Major’s parents, Shooter and Sister, are both field champions, with his mother being known for her particularly high-headed point—a family tradition that Major seems to have carried on himself.

In fall 2018, Major began his field training with the Walkers and started taking home wins at trials in fall of the following year. Placing competitively in both national and local trials, Major was only matched by his littermates.

But that all came to a sudden halt later in the season. Major became sluggish and began to lose his appetite. The Walkers knew something was wrong.

After a visit to a local vet and taking chest x-rays, Major was rushed to the UGA Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s emergency service with a suspected grass awn infection. A condition more common in working dogs like Major, these infections pop up when dogs inhale, eat, or run through hooked grass seeds (awns) while speeding the field. These seeds often carry bacteria, but they can also pick up bacteria after attaching to an animal. They can carry common bacteria from one place, like the mouth, to a place that’s not so common. In Major, the infection grew in his chest.

Major’s condition required high-risk emergency surgery, but he pulled through and was back home resting within the week. In the weeks following, Major was recovering well while the Walkers kept an eye on him. A complication following the surgery brought Major back to the hospital in early 2020, but he was expected to make a full recovery.

And he did. Five weeks later, Major was back in the field. “Major continues to make his owner, Nelson Mills, proud and thrill participants and gallery riders at every trial he competes in,” Dave said. And while his fame outside of the hospital grows, his caregivers at the VTH still remember him for his famous “swizzling” tail—a sure sign that he was happy to see them.

Since recovering, Major has sired two litters of puppies who are already on their way to greatness, and the Walkers say he is genuinely enjoying his second opportunity in life. In thanks, Mr. Mills and the Walkers presented Major’s care team with custom sweatshirts and a plaque to commemorate his return to the field.

Members of Major’s care team pose with the plaque presented to them.

From the Walkers: “All of this could not have been possible without the amazing people at UGA VTH and his owner. There were more that helped but these people were very instrumental in saving Major’s life: Drs. Sumner, Lozada, Quandt, Wallace, Vezzi, Conroy, Lucchetti, and Gualtieri, as well as technicians and veterinary students Kristen, Alex, Michael, Katie, Sierra, Corinne, Emily, Caitlyn, Bonnie, and Jenny. We will be forever grateful for all their hard work, dedication, and amazing skills.

We’re UGA Vet Med, and our

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