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Remembering Whitney Joy Engler

March 31, 2015

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Whitney with her beloved dog, Rosie.

Update: A Commemoration of Whitney Joy Engler will be held on Friday, April 3rd from 5:30 to 7 pm in the Valley Hall lobby and patio. 

Our community lost a beloved friend, dedicated student and devoted animal lover with the death of Whitney Engler, a 4th year veterinary student, this past weekend. She is remembered for her passion for animal behavior and finding the good in every animal, her compassionate work with underserved populations at the Mercer Veterinary Clinic, her time spent fostering animals, and most of all, her incredible bond with Rosie—her Australian Shepherd service dog. Whitney could connect with all animals and surrounded herself with her three cats, two parrots and a collection of finches. 

In the midst of tragedy and sorrow, Whitney’s friends and mentors shared their memories at a candlelight vigil on Saturday night. Classmates shared stories of her selfless and caring demeanor, be it a dinner after a long clinic day, cleaning for someone, or offering to help train a furry companion. 

“While we will never understand the senseless tragedy that took Whitney’s life, she is engrained in the collective soul of those that knew her best,” Dean Lairmore said in a statement read at the vigil. “Our profound sympathies go out to Whitney’s family, friends and classmates.”

He encouraged Whitney’s fellow students to honor her through good works in our society as veterinarians, by living their lives to the fullest, and appreciating those that love and support them.

Whitney grew up in San Diego, graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science, and was a member of the DVM Class of 2015 at UC Davis. While at UC Davis, Whitney received many awards and scholarships, including those from the Westminster Kennel Foundation, American Humane Association, and most recently, the Floyd Tuition Support Scholarship. 

She participated in the Students Training in Advanced Research (STAR) program, competed in AKC and ASCA agility, rally, obedience and conformation venues with Rosie, served as secretary and president elect for the Behavioral Medicine Club, and as fundraising coordinator for the Mercer Veterinary Clinic for the Pets of the Homeless.

Whitney planned to become a board-certified veterinary behaviorist and wanted to incorporate behavior and reproductive services within a predominately small animal clinical practice. Her interest in behavior developed during her undergraduate career when she began working with an animal behaviorist. She gained experience with desensitization and counterconditioning techniques, and discussing goals, training plans and progress with clients. 

In veterinary school, Whitney found mentorship with Melissa Bain, a board certified veterinary behaviorist, for her STAR project on the effects of music on pets and owners in a veterinary hospital setting, and was in the process of submitting the results for publication. She was also involved with shelter medicine, as the majority of animals are relinquished and euthanized for behavioral problems. She received the Student Research Award for this work from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and presented her research at the Veterinary Behavior Symposium in 2014.

“Whitney was a lovely person who had such great things that she was going to accomplish,” Bain said.  “She was going to change the world for animals and their owners. We all mourn her loss.”

“She was one of our own and we will carry her with us as we move forward. Her dreams will become our dreams,” said Sean Owens, Associate Dean of Student Programs. “It has been said that when someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.”

A Memorial Scholarship Fund in Honor of Whitney J. Engler has been established at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.  

Please make checks to: 
UC Davis Foundation
School of Veterinary Medicine
Office of the Dean
P.O. Box 1167
Davis, CA  95617-1167 

Or on-line at:

A Facebook Page for posting remembrances, photos and information about services related to Whitney Engler can be found at Full resolution images should be emailed to Caroline Mitter for inclusion in a book for Whitney’s family at