By Alexandra Vallas ’15
Many Scripps students are familiar with the sight of a man and his dogs sitting in Vita Nova courtyard. Fewer have stopped to play with the dogs, and an even smaller number have stopped to have a chat with “Dave the Dog Man.” However, beyond the friendly canines and the red truck, with its sticker imploring any future rescuers to save the whippet first, is a man with a fascinating story and a generous heart. The Scripps Voice recently spoke to Dave over email to get his side of the story.
“[A]lthough it looks as though I do nothing but sit at the Motley with the dogs, you’ll note that I’m only ever there in the late afternoon. I actually do other things,” Dave informed us from the beginning.
Dave, officially David Null, certainly leads an active life. Those “other things” so humbly noted include serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Civil Air Patrol (an offshoot of the Air Force), as an epidemiologist in the Medical Reserve Corps, and as a Field Investigator and Disaster Worker for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
An alumnus of SUNY New Paltz, the University of Manchester, and University College London, among other schools, with a PhD, a JD, an LLM, and a MScPH, Dave also has an ever-expanding list of continuing education certifications, from Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins, and Tulane.
Dave was a professor at Cal Poly Pomona until 1997, when he took early retirement to care for his dying father. In the wake of Sept. 11, he joined the Civil Air Patrol, which functions like the National Guard without weapons and flies missions such as search and rescue, surveillance, and disaster aid for the Air Force.
But he has adopted the moniker “Dog Man” for a reason—Dave is one of the leaders of the St. Roch Dog Rescue out of Claremont, specializing in whippet and retriever breeds.
He adopted his first dog, Robyn, in 1979. “When one has a dog, you immediately start to notice homeless dogs so I soon began taking in a dog or two at a time, rehabilitating them and put them up for adoption,” Dave wrote.
His friend, Nancy Bekavac, Scripps College President from 1990-2007, collaborated with him in dog rescue. “Several times we found dogs whose pregnancies were far along, so they had their puppies in luxury at the President’s House,” Dave said.
Scripps and the other Claremont Colleges have played an integral role in his fostering work for many years due to the bond between the students and Dave’s dogs. “Students miss dogs and cannot have them. Most of my dogs have been neglected or abused and need attention and affection so they can learn to trust people again if they are to be adoptable,” Dave explained.
This “symbiotic relationship,” as he calls it, works in favor of both the students and the dogs, giving both parties the affection they need. The relationship has also influenced Dave to make donations to Scripps beginning in 1990s, totaling about $45,000. Recently, he established an internship fund, donating $30,000 now and pledging another $50,000 over the next few years.
“This year I decided to give away 5 percent of my wealth a year. I expect to live another 20 years, so when I’m dead, I’ll also be dead broke,” Dave joked. Though his original intent was to give Scripps a women-only hot tub with a sliding roof, he changed his plans when Career Planing & Resources convinced him money was more needed for summer internships.
This is fitting given Dave’s own experiences. During college summers, he worked as a steelworker, which he called “one of the dirtiest, unpleasant and dangerous industrial jobs there is.”
“I’m pleased to be able to help Scripps students experience better summers during college than I did,” Dave said. “Me and the dogs are grateful for all the kindness shown to us by many years of Scripps students and staff.”
In his free time, he also enjoys sailing his 25-foot sailboat, the Event Horizon, in Marina del Rey and is always looking for 5C students to join his crew. So next time you are passing through Vita Nova, stop by and pet the dogs, have a chat, and maybe sign up to go sailing with your new friend Dave the Dog Man.