I was enjoying a rare treat: a Saturday off. As I indulged in one of my guilty pleasures, watching the Saturday afternoon block of cooking shows on my local public television station, the practice phone rang. It was a call from the one of the local animal shelters. The agent was checking on one of my clients. She was at the shelter to adopt a dog and had used me as a reference. Although I thought the questions were a bit intrusive, I answered them to the affirmative and happily. When asked if had anything additional I would like to tell them about my client, I told them “That is one lucky dog.” The call brought a smile to my face and a bit of a surprise. It was in stark contrast to the call I had received from the same client exactly a week earlier. At this point, a bit of back story is needed.
Eight months earlier, she lost her beloved 13 year old standard poodle due to a chronic muscle wasting disease. She had become my client and subsequently my friend after asking me to provide hospice care for her pet. After doing the best we could to maintain a good and painless quality of life for several months, the time to perform the inevitable task of euthanasing her beloved pet arrived. Though we both knew that day would come and we prepared as best we could, she was heartbroken. As I have often heard when a pet is lost, she repeatedly exclaimed “I will never own another dog.” She had always had dogs so I knew it was a statement of grief and eventually she would have a new dog in her life.
Early this month, I received a similar call from a shelter asking for an adoption reference for my client. She had adopted a year and a half old female larger breed dog which had been surrendered by a family who did not have time for her. She is big and goofy with lots of puppy energy. She was very well behaved, house trained and super affectionate. She was an over grown lap dog that loved being with people and got along great with my client’s cat and with other dogs. I was invited over especially to meet the new addition and give my assessment of her behavior. Our only concern was all that excess puppy energy, but we found and enrolled her in a training program to address that issue. She was ecstatic and knew she had made the right decision because she had not picked the dog, the dog picked her. All was well and whole in her home again. Now back to the call of a week earlier.
It was a late Saturday afternoon after a long day of work. I was exhausted and had been home long enough to sit in my chair and doze off, so I hadn’t been home very long at all. I was awakened buy my friend’s call. “I need you to come over. Something terrible has happened!” she exclaimed frantically through her sobs. I loaded up my truck and headed out, not knowing what to expect but expecting it to be bad. I didn’t know the half of it.
I arrived and entered the home. The white tile floor was covered with large bloody dog tracts. I was met by my client and her friend, both sobbing and saying, “She killed him! She killed him!” as they pointed to a bedroom. I followed their directions and the bloody tracts into the bedroom and saw the body of another of my patients motionless in a pool of blood.
My client and her friend had been out for a day of shopping and lunch. They decided to leave the two dogs together at home to keep each other company. The dogs were not strangers and had spent lots of time together, but never alone. My client’s new dog was at least twice the size of the other dog who was an energetic mixed breed. The two had always gotten along and played well together. Apparently the play had gotten out of hand and turned fatal. She had never shown any signs of aggression toward any other dogs or the cat with which she shared a home. We had a discussion about what happened and what should be done next. They both repeatedly expressed their remorse of the choice of leaving the pets together and how they will never have another dog again. I stressed what happened was neither of their fault and this was all a tragic accident.
A decision was reached. The beloved pet could no longer be trusted and the memory of what had occurred was just too much. The difficult decision was made to euthanize her. My client and her friend were racked with sadness and grief for the loss of their pets and the terrible decision we all made. I performed the procedure, cleaned up the aftermath, and the grim task of delivering the bodies to the crematorium.
I think it can be understood why the call from the adoption facility was a surprise and brought a smile to my face. My client and her friend had found a way through the grief and negated their exclamation “I will never have another dog again.” Sometimes “never” is not very long at all.
Dr. Pierre Bland is a small animal practitioner who offers office and house call appointments to his clients. His offices are located at 3225 N. Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL and can be reached at 954 673-8579.