Monday, June 10, 2019

The Lost Lessons In Practicing Euthanasia. How Practice Never Made Perfect.

I call myself a mom.. I have had many children.. All were mine to bring into my world, and too many have been lost along the way. A mom is a person who dedicates their lives to the rearing of others. I qualify. I mother. I rear. It counts regardless of skin tone or degree of lacking alopecia.

My kids all have been four legged and furred. They were, are, and will remain, my everything, my world.
Me, Charlie and Storm
To say this is to be honest. To live this has been the greatest gift. The loss the hardest to ever try to live through.

My pup Jekyll. I miss him everyday.
It was exactly what propelled me into veterinary medicine. The force that drove me to study, sacrifice and the proudest moment yet; to accept that medical license and finally start being the girl I had always dreamt I would become. Veterinary college graduation was the culmination of a long heart driven journey. When your path is so narrow, your vision so focused, and your goal so precise you forego or forget everything along the periphery. You lose, or rather sacrifice, many other aspects of yourself along the way. It is the cost and the price for a big prize.

I didn't always have a singular calling. I had many visions of following the artistic coercion. To dance, to draw, to write. My truest passion lies in these. The longing to drown in color. Speak in landscapes, and captivate in portraits. I was the visual kind of autistic child. I was also the product of a parent and a society that measured worth by productive net income. There is a small part of me that would have never allowed myself the freedom to be the artist. To surrender a life dedicated to helping other lives for the pleasure of just expressing and sharing joy. I keep that girl quiet inside of me, but, she is still the persona who wears the pants of my soul. She is the caged bird I wouldn't let myself frolic in. She is selfish, frivolous, undervalued and less vital to the word she lives in. She is kept quiet for reasons I have a harder time justifying.

I was called to vet medicine from the passionate seduction of art because it is difficult to be immersed and devoted to both. But, like every mom we make sacrifices for our kids and suppress the self for their time with us.

The loss of them, the family I have known and loved along these many years, has been more than I can describe. The pain, the visceral sense of loss and loneliness when their presence is no longer palpable has been the most devastating moments of this life. No matter how long it has been, how far removed I have become from them I still long for them to return. I still reel with anxiety that it wasn't the right thing to do. Did I let them go to soon? Were there options left to try? Something I missed? For as many times, almost daily, that I have to confess to a client that I fear the case is lost, the battle too stacked against us, I still can't forgive myself for giving up on my kids. I decided but I still question if it was ever really their time? It is the consequence to loving so much, and having to decide when to say goodbye. They can both be a curse.

I have to say I never walked away feeling as if I had been selfish, or waited too long, or even whether or not I made the right decision. I still know it had to come to saying goodbye, but, I didn't know that exact moment. The year, maybe, the month possibly, the day, perhaps,, but that single moment of farewell.. well, I never come to terms with the moment of adieu.. I know it wasn't the right thing to give up on them. To ever give up. To not wait out another miracle another day from now. You can buy, beg, or bury yourself in a minute, but a day longer was never mine to squander or spare.

There is me, the veterinarian mom,, who has to analyze, judge, decide, quantify, and bear responsibility for the first and last steps of her kids lives, and then there is me, the veterinary mom to the patients I hold so dear. I have a tough enough time consoling myself in that last few steps of a life, never mind the steps for those clients to have to navigate it on their own. How can I make it easier for them if I can't offer the same for me?

How I have wished that I could be that all knowing god. The one who walks into the exam room, places the hand on the dying and says something so powerful it can suck up the grief and the doubt and fill the room with peaceful permission embraced in the arms of the better place we are promised to be delivered to.

I never know what to say. I never know how to not internalize that patients suffering to knit it into something soothing and consoling. Like an embrace you dolefully succumb to.

I fear I say stupid things, like, "I'm sorry." For whatever good that does anyone, but, sorry?, which I am genuinely. Is that enough?

Or, I mutter that I "know how impossibly difficult this is".. which I do.. does that help? Is it relevant? Comforting?

Can't I just be quiet? Collect the last moments of the color, the breath, the rhythmic pulses of the lungs pulling me into their struggle? There isn't any courage or bravery nor any point in trying to deny them.

There is no right place to say goodbye. It always comes too soon. No right time. We are never prepared. There isn't any argument I haven't had, nor, game I wouldn't play with either the white winged good angel or the red leather horned bad one that I wouldn't have considered? It was not a place for decorum or grace. It was ugly and full of anger as I questioned my failed attempts to buy more time. More good days lost in each other.

There are people who are truly gifted at being the guide as the after life acquires the present. People who can softly encourage the fear to be greeted with acceptance and even desire. Convince us that the next place is kinder, gentler, and more welcoming than this one. I'm not sure if it is congruent to be a healer, a fighter of the preservation of life and the giver of death via a quiet syringe of sleep. I haven't come to terms with how to fiercely be the former, the girl I forced to submit my own calling to be the artist, and the girl who trained to be disciplined, methodical, and follow a scientific approach to every problem, AND, then be the priestess providing last rights when the high command calls.

You can get stuck in trying to define, refine and serve a purpose inside and out of yourself,,, never mind the figuring out how to deliver the request to seek the end of suffering.

I fumble, a lot. Internally and verbally. It's the price a veterinarian pays when your quest to wear the coat turns you into a warrior for saving lives in a society with disposable values.

Here is a video of my dear friend Kim, talking about her recent experience with me, at the clinic when she had to say goodbye to her beloved Gracey. Kim also works at our local funeral home so she adds a perfect insight to loss and how we manage the passing of the lives important to ours.

It's been years of beating myself up over euthanasia's. Not knowing what to say, what not to say. How to act. Wanting to melt into a pile of tears with every grieving pet parent I sit next to as they say goodbye to their own beloved. Relive the pain of my own goodbyes as they begin theirs. I understand. I really do.

I can offer empathy. Genuine heart felt empathy. But I cannot say that every request for passing that I am asked for is with selfless merit, nor, internal conflict with the consequences of denial. I am truly lucky to know such wonderful generous loving people in my practice. People who helped me grieve my own losses. People who shared their impossible goodbyes with enough trust to allow me to be present. But, I long for a day when euthanasia isn't an option. I think I have come to this. To that place where pets all die of old age, disease we cannot cure and a place in our hearts that is empty after they are no longer with us. What else is the option? Economic euthanasia? Convenience euthanasia? Depopulation euthanasia? They all exist as the counter to our ability to decide another life. The lives of my kids, and others who never knew the love of a mom.

To all of you out there facing, or having faced the loss of your beloved pets I offer this small piece of advice.. Find someone who you connect with. It's ok to give yourself the time to grieve, however you want to. Follow the guidance of your heart. It will never deceive you. Every right decision lies in that place.

And to all my absent kids, wherever you are, your mom loves you. She will see you again someday.

For more information on anything and everything pet related please ask us for free at

For more information on Jarrettsville Veterinary Center please visit our Facebook page, or website;

I am also posting lots of informative videos at my YouTube channel here.

Thank you for reading and sharing your life with the companions who remind us why life is worth working so hard to keep them in the lifestyle they have grown accustomed to.

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Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Day After The Courtroom

I have this alter ego. This girl I sometimes imagine I might,,, could,, would want to be. She's bad ass, of course.. She's a lot like me but she wears more black skin-tight Lycra, and packs small sharp objects that are lethal. Her hair is perfectly coiffed, always falls into place after a tussle with the bad guy (who, by the way, is dashingly handsome and a little alluring, but, still despicable). She has a dazzling white tiled smile and can swallow a jigger of anything you slam in front of her. Stoically sober, somewhat toxic. She slays international spy crimes, in her spare time. We occasionally hang. When her schedule permits.

The rest of my day to day life exists in patent leather professional grade platforms. The kind you can have peed on and wipe clean between appointments. My weapons of choice; exam gloves and a stethoscope. Pinpoint accuracy is possible with only my five senses. I'm still very talented and adept, but, it's not so apparent to the crowd around me. It's not lucrative enough to permit a British green convertible race car to course the European ledges and byways with, but, it's my life and I worked damned hard to get here.

I am a veterinarian by day, romantic day-dreamer seeking glamorous other lifestyle by night. (Truth is my night life is my Wren, my sweet humming-purr kitty at my pillow top and my puppies hogging the bed beside me,, and they suit me just fine).

Occasionally I dabble. Don a persona of the girl I could have been,, haven't yet become. We swap spaces, walk in each others shoes, for just a few moments, every few years in between, like old lost cousins.

Yesterday it was Krista Magnifico, Esquire. Yesterday the courtroom called and I became the calculating conniving counselor in flashy suits and wing tips. All slick meets strategically sarcastic yet ventriloquist smiling. The Cheshire Cat grimacing as I attempt to intellectually eviscerate my opponent. Not the proud profession I belong to, but, a queerly quizzical place to free fall down the rabbit hole. Being a lawyer is all cunning seductive entrapment, and get to wear waaaay more fashionable clothes. We all need a little show off time every so often. Especially when your ready-to-wear closet includes only elastic waist band scrubs and disposable bio-hazard garb. Even my undergarments are tragically plain in my vet day to day life.

Yesterday we, the collective small army of five veterinary trained women, marched into the courthouse clutching a folder of evidence, records, and police reports in hand. I summoned my alter ego Angelina and strutted in the metal detector doorway confident and coy. Subpoenas had been issued. Two of them. We were showing up to fight, and we were armed with a hundred papers to slay our "respondent." It all centered around an 8 pound Yorkie found wandering on a busy road, about to become carrion.

If you aren't well trained for battle numbers count. Under the advisement of the bailiff, an older guy who clearly knew the ropes, I collected a few worn out over-copied memos and scribbled the names of everyone involved who wasn't already on my payroll. The roster included the finder of the Yorkie that all the hubbub centered around, and the Animal Control Officer who failed to meet or follow the legal requirements and in essence lit the fuse that was the fireworks of last Wednesday.

Here's a brief synopsis of the events that led us to the courtroom;

At approximately 6:30 pm a week before a Good Samaritan arrived at the clinic with a small, poorly groomed Yorkie in hand. The tiny pup was wearing an old green collar, had a face full of matted overgrown hair, was intact (hence the wandering attitude) and was underweight, under-muscled, and unkempt. We first did what we always do; scanned for a microchip. None was found. We took his photo and I give him an examination as we are told that he was found running loose on a very busy road. I looked for signs of trauma and injury and assessed whether he is safe to be left at the clinic alone, or, needs to be sent to the ER. The finder expressed that she could not take him to her home as she had big dogs and was concerned about the Yorkie's safety.

I ok'd leaving him with us at the clinic overnight.

We posted this about 30 minutes later, which was after closing;

JVC Facebook post

Found dog- currently at Jarrettsville Vet. Male Yorkie. Found on Route 23. Will be transported to HSHC in the morning.

Overnight this post was shared hundreds of times. It reached thousands of people. By the morning multiple people had expressed concern that it might be their dog.

The amazing power of social media proved itself to be invaluable once again.

By opening time of 8 am the next morning a woman had arrived at the clinic to claim "her" dog. She stated the dog on the post was "hers." We asked for some kind of proof of ownership? She had none. (Who among us doesn't have a photo (or hundreds in my case) of their pets on their phone)? She became frustrated, short tempered and her husband coincidentally called at the same time to "demand we release the dog to his wife!" The staff dug their heels in, as they should have. They tried, and failed to talk to them calmly and reasonably. When the screams turned into threats the demands were met by the next place we can go. The front staff called for help from the Office Manager, who promptly called for help the Animal Control Officers who works under the Sheriff's department. One arrived within minutes. It should have ended then and there. SHOULD, but, didn't. It became increasingly heated, ugly and uncomfortable for everyone involved. The Office Manager went out of her way with an angry, ungrateful, obstinate demanding owner, and still tried to help by calling the pets previous vet (as per pups purported owner) to see if they could help with a way to tie this pup to this owner. The dog, who I had estimated to be 8-10 years old due to the degree of dental disease present, hadn't been seen by the vet we called in over 5 years. Vet practices are required to keep records for 5 years, after that we usually dispose of them for storage purposes. The woman said her dog was 4. The math didn't add up. Further, all dogs are required to be vaccinated for rabies. After the first year long vaccine given between 3-4 months old, it needs to be boosted every 3 years. No vaccines were on record by the previous vet or the proposed owner. Dogs must be licensed. No license, no tags, no chip, no vaccines, no vet records. Belligerent people still yelling. What to do next?

The worst, absolutely, worst thing that we could have done at this point was hand over a dog to the wrong person. Have you got any idea what terrible fates can befall "free" dogs? 

The failure as I see it lay on Animal Controls part to intervene and act as the overseer for the pup in this case allowed for the one mistake this case, with these people, that caused a Peace Order to be needed and sought. Animal Control discussed options with the proposed owner that made it appear as if we were the party both responsible and capable of deciding the fate of this dog. We called Animal Control because of two reasons; one, we genuinely did not know who this dog belonged to and it is not our place, position, or even ability to decide. Two, the owner was argumentative, escalating, and attempting to bully, intimidate and coerce the staff. Asking us whether we wanted to keep the dog in front of the owner, or send it to the shelter left the owners thinking we had the right to decide. We, do, and would have if the pet was injured or needed immediate medical attention. If he had I would have transferred him the night before to the ER for care. This was never our pet to return, nor, our decision to make. AC knew better. They added fuel to a fire. They didn't want to get involved, I suppose, or, they didn't want to make a trip to the shelter. We paid the price for that. Eventually the officer, the pup and the owners left. All headed to the county animal shelter to duke it out under a different roof.

It didn't however end the anger. What followed with us was a barrage of slanderous, inaccurate posts on social media. Centered around how "we only cared about money." As if any had been exchanged? (It hadn't). And, that "we were sending this pup to be killed." Which he wasn't and wouldn't have been.

The Sheriff's department was called, again. They sent over two officers within minutes. This time it wasn't Animal Control, it was Officers. I asked them plainly and simply if someone could please call these pups people and explain the law to them? They said that they already had. The officers disappeared into their patrol cars for what seemed like far too long to make sense. They returned with a pamphlet and one single piece of advice. "The only way we can enforce any ceasing of harassment is with a peace order. Here is where you go to get one."

Off to the courthouse I hoofed. Here is the video of that experience;

Here is the first video of this arduous day; What would you do if someone brought in a pet who looked like they didn't have adequate veterinary care, had no identification of anytime and people who are threatening, intimidating and demanding for a pet they cannot provide proof of as being theirs. This is what these situations look like.

In the middle of this fiasco I was standing in a courtroom asking a judge for a Peace Order, trying to explain that I was doing everything I could to protect a pet in need and stay compliant with the requirements of the law. I was also apologizing for the ridiculousness of this request. It comes down to some person being nothing more than selfish and not putting their pet first. It is that simple.. The pet comes first.  

After the Peace Order was issued the Sheriffs Department delivered the order. Finally the barrage of angry insulting family stopped. Finally. It was a social media blitz of people who aren't clients, don't know us at all, and have no ability to be grateful that we provided vet care, food, shelter, and most importantly, kindness. This is the greedy, selfish, angry and frankly dangerous world we sometimes find that we live in.

This is also the shit that the service providers in this current culture deal with. What is the consequence? I know almost every vet around me doesn't intervene. They don't take in 'found' pets. They send them with the finder straight to the shelter. They stay out of it. Safe. Quiet. Distant, and, I would add sadly, very much not intervening on the pets behalf when they are in need.

This is what all of the appearances in court were about. Defending my staff who still cares. Taking the brunt of the anger from a convicted felon on probation in society who still thinks they can yell, scream and demand via sheer brute arrogant force a person they don't even know.

The Judge asks, "how do you know this person?" 

"I don't. He's just some guy who didn't get what he wanted. So he escalated to every avenue he could think of,, and then he invited his family to his smear campaign party." 

It's ridiculous. Ridiculous people can't be civil. Can't be kind. Can't start with a carrot instead of always picking up the stick. It's insane I would ever let my staff feel like I don't have their back when a jerk stands in front of them. 

Confrontational people stumble in your door. What you do with them is your option. We are all well versed in trying to talk down a lunatic, but, when the lunatic threatens, escalates, intimidates just call the authorities. Hope you don't get a lazy lawman trying to just make their own life easier. Trying to get through their day with the minimal involvement in time or energy possible. It's no different with any member of any service based profession, your vet, your doctor, you law enforcement agent. If they can't do their job to your satisfaction go over their head. Demand they refer you to someone who can. 

All in this rescue operation for a little found Yorkie pulled two judges, four officers, and five staff members time. 

What was the result? Probably a felon having to pay for his snappy lawyers time. The staff of JVC being hesitant to help the next lost/found pet in need, and that poor pup still not being vaccinated, microchipped, neutered or groomed.. as hard as I tried there is never a winner. I actually didn't even head into that courtroom seeking what every plaintiff does,, revenge, restitution, resolve.. or winning. I went in to try to remain committed to helping the next pet who needs us. To not fall victim to a dark side of society bent on breaking the compassion of others. I went to take a piece of that jerks arrogance. To stand up when everyone else wouldn't. To remind myself that we cannot defend the defenseless when you are too afraid to open your mouth and fight a bully.

I received a lot of advice from a plethora of friends after I posted the four videos that I made throughout that day. Most of it was to not publicize the lost pets who were brought to us. We were advised to spare ourselves the personal exposure. To just follow the letter of the law and pass these pets along to the shelter. Quietly. Although I know it came from a genuine place of concern as a way to avoid the pitfalls this pup presented, I also know that our Facebook post got this pups family found in minutes. Far faster and far more effective than just shipping him to the shelter. That part of this escapade worked in the pups favor. 

I also received advice on the tools available to expunge ones social media dirty slanderous messages. Firms I could hire to eradicate the negative reviews and the hateful posts. Quite honestly, I feel that these ranting people just placed the rope around their own necks. You put that hate out there and it comes back to you. I would rather defend my actions in helping this pup then be looked upon as not being compassionate enough to provide safe keeping for a night like so many others do. They sounded like fools. Its harder to defend that than one sided slander.

In the end the two negative reviews they left got us a hundred excellent ones. The slime slander got washed out anyway. Diluted like a stain too transient to hold.

Moving forward we made some changes. The staff is still taking in found pets. We are still keeping track of them. Making a medical file for each. Assisting Animal control in prosecuting the cases of abuse and neglect. Standing stronger in knowing we face potential anger when we do, but more confident that the important part is to stand ready and kind to the pets we are bound to protect. The people who truly love their pets understand this. The rest are hiding something that perhaps isn't worthy of unconditional love to begin with.

No good deed goes unpunished, and the meek don't inherit a second chance often enough. 

So, what would you have done in our shoes? Help a dog just found running in the road who needed a place to stay overnight?

Would you have made his whereabouts public to hope it helps him find his home?

Or would you look back on this experience, the having to call the cops, the barrage of social media slander, as unwarranted as it was, watching people you care about be yelled at, bullied, intimidated, and asking themselves if they did the right thing, if this stupid job of trying to help pets is worth all this crap? Having AC act like we shouldn't care so much. Just follow the letter of the law avoid the exposure? The $200 plus bucks and 2 days of court time? 

What would you do?

Me, I'm sticking closer to my alter ego and hoping that Lycra still fits.

Here is the video that closed this day. My parting words and the advice to the rest of the world who thinks there is an easier way out of this that doesn't cost a pet the potential of not finding their owner, or, cost you your ability to remain compassionate.

find your peaceful place, then protect it.

If you are a pet person please join us on We are a community dedicated to inspiring and educating pet centered folks.. Its free for all to use.

For more information on anything and everything pet related please ask us for free at

For more information on Jarrettsville Veterinary Center please visit our Facebook page, or website;

I am also posting lots of informative videos at my YouTube channel here.

Thank you for reading and sharing your life with the companions who remind us why life is worth working so hard to keep them in the lifestyle they have grown accustomed to.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Watching People Ruin Their Pets. When Do You Intervene?

I saw an event unfolding last night that was not new to me, unfortunately.

A young women buoyed down by screaming, demanding, unrelenting children drags her new puppy in the hospital entrance. This puppy is a small, gangly, mopey, shy, quiet, a wallpaper scruffy scrawny little bag of bones. The last in tow.

As with every exam, my clock, the time you pay me for, begins the moment I set eyes on you and your pet. Being a vet who can only obtain the clues your patient can't verbally provide for you, is about observance. I do most of my work without the client talking or my hands on my patient. In many cases up to and almost 50 % of what I need to know comes from me just watching you and your pet interact before I even start taking notes.

This puppy was perfect. I knew he was perfect within the first minute of seeing him interact, or rather not react to this chaotic crew. He kept his nose down, his tail low, and his feet nimble. He went where directed, no argument, no challenge, no expectations. He sat next to a child ignoring him,,, the ipad was far too captivating. He rested his head on the baby seat carrier next to two month old toes wailing for a binkie. This puppy was last on the totem pole and he was so comfortable with this lot he had been lowered into that he didn't ask for anything more.

I loved him completely for just being so content in the cacophony of cries he misplaced himself within.

My pup Fripp. Abandoned in a box on the side of the road at 2 months old.

Trust me when I say this: puppies are born perfect. People screw them up. Even people who aren't trying to do it intentionally. It's just like kids. Why do they care so much about your opinion of them? Why are teenagers so internally conflicted? Fight so hard, care so much to be accepted? Because that's what youth costs. Puppies, like kids, need time, attention, acceptance, patience, and they need you to as much as possible. They need you to put them before yourself. That's what maturity costs. Juveniles often cannot articulate the exact origin of their dismay, but you know there is conflict if they aren't fitting into your life. The hard part isn't recognizing there is an issue, the hard part is stepping out of your own demanding, busy shoes and trying to fit your fleshy feet into their furred paws. March to the beat of a life without schedules, jobs, financial pressures. These are your problem, not theirs. They cannot relate to you. What happens when old and tired meets new and energetic? Division. Division leeches adoration. Puppies and kids need adoration. Maybe above all else.

My pup Storm. Abandoned at a shelter in NC.

I see far too many new pet parents who hold angst. Many know there is a problem. They can state it in pointed fingered deficiencies.

"It was a puppy mill puppy," (from which they paid for knowingly..), therefore insinuating every issue stems and is related to this... an excuse for us is easier than a plan to overcome.

"She was abused,,, " often a specific example follows to solidify the defense claim, "by a man with a hat. We know that because she is always afraid around men with hats." (Maybe she never had seen a man with a hat before? And, the point is??).

"She can't be crated." (I promise this is not her fault. It's why we start crate training at adoption. You don't go to any shelter in the world and see a room of "uncage-able" pets do you?).

"She can't walk on a leash." (what?)

"She doesn't like other dogs." (OK, that's setting her up for a big problem when an emergency happens, and it's also not fair to her to be so afraid of her own brethren. It's why we socialize as puppies. And, who was responsible for that?).

For new pets these issues, amongst the too numerous others, cause conflict. For the parents it adds stress and angst to an often already overburdened life.

Please don't give me, the veterinarian, the laundry list of "can't" or excuses as to why it "can't" be resolved.. I don't want to hear it. I don't subscribe to it, and, most importantly it isn't helping anyone involved. If you are giving me a problem that is affecting your pets ability to fit into your family we have to address it, solve it, and be prepared for other problems to follow. A road block is a dead end. More of these are likely to follow too.

My pups; Storm, Charlie (my local shelter rescue), Fripp.
All are PERFECT!
In some cases pet parent can't define the exact source of the angst, but, its palpable, and it's looming. I have to ask them to look at themselves? How did they contribute, exacerbate, precipitate, create the issue? It didn't happen without someone responsible for it. It is us, humans, never them. They are perfect. Your job, as their parent, their lifeline to everything in this world, is to help them feel that they are loved unconditionally. Isn't that after all the attraction to them we hold?

After they have tried to solve the source of their angst at home, usually with even more destructive options: like crating all day to avoid the chewing destruction. Chaining outside to avoid the inability to housebreak. Bark collars to shut them up. (They are barking for a reason, ever think of that?). Letting them run loose, because it is "natural." like the "natural" hit by car? After all of this fails they come to see me.

Serafina.. found after being hit by a car, multiple fractures,,,
my favorite part of my work day.

To be very successful in the capacity I wish to be as the family veterinarian, I think that I need a sociology, psychology, social worker and law degree, on top of my vet degree. People screw up everything. I know its not exactly the answer your therapist provides, but, damn, it's what the real life vet believes. YOUR PUPPY IS PERFECT! IT'S YOU. I'm sorry. YOU!

I have three perfect puppies who have been brought to me this year with owners who can't find the reason when they look into their doe eyes to want to keep  them. And, its always the same. It's always the same thing that I hear. "They (the accusatory kind of they), don't do...." whatever. The complaints at the end of the sentence might be a little varied, but essentially these clients want a quick fix to get this puppy to meet the restrictive containment of their humans life. They need to pee or poop less. They need to be quieter in the crate for longer periods of time. They need to bark, play, and overall NEED less." It is a recipe for disaster when these requirements meet my clinic. How can I possibly cure your overwhelming life? It's not your puppies fault you have no time for them. They are demonstrating that you have no time for them. Their lack of training, their rambunctious, unmet energy is your failing. Not theirs.

Here's last nights scenario;

This client had just gotten her puppy. He was 5 months old. (Not the typical new puppy age).

"Where has he been?" I inquired.

"He failed out of a service dog program because he had separation anxiety." She then went on to describe how he was so anxious and afraid being left in his crate that she was finding him covered in his own urine and feces every time she left him alone in it. After some heated phone calls between the previous owner, (the supposed service dog training mom), it was discovered that he had never actually been crated, and he had never been left alone. Obviously he wasn't going to jump into a crate and be left alone and be happy about it. He had been set up to fail. Who created the separation anxiety? his previous mom. Some human set him up to be screwed in his next life with the inability to be crated, and never having been left alone. It isn't fair for him to be punished now for things he never learned. Sadly his next life hit him at 5 months old. I was also pretty perplexed how this could be any legit service dog organization? Of course he failed. He was destined to only fail. His new family consisted of a newborn baby, (like those we time stamp in weeks), and a three year old.. who liked to push buttons. The dog was for him, the three year old. He may be capable of feelings, but all I saw was indifference to anything other than the ipad. And three is too young. I stand by this. If you are an adult and you want a dog , fine, thumbs up, go for it.. but your kids under 10, you cannot convince me they are capable of the focus and attention a puppy requires. Stop setting the kids and the dog up to fail. Who is going to pay the consolation prize? The dog, always the dog.

Pets require time. Just like kids. When their needs are not met to their satisfaction they escalate. They escalate until the demand is manifested as a scream. And they tend to be the squeaky wheel that gets the time and attention and toy. The pets in highly active families learn to adapt. They are excellently skilled at adapting, but, they still need you. Many can adapt to being content tag-alongs; off to the beach, the lacrosse field, the family outings together. But, an untrained, unversed puppy, they are too much to manage on top of your kids.. so they get left behind. They get crated. Often too often when life gets too crazy to accommodate them.

When I am asked how much crate time is ok? I have to answer that every pet is different. But in general the puppies that are 8 weeks to 4 months old need lots of playtime.. like at least 4 hours a day. They need to be walked every 2-4 hours. During this time we work on leash walking, potty training. It is their time with you. They need to be fed 3 times a day. And they pee and poop A LOT! It's a full time job. If you already have a full time job and two full time kids why are you getting a puppy?

I make the mistake of asking. I am always met with indignation. Want seems to be an acceptable answer.. but, it doesn't serve your puppy. What is right for them?

It is my job, my purpose, my place to put them in front of your needs. To not set them up for failure. To find the place in your family where they belong, just as they are, a child growing and evolving and learning. Living to be a part of the place you are already solidly within, and  they are not.

I have watched too many families ruin a perfect puppy because they cannot put the puppy in front of themselves. there is no room in their too busy and cluttered life to allow them to grow, branch out, learn what works and doesn't. They are expected to be completely pre-programmed. Know what the dog before them, who had 14 years to figure it out did, and they are then brought to me.

The puppy I met last night was being diapered and drugged to fit better into the morning routine. Which allowed him time outside by himself while the kids and adult were getting ready. Wake at 430, leave at 630, no time  to play. He was fed, put outside and then crated. His frustration with this schedule was displayed by coming unraveled to the point he covered herself in his own pee and poo.

Mom wanted a stronger medication than her OTC to resolve the issue.

There are times I want to abandon civilization. Die in my own white coat and spare the pets of the world the neurosis we inflict upon them.

And yet I stay standing.

"Your puppy was set up to fail by his first family. He is being set up to fail again. He needs more time and attention. When he doesn't get her needs met he escalates. (Sound like your kid at the grocery store?). When he is ignored enough times he will develop his own bad habit, like barking, biting, growling, becoming aggressive, or even withdrawn. He is going to try everything he can to get the time and attention he needs. (I want to add hear in bold print AND DESERVES! but I am still dealing with a human who is putting her last and that won't work).

Melt down begins. "So you are telling me there is no answer?"

"No, I am telling you that we both recognize there is a problem. If you can't give him the time and attention he needs you can either pay someone else to do it; daycare, dog walker, etc. Or, you can re-home him so she can try to have his needs met elsewhere, Or do what I do, and, get a puppy for your puppy. But, there is no way around the needing to find more time dilemma."

I think I spoke to her for over an hour. I tried every imaginable conceivable idea I could muster.

In the end she wanted medication. It came back around to this.

"Medication is used while a behavior plan is being formulated. It is a bridge to allow time for the training to solidify. If medications are used and training fails the medication may need to be continued for years, maybe indefinitely."

"I am on anti-anxiety medication."

"Were you started on it when you were three? So you wouldn't cry? Or need a diaper?"

In the end I fear for this perfect pup. I fear he will be lost in the family that has no time for him. Lost in the expectations he hasn't been made privy to. Lost in the drugs his mom is intent on finding for him. And lost to a society that cannot possibly solve the problems that mount.

As she left she said to me that " She has lost her hope." I am losing mine too, I wanted to reply.

I want to add here that as frustrated, afraid, and concerned as I am, I recognize the scenario doesn't have a lot of options. And, I also recognize and verbalized that this mom needs to take care of herself too.. she, in typical mom fashion, dismissed this as relevant. My job is to be her puppies advocate. I have to figure out a way to help her help him. I HAVE TO! We BOTH have to...

Here's my recommendation for this puppies current dilemma. Crate for varying periods of time throughout the day, but, only after periods of playtime, exercise, training (remember training, yeah, this is so often over looked I cannot even mention it. Add another source of setting up to fail). Someone needs to be more  focused and generous to this puppy. NOW. The reply I got was, "there is no time." face palm.

When do  I intervene? When does my perception of the road ahead, the awful scenarios I have already witnessed; the dogs who resort to biting for attention and are euthanized because of it, and the dogs sent to live their lives alone in a cage, a chain, a shelter because they were perfect once and are ruined now?

I offered to re-home him. I offered to keep helping. Take the puppy during the week when mom was at work. It seemed that no matter what  I offered it wasn't the right answer.

The true joy in having a companion is watching them evolve into their own being. The antics, preferences, idiosyncrasies, quirks, etc. etc.., i.e. recognizing they are their own individual who enriches our lives as they live their own within the family we create for them. To try to mold them into what is easy or efficient for us is setting them up to fail. We know that for ourselves and our children already, don't we?

Muffins, one of our many clinic cats..
She was once feral. She now lives her life on her terms, and is unwanted because no one can see her for her, and love her in spite of it, except for us.

Medicine is as much intervention as it is hope. I question when to do either in a greater degree often. When do I intervene? Often and early. Every pet I fear is being forgotten, neglected, abused, or dismissed gets an intervention plea. Every, Single, One. I give out my email, my phone number, make an intro with my Office Manager (who has three kids and is far more adept at compromise than I), and I make weekly phone calls to inquire. I also offer to re-home. I know what shelters know. That if I can't fix it that pet will pay for it.. Bring them to me before dumping at a shelter. It happens. People screw them up and then give them up.

When clients arrive who cannot see their own participation in the poisoning of their pet, or, when blind pride will cost them a happy pet soul, I resort to hope. It's all I can do in some cases.

P.S. I wish more than anything that I could post the photos that I have of these pups. How much I worry for them every single day. And, how much I have to lean on hope because my influence of medical intervention limits my ability to stalk their homes. Why isn't there a social service for pets? Why? Because we live in a country where pets are property. Their rights end at food, water, shelter, and abuse.. not the kind that includes mental well-being and kindness that exceeds empathy.

Poe, our parvo puppy.
Puppies get sick, they need lots of time, training and vet care.. it is why they are often the most susceptible to abandonment, financial, emotional or otherwise.
Here's my real-life chart of euthanasia, abandonment, and pet related vulnerability;
X axis; age of pet; months to years
Y axis; desire to intervene on pets behalf to include; emotionally, financially, and medically.. new pets get a fraction when compared to pets in the family for years, as they age it declines. Based on my experience alone.

For related blogs see;

The Real Cost Of A Puppy. Parvo Puppy Poe.

Second Chance Cole. Your pet can live without and past you.

The Challenges Of Puppy Adoptions/Purchase

Planning Your Pets Lives Beyond Your Own.. A Moms Guide To Pet Parenting,,,

Top 10 Mistakes New Pet Parents Make 

Want to know what kills me? Watching a person ruin a perfect soul. Happens. That's what costs me my soul saving soul.

For more information on anything and everything pet related please ask us for free at

For more information on Jarrettsville Veterinary Center please visit our Facebook page, or website;

I am also posting lots of informative videos at my YouTube channel here.

Thank you for reading and sharing your life with the companions who remind us why life is worth working so hard to keep them in the lifestyle they have grown accustomed to.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Spring Floribundant. Reflections on old shoes and the new lives filling them.

The first fully warm day of 2019.

The grass is green, climbing, soft and sweet and succulent. It is tall enough to trip over, and in need of a mower already. The flowers are on their second act. The floribundant fireworks display show is eeeking closer. As I lost myself in the tasks of Summer prep, cleaning, weeding, and mental mapping of the days ahead I wait for all year, I got lost.

Multiple times I had to remind myself that this is Storm and Frippies first Summer. That they don't know this part of life with me on the farm with all of the bursting beings about to emerge. All the long days to work the earth. Play in the sunshine. Plot the course of the long days with endless adventures yet to find. They don't know long stretches of days that start and end with the sun in our faces and the bounty in between our toes. They don't know where water bowls are. Dog beds for all weather napping, and the escapes under the bushes where the earth is cool and malleable.

They don't know to head for the stream or the pond for a quick dip to feign off the panting fits, even after their big brother by a decade, Charlie, already made two skinny dipping trips in front of them. Charlie's jaunts are obvious to all. His quick departures to the pond elicit screams from the resident pair of geese who see him as an unwanted, untrustworthy invader. The geese take to the water to paddle furiously in circles as they extend their necks and bellow their diaphragm in harassing and chastising profanities.

The puppies are fall babies.. They know what their fate taught them. Shuffling from a home as a newborn, to a dumping ground for unwanted souls, to a shuttle in a rescue van, to a foster home,, and then eventually to our doorstep lost, quiet, and shell shocked..

Winter for them was blood tests. Leash training. Crating for the safety of a quiet place they could call their own. Vaccines, more blood tests, spaying/neutering and multiple debates about their chances of seeing the end of their first year.

They don't know how to be outdoor dogs with a day to play free from a leash or a cage. They don't know this season, but, of all the teaching they needed they don't need to know anything more about it than the joy inherent in its glory.

I have had to remind myself all day that these puppies aren't Jekyll. That there is a new chapter in this new growth around us all and that this new beginning for them is more baby steps. It's Spring for us all. I'm a new mom to puppies who haven't yet been versed on this part of life in this season of so much exploding life and newness.

My kids have fur,, they also own my heart. It's the life of a mom who doesn't define her kids by species.

For all of you moms out there I wish you the happiness and joy that only kids and their unconditional love can bring.

If you are a mom (or dad) dedicated to your companions lives I invite you to join me on It is a place to offer support and assistance to other people who center their lives around the kids they adore. It is free to use and we are building a place for people who love their pets to help each other.

If you have a pet related question you can find me there. If you would like to visit me at the clinic please use our website, or for daily inspiration and smiles like us on Facebook at Jarrettsville Vet or Pawbly.

I also have an informative YouTube channel that you can subscribe to here.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Cryptorchid Neuter Canine. What Happens When Your Dog Doesn't Have His Testicles In The Scrotum?

This is Cash. He is an 11 month old German Shepherd.

He was purchased from a private breeder at 8 weeks old. At his first examination I, his veterinarian, found that only one of his testicles was in the scrotal sac where it belonged. He also has a small umbilical hernia.

Umbilical hernia in the center, shaving the scrotal area for the neuter.
An umbilical hernia can be a very dangerous finding in puppies. If the hernia (a hole the communicates with another adjacent body cavity, in this case the abdomen), doesn't close like it is supposed to then the contents of one space can possibly move between them. In Cash's case his intestines could slip out the open umbilical (belly button) hole. If a piece of intestine slips out we worry that it can twist and strangulate, therefore, inhibiting gut function. This can be fatal. All hernias should be checked by a veterinarian frequently to decide if, or when, surgical intervention is needed. Not all need to be closed, or require surgery, but all need to be monitored very closely and if the hole is big enough to let abdominal contents slip through surgery should be planned as quickly as possible.

Correcting the umbilical hernia
My bigger concern for Cash was his undescended, unpalpable testicle.

The testicle in the abdomen.

Abnormally small (the retained, intra-abdmoninal testicle) on the left,
and, the normal testicle (one in the scrotum) on the right.
Cash was seen by me every 3 weeks for his puppy examinations and vaccines. His missing testicle never made an appearance. At his 6 month exam we discussed giving him another few months to let gravity and maturity see if it could coax anatomy into its correct position. At 10 months old he still didn't have two palpable testes so his family elected to neuter him, correct his umbilical hernia, and perform an exploratory surgery to look for the missing goods.

Pre-op bloodwork ($60 for a partial chemistry and CBC) was done and returned normal.

Surgery included; umbilical hernia repair.
pre-scrotal neuter of the left teste.
abdominal exploratory surgery to find and excise the retained left testicle.

Cash did very well under anesthesia and his testicle was quickly and easily found in the caudal part of his abdomen by his urinary bladder.

cost for surgical care was;
anesthesia, $215, approx 90 minutes
medical pet shirt; $28
suture material; $150
NSAID, for analgesia; $20
antibiotic $$30
hernia repair $75
e-collar $15
castration cryptorchid $300
total about $930

Related Blogs;

Retained Testicle In A Dog.

If you are interested in help for your pet and don't know where to go please find us here at It is a free online community dedicated to educating and inspiring pet people everywhere. It is free to use and open to everyone.

I can also be found at Jarrettsville Vet in Harford County Maryland. Visit our Facebook page here, or see our online Price Guide at our website

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Futility Of It All. How Futility Fuels Empathetic Activism.

Serafina. Her story here 
The futility of it all is ubiquitous if you sit and think about any of it for longer than a moment. This appears to be true because just about everything imaginable can fall into the futility category. Just take a minute and think about a few examples.. You might  have to take a few steps back,, narrow, or widen, the focus, but, it's true.

Or, so I fear most days.

You will die,,, there's a big one. What the heck does it all matter if that is the final thought? Eat more cake. Watch more t.v.. Buy that expensive purse. Live larger, or, live longer,,, (which is it?). Can you do both? Isn't it all futile if a nuke lands in your back yard tomorrow?

It's futile to deny it.. All of it will end. Someday.

But, wait a minute, what about our pets? Those little delightful beings that drive us to do almost everything we so willingly have to do. Like waking  up early on those precious few days off, cleaning (yes, this includes diarrhea and vomit on the living room rug at 2 am, and, hair in every corner of every room). And, don't have to do.. like putting on a pretty dress for our eat-in dinner date together. I swear that my home lives by the motto: "I work hard so my cat doesn't have to." But, is all of this futile? My precious short time with them? My deep adoration toward them? Am I alone in this singular thought that NO! It isn't! They are my life,, certainly that can't be futile? Can it?

Pawbly is the place I chose to put my excess futile efforts outside of my too often also arguably already futile vet practice. (Futility meets its maker on an even larger scale. Yipppeee!). I can't follow any current vet practice ownership model. They have all become too calculating on how to make more money, how to lure more client visits, manage your practice better so it is more efficient AND more profitable. Listen to the experts, embrace the real facts that some people just shouldn't have a pet if they cannot afford them.. we after all are vets, we know everything,,, we should decide who lives and dies and who deserves companionship... yeah, I'm not this person... it's futile for me to try.

Poe. His story here.
There are endless debates about the futility of vet medicine. It is jarring to think about how futile that whole long four years of vet school is as the foundation of ice cream is to its banana creme sundae of my daily futile veterinary life. At least that's what it feels like in this profession on some days. Do you know how many times a day that I have to plead for a patient because I am certain that their treatment will NOT be futile? Or, how many times I have to look at an animal knowing I cannot alter the path they are on already because life as they know it is futile at this juncture. Never mind the even more futile and heart crushing cases that I can intervene on behalf of and SAVE but aren't given the chance to! Yes, I feel like my life, whole veterinary existence, is futile far too often.

For many clients the futility of their pets medical options might be financial constraints, personal issues that preclude ability to preform the treatment or an intervention task needed, or, the awful reality that life is replaceable, expendable, an economic equation, perhaps not just the current status of their health but perhaps their entire existence, and the utter lack of seeing our life as a reflection of others. That's when futility makes this veterinary life almost impossible to bear any longer.

Fripp and Storm. My puppies. Their story here.
The problem as I see it is that whatever I might know, or want to utilize to assist or intervene on behalf of, dish and dole to those who find me, and the importance of life as I see it, is futile when that patients care, or ability to access it is decided by someone lacking the ability to see their life as anything more than, well you know already; futile.

Can you see the dilemma?

The face. The cases you never forget.
It's not the ending of a life at its end from some debilitating destructively devastating disease that rips you to shreds. It's the ending a life at its most vulnerable time of needing me, the vet, to intervene for them and being unable to that makes it all feel futile. Hence, Pawbly. Try to offer more help to more people and deliver it to them for free, (which by the way it most certainly isn't).

Storm. His first appearance here.
It hits me pretty hard on occasion. This dance between navigating selfish decisions, suffering, economics, and easy street to avoid feeling anything. Then the smack in the face of futility wakes me. Pets are at the mercy of people too often. People are governed by motives I cannot always alter. People don't want to be decided for, and far too often they can't see their pets, their dilemmas and their place in altering courses like I can. Futile to try to convince, futile to push, plead, beg, and not permitted to coerce,,, futile.

Serafina.. futility at its best.
Going into every pet related situation as a veterinarian with my automatic assumption that my clients, (I say "my" because I do have invested ownership in them,, I know most other vets say 'the' (always pay attention to grammar,,, imperative of these is the choice of the noun. "Mine" is non-binary, we are all safe with "mine" ,,, use it, mean it, small soapbox diversion ended now),  is setting me up for problems, inevitably. There is this invisible line that seasoned vets learn to nimbly maneuver. Act like the patients best friend if the client can pay, send them to specialists, offer best practice medicine, charge premium for all of it, or, act like the bearer of compassionate euthanasia as their next best option if they can't. Appear to care, but decide who is worthy of our time and expertise based on financial ability first, deem the remaining as futility cases otherwise. Doesn't work for the patient all the time does it? What if I tried to always side with what was best for my patient? Albeit I might be biased, and, I might possess a more tempered professionally honed medical lens to decide who is and isn't likely to live a little longer. What if I just decided that I was my patients advocate and stuck to my guns about it regardless of the finances? Seems easier to tip-toe through this way with a client who might just think that medicine, my whole purpose is just futility dressed up in a white coat. Well, not so fast. I know many a financially sound client who uses a date, age, disease, length of  expected treatment plan, and even degree of personal involvement in said treatment plan, who opts to get another pet as this one doesn't meet their "acceptability" standard any longer. That argument, that plea to intervene on the patients behalf, leaves me with a patient of my own to try to rehome (which oddly has been easier than I assumed), or, a furious client because I am "not honoring their wishes." (Umm, does the pet have a wish? Can I ask? please?).

My Fripp. Found in a box on the side of the road.
If that almost didn't kill her a week in the shelter for her mandatory hold period almost did.

In a deep conversation with the smartest, most successful person I know, the topic of my pet project Pawbly came up. In one second of air sucking despair he gave it to me. The complete futility in the ridiculousness of a business that even a philanthropist would balk at as they dis-considered it. There it was, the perspective of extending compassionate for free care gone, evaporated, scoffed at. Futility Be Mine.

Futile efforts to herd the vacuum.
How interdependent are we all on each other? That's the question I often ask myself as the dog and cat mom to my family. Beauty, in all its intricate delicacy fades. Love herself is futile if you don't jump in and let yourself be brave enough to surrender to it. Be courageous enough to have your heart broken. Willingly. That's the aphrodisiac to futility. There is futility in caring. It will fall away from your fingertips. Leave you. And, yet I stand here stethoscope ready for the next set of futile feet to patter in or fall upon my compassionate driven threshold.

I wander in futility for the opportunity to be met by that every so often occasion where intervention matters, recognized or not. That one little soul who meanders in to my clinic, or, my website, and is able to depart better than they arrived. That one play that shifts the deck in their favor. The win in a sea of losses. The sheer joyful moment where what I have chosen to do with my life matters. The admission that this moment exists outside of every moment of every day where my beloved companions; Charlie, Storm, Fripp, Wren, Jitterbug, Oriole, and Magpie reside. That place where butterflies are air suspended floating winged fairies. Frogs are coins leaping in a fountain, and a new glorious sunrise is at the end of every nap. That omnipresent yearning where bellies are always anxiously awaiting the next treat in the many forms they find them, and nestling fur remains snuggled close the my laying legs with a reassuring resting fingertips to remind them they are safe here. It is the life I choose, futile amongst the otherwise.

As for my largest futile effort, Pawbly, it still matters to me. This wanderlust idea that a place I created can transform a culture into acceptance that we got a few things wrong in our fear to protect our profitability. The futileness in believing that pets matter more then the dictionary portrays them as. That they are our beloved family. Our furred little ones. The idea that our lives are meaningful to each other, and worth the heartbreak the loss will cost us. That believing you can continue to try is worth the heart you wear on your white coated lapel. Profitable or not it's futile to try to take it with you.

The futility is in the trying to get through life without pain, disappointment, or solitude. The futility is denying  that empathy and love solves them all.

Anyone want a feral cat?
Sure,, meet Muffins, one of our JVC kitties.
Here's to endless practicing in futility! The bitter disappointment to futility's attempts to sway my little chips into its magnanimous suit of armor.

And proving myself wrong. That none of this is futile. It's futile to try.

Taking Frippie home.

Related Blogs;

Find What Breaks Your Heart. Why I do what I do in my veterinary practice.

Borrowing Battery Juice. How I utilize the lack of compassion I see too much of as a source of strength.

Affordable Options Are Everyone's Right. Difficult cases, expensive care and how I manage the tenuous cases that present.

The Turtle and the Unicorn. Entrepreneurialism in Veterinary Medicine. My way.

The Year of Year Around Care. Transparency in Jarrettsville Veterinary Center. How we changed the face of our practice to benefit our patients.

If you are interested in help for your pet and don't know where to go please find us here at It is a free online community dedicated to educating and inspiring pet people everywhere. It is free to use and open to everyone.

I can also be found at Jarrettsville Vet in Harford County Maryland. Visit our Facebook page here, or see our online Price Guide at our website