Thursday, September 26, 2019

Hoarders, Surrender, and the Worst Fate of All

"I have such great news! .... My mom found a home for the cats!" 

It is a tough ask; pitching two adult cats to anyone. People adopt babies. Cute fluffy new babies. Teenagers, well, teenagers are a hard tough sell. And yet it happens; life, and it's unforeseeable twists and turns leaves us in a place with pets we are not sure we can care for any longer. None of us want to feel as if our own life is so fragile, so uncontrollable, or, so unpredictable that we are one bad decision, or, phone call away from bankruptcy, homelessness, etc.. But, these things can, and do, happen. People get a twist in the road of life that derails them. They find this place where they are no longer able, or willing (in some cases), to support their pets. What happens to them, our companions we brought into our lives, should we ever find ourselves here? In my life, and this line of work these stories end up as preludes to these dilemmas too often.

A few years ago a house fire threatened to leave a client and his 42 cats looking for new living arrangement options. (Yes, 42!). He began collecting cats as a rescue effort. One or two here or there, a litter became four litters, and 7 years later his 4 bedroom home included 10 to 20 cats in each bedroom. The litter box management alone left everyone smelling like sewage. The house couldn't be kept up. Random pieces of appliances began to fail and he feared letting anyone in to fix anything as the cats would literally be out of the bag. He began using a hot plate, and a kitchen fire happened. Thankfully no one was hurt, but he realized his cats were almost public knowledge, and if this happened he knew his whole life would come under county scrutiny.

This is a man who loves his cats.. Like many hoarders he has more than he can care for and he also believes that surrendering any of them places them at a far greater risk then their current situation where they are overcrowded, underfed, and lacking in basic medical care.

He fears the public more than he can see his participation in the denial of the affection and health to his cats that they so obviously needed. He always believed that his life was managing fine, and his cats are happy because he loved them.

After years of trying to help him and his cats with multiple attempts to spay and neuter everyone (which never happened because the few we couldn't catch were too feral to trap), I realized he didn't really want a population neutral home. He wanted more cats. Kittens to be precise. Kittens made him feel needed. They were so small, vulnerable and often so sick. They needed him to nurse them back to health (because they all were after all unhealthy and always sick), he had concoctions for every ailment. He began to resist spaying the girls because he wanted "to focus on the boys," and, "most were related and they wouldn't mate if they are related, so I didn't have to worry." I spent years begging and pleading him to start considering adopting out some by letting us find homes for the youngest, the friendliest, the ones we knew other families would adopt. But, he would never even consider letting even one go. Not one kitten. Not one feral adult. They all had names given to them as soon as they were born. He knew who was whose grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles, etc. This was his family. He loved them more than he could see what that love was costing them.

After 10 years of seeing bad decline into criminally negligent and mentally incompetent I was broken to resolve that I was merely a spectator watching his cats die more tragic deaths than the parents before them had. The problem over the years had gotten bigger, and more alarming and he just wasn't seeing it. A few timid cats turned into 40 plus (although I suspect the number is 70 plus) indoor cats with severe emaciation, respiratory failures, illnesses that can only be explained due to massive overcrowding, inability to manage basic sanitation, and starvation due to dental disease that left the cats unable to eat and dying to in the process. I gave up my ability to believe that I could make his cats lives better. I realized I was just flaming the fires of an inferno and watching cats die more excruciating deaths than I could intervene on. My last straw was a dozen plus cats who starved to death from stomatitis. A cat with stomatitis has inflamed gums that causes such severe mouth pain they can't eat although they are desperately hungry. One emaciated fire mouthed cat after another showed up. Each so sick they couldn't fight the stranger they knew everyone to be. So weak and yet afraid to eat they gave up and willingly died in a corner of a cage that offered no reprieve.

Any person who hoards is already a difficult person to relate to. There is always a lack of trust, there is always a degree of denial that often turns into defensive denial coated anger, and there is always a helpless life hanging in between.

I got to the point where I knew I wasn't helping anyone. I was just prolonging and participating in their and my own suffering. I didn't want to continue to be an accomplice to his feral cat breeding side show circus any longer. I explained that the conditions had gotten to a point where they were no longer manageable, that I felt as if I was complicit in this, all of  the death, the disease, the perpetual continuum of it all, and I couldn't live with it any longer. I tried again, and in vain, one last time to be the advocate for his cats who he dedicated every minute of his life to.

At the end of my attempt to open his eyes to the state of despair his cats were living in I landed the ultimatum. Either he got help, or I would report him to the county animal control officers.
Helpless is a place for the meek to hide in. Helpless and hog tied as a bystander is torture beyond forgiveness. I was the enabler watching disaster strike over and over again.

I never saw him again.

Over the next few months the local shelter received 5 hoarding cases. Each case had between 20 to 80 cats. All were thin, sick, and covered in fleas and feces. I would estimate that less than 5% of these ever found a home. Most were too wild to be adopted. Some ended up in barn colonies. Others just died of fear.

It is impossible for me to tell you the worst way to die? It is impossible for me to say there is anyway for a happy ending in these cases. It is also impossible for me to understand people. Veterinarians seek animals to fulfill our healing purpose, people we distrust amongst our dislike.

I grapple with the fact that I ever made anything better for these cats who deserved a life of so much more. I still ask myself if they were better off with quick death from someone who doesn't care about them, versus the slow death they got from someone who does? There was no happy ending, I just got out, and, even in this I wonder if it was the right thing to do?

"I have such great news! .... My mom found a home for the cats!" Jenn, my office manager, relayed the seconds ago phone call as she came bounding into my office.

The excitement in her face was obvious. The relief was inflected in her tearfully bubbly words.

We had spent much of that morning, and previous few mornings, discussing this dilemma of the impending eviction. The eminent need for a home for two older cats whose long time clients were moving to a smaller apartment and not taking them. We, the collective of us who manage the vet practice, had decided many many years ago that if we wanted to run a family-oriented veterinary clinic then we had to stick to our words. Be more than a trademark tag-line and actually stand by it. We aren't going to say that we "treat your pets like family" and then not really treat them like our family. So, we do. We offer payment options, free boarding, intervention care and emergency care to our patients when the pet parents need it. In the past this has included; emergency boarding for family emergencies, the automobile accidents heart attacks, deaths and even domestic abuse and inclement weather needs. If needed we even do it pro bono. We have never  put profits above compassion, nor, pitted purses against pet care. We stand by our patients at their best AND worst days and most dire times of need.

We had also learned the very hard learned lesson that if you give someone an easy out they never truly take responsibility, and they hardly ever follow through with their end of the bargain. People who abandon/surrender pets already have an emotional disconnect, or, they are so far removed from financial ability that follow through won't matter. In 15 years I have only had one surrender I ever felt right about. (See Cole's story here). The rest were clients who had a history of disposable lives the unloaded (often obviously un-remorsefully and un-apathetically onto anyone else who would take them. Once you surrender in (many places) you are forever blacklisted from adopting again. Shelters, rescues, and yes, even us, won't adopt out to you again. Ever. (How can we?)

This particular family were losing their home. It was something we had known was likely for months. We had been in constant contact with the family to get as much social media saturation as possible. Just that morning Jenn had told me that she was scheduled to visit the home to take an in home video of the cats (as one of them was very shy and wouldn't film well at the clinic). She had planned her weekend around this home visit. We all know how hard it is to place adult cats, especially shy reluctant cats. When I asked how the visit had gone she told me that they had cancelled it.

"Don't they understand how hard this is going to be? How we really need to find them homes before bringing them here to live at the clinic."

We have taken two other pairs of cats into the vet clinic over this last year. Our current number of in clinic cats stands at 6. All older, all tough sells to find homes for. One pair came from a family who had developed allergies. The other from a family who just didn't want them any longer then the 10 years they had already had them. One of these cats had gotten so depressed, fearful and withdrawn that we feared he would die from the stress and anxiety our busy chaotic clinic landed him within. I had almost gone as far as placing a feeding tube to force feed him. Cats bond very closely to their owners. Even if they aren't a lovey-dovey lap cat they know who their caretakers are and they adapt to their home with a dependence not seen in other species. When their world changes many of them cannot handle the insecurity. They withdraw, they stop eating, they stop grooming, their depression can kill them. Even when they don't appear to love and need human companionship they die without their people.

"No, she cancelled over the weekend, and that was before her mom had called her to say that she had found a home for them."

"Do you know her mom?" I asked.


"Call the shelter. I will bet you a thousand dollars she is just going to bring them there."

...."WHAT! Are you kidding!!??" Jubilation transitioned into shocked perplexity and angered pause.

"No, I'm not. I have never known her mom to be a nice person. She had a sweet cat named Feather, the only time or attention she ever gave that cat was letting her follow her to the mailbox every day. She was never allowed inside and she was never more than a cat., and she also never says anything nice about anyone, her daughter especially. Call the shelter, give them a heads up."

The next day the shelter called to say the cats had been picked up by Animal Control. The mom had requested they be euthanized. She had expressed that they were better off dead, something about being concerned that they would be "abused if adopted to the wrong people."

Now, I have to pause here. I have to stop here because as hard as it is to believe I hear this a lot. Too often. It bleeds into this paranoia, the same paranoia that precludes a person from finding homes for his 42 cats who are dying slow deaths around him, in his home. He firmly believes that all of his cats, whom he loves and will admit to repeatedly loving, are better off with him than anywhere else. He is blind to their suffering. Distrustful of everyone else in the world. Which also included me, the one vet who would allow him to drop off any sick cat at any inconvenient time, AND, not force him to pay when clearly he had no ability to afford anything.. Even I was  threat so intense that I had to be cut out. The same paranoia that allows people to believe death is a better place than chance when you dump them into societies mercy.

The lack of trust in medicine, in compassion, in humanity has been one of the hardest pills to swallow.

The shelter called to ask for medical records to be transferred to them for these two adult cats that we had just been told Mom had found a home for. I interrupted. I have such great news! .... My mom found a home for the cats!

"Who dropped them off?"

"Mrs. MOM did" they replied.

"Well, she isn't the owner!" I exclaimed. I was excited to have caught them before the euthanasia filled needle did. Before they were lost in an overcrowded shelter. Maybe, I thought, if I could show that these weren't the MOMs cats we could get them into a better place for their second chance?

The rest of the day included multiple phone calls to the shelter staff to promise me that they wouldn't euthanize the cats, the Animal Control Officer to explain the whole situation and urge him to go and speak to the cats real mom in person, and the vet clinic staff, just in case someone came packing and angry. We have had to go on lock down before, get restraining orders, and do emergency shelter recons before. You put everyone on alert when shit like this happens.

When I was on the phone with the Animal Control Officer I begged him to go to the cats home in person. "I'm afraid her mom lied to her. We have offered to help to find homes for the cats, give them a foster home, all so they wouldn't have to be surrendered, which was what she told us all along she feared the most. That sending them to the shelter where they could be euthanized if they were too scared to be adopted might be their fate. Please go! I just can't imagine she would do this, or knowingly let her mom do this? And, please give her my cell phone number. She can call me anytime. We will help her and her cats."

The next day the shelter called back requesting records. She, the cats real pet parent mom we have known so well,, hugged thousands of times, cried with over the loss of her pets, shared holiday cards with, loved more than any other person/client/friend/and even more than family had signed them over to the shelter. Their fates, as the shelter will openly admit to, are open, can be decided to be terminated at any time (because surrendering allows immediate euthanasia), and I am devastated beyond words.

I do not understand people.

Why would you not trust us more than the shelter that can/will/might kill your unadoptable/stressedout/abandoned-and-petrified cat?

It is impossible for me to tell you whats the worst way to die? It is impossible for me to say there is anyway for a happy ending. It is also impossible for me to understand people.

It is increasingly more impossible for me to not judge people as I try to dissect into the comprehensible these non-sensible pieces. I live in a profession where people decide their companions fates. I live in a world that I still willingly invest my heart and soul in, and I live in a world where even those pet parents who I think/feel/believe will fight and die for their pets don't.

And I'll be damned maybe, but, I sure don't understand them. The hoarders are killing their cats with selfish abusive neglect they cannot see, and, the disposers pass on a problem to let their guilt succumb to freedom knowing full well they can be, and often times are, euthanized. Because in the world of shelter medicine surrender allows anyone to decide at anytime whatever fate they want to deliver.

The pets, these defenseless deeply emotionally attached to us regardless of how atrociously we treat them, well, they deserve better.

I spent the night trying to figure out how I could be so wrong about her? Her obvious love for them?

Do I call her and try to unravel this? Do I secretly go get them and hope that I never see her again?

The next day Jenn called. "The Humane Society called. They are full, they want to know if we will take them?"

This is where the soul of every vet/every rescuer/every humane is decided. The little pieces. The incremental stories that your life gets entwined in and the facing of the fact that you do care more, you always have, and that's what makes you who you are. For me, the little fired-up vet who looks at every one of her patients as HER patient, HER family. I will never abandon you, or fight for you, without or without your parents.


Here is the video of us picking up the cats. Meet our new JVC kitties;

Here's my video of how these cases affect me;

If you would like to know more about the topics I discuss here please find me on It is free to use and open to everyone who loves pets. Please also consider joining if you have experiences to share and pet support to lend.

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For my YouTube channel please visit here.

For more information on my veterinary clinics services, including prices for care please see our Jarrettsville Vet website.

Thank you for being kind..

Friday, August 9, 2019

Hope. Stealing, Losing and Resurrection. How the fate of veterinary medicine hinges on hope.

Fighter. Maybe not a "prized fighter," but, none the less, fighter. This is my job.

Driving home last night it hit me. I fight. This is what I wake up, diligently-doggedly do all the day long, and then attempt to subdue myself out of each night. And, I do this every-single-day.

It's exhausting, don't get me wrong. I'm sure that there wasn't some detour along my life-path where I made a conscious decision to become this person. Live this life. But, alas, it is the one I recognize as my own now and I wonder if I am alone? I suspect I am not. There is great angst in always being cortisol-intoxicated to fight the next brawl in the next room. Junkie-syringe slasher style. This is the stuff ER doctors, race-car drivers, Navy Seals, and inner Baltimore City high school teachers are cut from.

Many vets are compelled into vet school to be that healer of furred affections. I took it a step further. I started to advocate, demonstrate and change the way I lived my life because of how I saw the world treating, or rather, more aptly, mistreating, animals. I couldn't live to save some of them, the "pets" and eat the rest. Or, wear the others. Ask the moms at my clinic who have chickens, cows, goats, or pigs as "pets" if they can eat them? Resoundingly the answer has become "NO!"

The fighter evolved. She grew. She came from that place where you recognize all living beings are looking for the same things. A place to belong. A family to love them, and a day full of liberty and freedom within the world around them. At our most basic level we all want to be free to live our life as our soul tells us to.

The fighter in me has molded the doctor I became. The person who sees each patient who walks in as an independent life worth saving. An integral part of some persons life that is incomplete, emptier, and less valuable without them.

When I started to fight for more than I was, more than I needed, and more than I had to, I realized that the most important part of that fight was the hope it gave to others. I realized that where I saw a fight they saw a chance. A glimmer that it was not all as hopeless as they feared and they didn't have to surrender in desperation to avoid their companions suffering.

Hope is abundant and yet it isn't shared enough. Why? Why wouldn't we give away the few things we veterinarians have in our over-abundant, yet too often over priced tool box for free? Like confetti? Why aren't we casting it like raindrops? Why isn't every single case started from this place? This mantra;?

I will fight for your pet,
I will not steal, squelch, or dismiss hope, ever!

Why doesn't every healthcare decision start here? Universal investment at ground zero.

Now I know the pessimists out there, the jaded, angry, and lost are going to balk at my over optimistic view. They are going to lash out the defensive, dismissive banter about why this isn't realistic! Or, why it isn't even responsible. God forbid they even throw out some legal crap about liability in the face of unethical moral conduct.

So, to all of them here's my real-life professional advice to this beaten, broken, angry, over abundantly suicidal profession. We aren't God. We have to get off our power tripped judgmental pedestal. For ourselves and our patients sake we have got to stop being so brash and burnt that we spread that pessimism like a plague. We are all the same, each of us is a practitioner. There isn't one person who knows everything. None of us have some magical crystal ball that miraculously tells the future. We cannot spew a diagnosis to our clients who so often come to us with few, if any, resources for the diagnostics they need, like a magic 8 ball. We, more often, and too many more times than we want to admit it, we just don't know. We don't know what's at the core of our patients issues more often than not.. And, if we don't know the diagnosis why are we even speculating the treatment options, never mind their associated costs? Why, because we think we know. We think we know better than the parents who love them. And, erroneously, we think we are liable and/or responsible for these. We aren't. We are supposed to be honest. We are supposed to be advocates for our patients. We would all be better off if we were just verbally and emotionally open, honest, and humble about the depths with which we do not know. We are also supposed to protect the public who shares this community with these patients, but, these are exceptionally rare cases. Stop using fear as bait. Stop telling our clients all the stuff our lack of diagnostics can't rule out. Be honest. Treat people like the loving parents they inherently have to be if they are going to walk in your door and ask for help.

We would also benefit if we all allowed hope back in to live in medicine. If we all fought for it we wouldn't be killing ourselves off in numbers 3 times higher than the next statistic of the next most depressed profession. We wouldn't be emotionally bankrupt and our debts wouldn't be mounting. Our guesses are too often incorrect, assuredly without being medically sound, and these cost lives. It burns souls, and can destroy the lives of those people who call upon us for help.

When my Jekyll-pup was diagnosed with prostate cancer, one of the most deadly types a dog can encounter, I sought and bought hope in bundles. I specifically sought out an oncologist who doesn't carry a medical bag with rationed  portions. I sat down with her on day one of our journey to help my pup with an agenda. I needed to feel like I had  teammate on my wrestling squad. I also knew that I needed a map to start our journey. A place to begin, and a speculative place (or places) to stop. I knew I could, would, and even was ok with visiting crazy-town along the way. Crazy-town for a vet like me is that place where the stuff no one else conjures as 'acceptable for a pets quality of life' resides. I was concocting up novel surgeries to re-route the urethra around that pestiferous prostate. I could rebuild him, make him better, stronger, (not faster? maybe?) then he was before. I had the technology to build the first bionic beagle! I knew I had this fighter in me who wasn't going to surrender my beagle without a knock-down-drag-out fight! I knew I needed help with navigating myself away from crazy-town. My oncologist, Dr Jeglum, helped me stay hopeful while not going all Oscar Goldman and Dr Rudy Wells. We agreed to keep trying as long as Jekyll needed us to. We wouldn't stop at the conventional. We would try every option, every possible combination and therapy. I was hoping for more time, which I got 9 months of, while buying hope in bundles I bought time in months. I needed these to get me through his passing. I needed him to be living while I was fighting and then I needed to be able to go on without him at least feeling as if I had done everything I could for him.

People pay for hope. It is a valuable commodity and a religious tenet. Whole civilizations were started there.

What I see far more often is people who have been dismissed, over looked and cheated of options. Options that have hope intimately anchored to them.

Why???!!! Why would we ever NOT give options? Are we so lazy, so jaded, so indifferent that we can't take the extra time to sit down, look into our patients eyes, see the soul of a fellow being as still fighting for their life and their time in the sun of this planet we call home? They still have a life to live. A soft patch of grass to submit to. A warm purring tune to play on our laps. A day to make better for the human that adores them.

I see the cases that other vets have denied hope for. I see the cases no one else took time or interest in fighting for and in them I found the reason to keep going.

Where it has brought me is to this place, driving home, where I want to exchange the fighting gloves for the surgical gloves. The place where tears of pet parents change from inability to accept fate to hope filled possibility. We all want to face life, our mortality and the lives our days have accumulated into as this, Hope.

Never steal the hope. It is the single greatest gift we can give.

This week brought me two crying clients.

One was Joey's mom. Joey passed away this week. I had been taking care of him, his diabetes, his urinary stones, and his omnipresent smile for a year. He was built of defective parts. They eventually quit on him, but, he never quit being joyful. His mom told me, as we were talking about how far he had progressed into multiple diseases with little hopeful outcome that she trusted me because I was "the first person who spoke to her, not at her." She loved her Joey and I know that as I write this she  is at her home missing him. She has had 5 strokes over the last year and Joey was her only constant companion. She had to let him go and I know it is hurting her immensely right now, and will for the rest of her life.

The second case was Spencer. He is 12 years old. A lab. Most labs are lucky if they see a dozen years. His years had brought him painful joints, diabetes and blindness. He also had a huge ugly, awful death smelling tumor on his wrist. Someone had decided he wasn't worth options. The tumor grew, as tumors will. It got so big it couldn't feed itself, so, it started rupturing and dying. Dead carcass is fetid smelling. You can actually be alive with dead tissue hanging, falling and breaking off of you.. This is what his tumor, on his wrist, was doing as he stumbled his way along.. wagging, lab-fashion the whole way.

His mom was hysterical when I proposed we remove it. "No one ever told me it was possible." She was a new client. New that evening. Spencer was not a good surgical candidate, but,, this was his only hope. We were either going to save him from his tumor, or, euthanize him because of it. She told me that "this was the first time anyone had given her hope for him."

Here are his post op photos;

Here is his story.. in video time.

I cannot save every life, in fact, every life I see, help, embrace, will be lost. We all die. I have to tell every client this. That at some point in our journey the road will end. There is always death. But along the rest of this road there is love and with love there is always  hope.

If you are a pet parent and your companion is struggling there are ALWAYS OPTIONS! ALWAYS! And please never lose hope. You can lose everything else in life... hope is given away. Relinquished, and no one can take it from you unless you surrender it.

If you need pet help please reach out to me at It is free for all to use. If you have a pet story you would like to share please add it to our collection.

I am also available at Jarrettsville Vet and YouTube.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Safe Harbor Vet Style. Finding a safe place for pets while families seek shelter from abusive partners.

Growing up isn't always what we hope it will be. For some there are hidden dangers in being in a relationship. For some the cost can be so great you have to give up everything to try to protect the ones you love. Love can cost us many things, most wonderful, some compromise, but the currency should never be fear, and the price should never include abuse, trauma, your life, or, the lives of those you love.... Domestic abuse and violence affects an estimated 10 million people in the US every year. 

When I was in vet school my mentor and adviser, who was one of the most generous and kind people I have ever met, talked to me about the social services project he wanted to create and make universal. He wanted vets in the area (this was rural south-western Virginia) to help offer his version of "one health care." A place where all aspects of family care could be found under one roof. Can you imagine bringing your toddler, self and pets to a place where everyone could have their medical AND emotional needs met by a group of people all dedicated to helping the entire family unit? Having your teeth cleaned as your toddler got their vaccines, and, your cat and dog had their nails trimmed and ears cleaned? It is possible, although logistically cumbersome. He also wanted this healthcare utopia to offer housing for emergencies too, more specifically, domestic abuse safe housing. He remains a visionary and an inspiration.

Although I have yet to find a human healthcare network willing to co-op with my noisy veterinary medical care abode, I do carry his vision forward and offer JVC as a safe harbor sanctuary whenever we are asked. I don't make the offer publicly as that would defeat the purpose of offering a free safe place to hang out or hide if everyone knew about it and wasn't being kept secret from the people it is here to protect and shelter. But, we do, and we have, and this is one family who we were able to help.

This is the picture of joyous reunion.
This pup stayed with us, hidden in the kennel for weeks while his mom left her home to move into a women's shelter. Most shelters won't allow pets. Few take whole families. He was kept safe, loved, and hidden by us while mom took her life back. He was visited daily by the men and women of the domestic abuse coalition who helped this mom and her kids find a safe place as they moved out of their dangerous home. It was a group effort. We are honored to have been a part of it.

Support, understanding, acceptance, and yes, even active advocacy can come wrapped in unusual packages in the most mundane of places. A vet hospital for instance. This is what a safe harbor looks like. It is the place around the corner. The place you visit daily and have no idea is housing a dog as her mom tries to find a women's shelter for herself, and her kids. 

This is the place that protects the four legged kids of the family who data shows often see the beginning of the abuse and are used a pawns in the terrorizing and torture to keep the spouses fearful and compliant. An abusive house can be a death sentence for pets. The stress, the neglect, the manipulation, and the role they play in control are often hidden, unrecognized and silent. Kids with marks on their bodies, changes in their behaviors, and the scrutiny of a social school system trained to identify problems and mandated to report them are far more visible. Pets, well, pets can be hidden. Pets in homes with abuse and violence are at great risk, and people stay just to protect them because they fear they will lose the ones they love most, the only family member who might truly love them unconditionally and they fear what fate would befall them if they were left behind. The abused need their family and cannot abandon them, kids and pets equally.

Here's one report analysis;
"In households with a history of domestic abuse, pets can be a complicating factor. Not only are pets likely to be the target of abuse, but people who are the victims of abuse often refuse to seek shelter for fear of abandoning their pets.

The statistics are grim: Seventy-one percent of pet-owning women who go to abuse shelters reported that their abuser had injured, maimed, threatened or killed pets, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. And as many as 40 percent of abused women stayed in an abusive home because they refused to leave their pets behind." 

What would you do? Would you leave a relationship without your kids? Your pets? Where would you go if you couldn't take them?

Jarrettsville Vet is a safe harbor. It is a place we built to save the little pieces of a life in progress. The place where honest advice, fair transparent prices and assistance in the best and worst days is available. It is also the place where a food pantry is kept for those in need locally. Food, litter, pet supplies, etc., are collected daily in our clinic and then brought to the local food pantry to be distributed monthly to those in need. There is always a line, it is always a huge number of families, and the pet supplies are too often the first items sought, and the first section to be cleaned bare. Food and litter are in such high demand that the large bags are broken into smaller portions to try to meet the need. This food and supplies are yet another of our safe harbors for those not under our roof.

This is the face of gratitude. A pup who has a mom who loves him, and a society to protect them both. 

Serving the public isn't just about providing care to paying customers. Serving them includes opening your heart and home just a little bit wider than you have to. Being brave enough to know that you were simply lucky enough to have not needed a place like this when you were 20. Lucky enough to live in a place with protection to those whose voices lie quietly hushed in the dark corners of a world too full of judgement, blame and criticism. Lucky is about being courageous enough to ask for help and imagine a different ending where "happy" is foreseeable, and, not just a fairy tale ending other people get to live.

For anyone out there fearing for their own life, their dependents safety, and the terrible turmoil of not knowing where to go, or who to reach out to, there is help. We are so blessed to live in a country where anger, abuse, and manipulation for control, fear, and power is not accepted as a womans/pets/childs/persons place.

Be the voice for others who can't chose. Be the protective parent. If your pet needs safe keeping we are here to help. We will also assist in finding a safe place for the rest of your family. This is who we are, a safe harbor.

A very big thank you to all of you out there who help the voices hidden and huddled.

What else does JVC do?
Cat shelters in the fall. We collect donated supplies to make outdoor safe, warm shelters for the cats who do not have warm homes to winter over in.. (a separate subject for another day). Here is a video on Making Cat Shelters.

References for sources of assistance; 

911.. just call,, use a friends phone, come to our clinic, use ours. There is help.

Domestic Violence in the US per year, via Wikipedia, here

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.

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.

Related Blogs;

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.