Thursday, August 18, 2011

Levi's Luck, and why we don't get a DVM degree online.

Levi’s story began very oddly.

Our first meeting.
I was called to the front desk one afternoon because, "There was an older gentleman in the reception area who had walked into the clinic and requested to talk with me."

I always get nervous when someone walks in off the street and asks for me by name. I knew I didn't have any appointments with anyone and he obviously was not a drug rep. (They, for reasons still not understood by me, always show up unannounced). I went out to the reception area and introduced myself with a hand shake, a smile, and a "hello." 

The man stood up, shook my hand and told me that we had already met and asked me if "I remembered this meeting?"

I slowly and quizzically said “No.” 

“I was here a few years ago with a friend who was here to euthanize his beagle.” (Still no recollection of any of this on my part). “You talked him out of euthanizing the dog because you believed he had a treatable medical condition and you said you would not euthanize the dog unless he was suffering and not treatable. I was so impressed by your compassion that I wanted to talk about my daughters dog with you.” (There was no dog with him. First red flag... Check).  

He went on to tell me that he had a 2 year old yellow lab that had had 2 seizures. He explained that his daughter was having some personal difficulties and that he and his wife were taking care of the dog, named Levi, for her. He went on to describe that Levi was a very active dog and they kept him outside in a chained enclosure. 

Somewhere in this discussion I asked him if he "was a client of ours?" 

“No, we bring our dogs to the clinic up the street.” (Red flag number 2. Check). He mentioned several times that he and his wife were “on a fixed income.” (I always secretly laugh at this. I mean, who isn't?) He went onto tell me that he had diagnosed Levi’s disease already. 

I asked "who had done this for him?" I expected he would tell me that the vet down the street had. 

Instead, I got “we found it on the internet.” (Red flag number 3. Check). Every vet in the world cringes inside when a client tells them that they have been doing their own vet school training online. 

When I asked him "What he based this diagnosis on?" 

He told me, that "Levi has had 2 seizures. The last one had lasted over 2 hours." And, that “it was really hard to watch him seizing for 2 hours, so he thought it would be better to euthanize him then let him suffer through another one of these.”
It was very clear that Levi needed a veterinarian to look at him. I told him that I would be happy to set up an appointment.

He asked "whether Levi’s presumed diagnosis was treatable?" 

I told him that "it certainly could be, but Levi needed an examination and work-up before anyone should diagnose him."

He then told me he was going to go back to the vet up the street and have him put down. He thought it would be cheaper than treating Levi.

I told him that "I believed this was immoral and unethical." I told him it was "$50 for a euthanasia here, which we would not do, and $45 for an examination." He once again repeated "that they were on a fixed income and he was sure that Levi was not treatable," and "he wouldn't put a penny out for him."
I had to take a deep breath and get out of the reception area. I was about to internally combust. 

"What the hell?" I thought. Did this man seriously just walk in here to tell me he was going to euthanize his dog? Was he asking for a professional opinion? Or a consent to his medical diagnosis? God help me not castrate him, or start screaming obscenities to him.  I asked him to follow me into the exam room. (Note to self, need to install sound proof walls in examination rooms). 

I realized that this dog, whom I had never met, owned by this man who wasn't a client, had no hope unless I agreed to do everything for free. I am happy to do pro bono work, but, I am indignant to provide it to people who can pay but would rather buy a new car, gun, cell phone, tattoo, or new replacement dog than help their companion when they need them most. 

I told him that he "could bring Levi in and sign him over to us and we would give him an examination, blood work, and come up with a treatment plan." He reiterated to me that he "would not pay for anything!" (I am not sure which part of free he was confused about?)

He left. I went to my office to settle my nerves. (Usually this means I take my dogs for a long walk). 

He came back the next day with Levi. I knew the minute I saw Levi that this was the right thing to do. Levi came bounding in the clinic door, tail wagging, tongue lashing out air kisses to everyone and everything he saw. I stopped thinking about how disappointed I was with this man and I reminded myself why I never choose the easy road. When I saw Levi I knew instantly that I loved this dog. He was all love but no manners. He looked like he had just escaped from dictatorship lead solitary confinement. Oh my goodness was he the worlds happiest dog!
As soon as the legal papers were signed we began performing every test we thought relevant, made up a treatment plan and observed him very closely. He had a seizure within the first few days with us. After a week I began calling clients to see if I could coerce someone into fostering him. I was very worried he might be having seizures at night that we weren't privy to. 

A seizure is a disorder at the level of the brain. In simplest terms it is what happens when the internal wiring and circuitry of your brain goes haywire. I remind my clients that it is always a life threatening event. I always make sure that my clients with pets that have seizures have an emergency plan. This includes emergency medications they can administer at home, and directions to the emergency facility if the medications don’t work.
Levi was tested for Lyme disease and was strongly positive for it. I was hoping that the seizures were a result of the Lyme disease. He also had a lot of discharge from his right eye. His right eye had what we call entropion. This means that the (lower eyelid in his case)rolls in and rubs the eye. If you have an eyelash, or other foreign body in your eye, you know it immediately and you try to remove it immediately. Think about having a whole bunch of hair rubbing your cornea (eyeball) every second of every day. You would do what he was doing, squint and tear, a lot!
Levi lived at the front desk for about three weeks. For every client who approached the front desk Levi would jump up, wag, and greet them. It was impossible to miss him, and impossible to dissuade him. He wanted to announce to the world that he was free and friendly. For one of our visiting clients Levi's hello caused her to fall in love with him even faster than I had. 

Within minutes of that smile she announced that she was "going home to tell her husband about him!" And, that she "was coming right back for him." She announced that she wasn't going home to ask permission, (the respectful thing to do in your marriage), but she loved Levi and needed to break it to her husband without the four legged bouncing boy breaking the news not-so- gently for her.  She came back a few hours later and took Levi home. I gave her a large supply of anti-seizure medications, explicit instructions, my cell phone number and an emergency plan. Levi did great in their home. He is still having seizures and is being treated for epilepsy (not the dreaded "untreatable" disease the internet had diagnosed him with). We also surgically corrected the eyelid deformity. His new family loves him immensely. He comes to visit often, tail wagging, kissing, and cuddling up to all of us. I am grateful everyday that he found a great home and that they love him in spite of his life-long disease. Levi has a great support system and medical team, dedicated to his well-being.
It has been about 6 months since Levi came to us. Last week the receptionists came to me, again, to say that there was "a man here to see me." This time I asked "whether or not I wanted to talk to him?" As soon as I saw him my heart sank. 

I trudged toward him and muttered a reluctant muffled “Hello.” 

“Do you remember me?” This time my answer was a definitive “Yes”.  

“I know I am not supposed to ask, and, you don’t have to tell me.” (the transfer of ownership papers he signed state very clearly that once JVC takes responsibility for a pet we do not give the former owners any further information on that pet). I took a deep breath again. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of relieving his guilt, (although now that I think about it, maybe he wanted to feel as if his medical diagnosis had been correct?). 

"He’s dead right? You had to euthanize him because he wasn't treatable. Right?”  

I confessed to him that Levi was doing very well. He had a wonderful family who loved him very much. After which he told me that he was going back to the breeder to buy a new puppy. 

I shed my professional composure suit. “You have no right to ever own another pet. You dumped Levi. A pet, just like every other living thing, requires time, care, AND, it might even  cost you a nickel if anything happens to them.” 

He stood up, said to me, “I knew you would be tough,” and left.
I am rethinking the walk in and request to see me thing.

If you would like to learn more about seizures, please see my blog on "Seizures What I Tell My Clients."
If you would like to learn more about entropion please see Corky's Story.

Meet Levi. This is pre-op for the eye. I will post post-op pictures in a few weeks, (after it has healed).

Happy Birthday Levi

"There is no such thing as too big to be a lap dog. Is there?"


Another grueling long day comes to an end.

Everybody needs a shoulder to lean on.

Pets With Santa
It has been over three years since I first met Levi. He is still a sweet, gentle, loving boy to a family who lost their son fighting overseas for our country a few years before Levi came into their lives. Levi remains at their side, helping to shoulder the grief of a loss that is deep and intensely painful. He has brought love, life, humor, joy, and levity into a family. His former family has no idea of what a wonder this boy is. To see one family purchase, chain, and then abandon and then another adopt, rescue, love, and honor the same dog is a true miracle and reminder of what the best of humanity looks like. 

There is always love to be found out there. Never give up on the power of second chances.

Update January 2016; I still see Levi every few months. I has been 5 years of watching him wag his way in the door. Many giggling visits with his family. Many tales of lab antics, silly dog capers, and he has remained the joy in a family who believes that the love he spreads far out weighs the condition he came with.

If you have a pet in need please join us on We  are a free pet information network with the sole purpose of helping pets live longer happier and healthier lives.

Levi, January 2016.. he had a long day of playing in the snow.


  1. As a human epileptic, thanks for hanging in there with Levi. Even with humans, every seizure can be life threatening. It's good to know someone loves him anyhow. Sometimes it's hard to see past the disorder.

  2. I loved this story! The entire part about Levi geting a new home and living happily and the part that said "God help me not castrate him". That is the funniest thing I ever heard. If only people realized that doing that to a human is almost as bad as what humans do to animals!