Thursday, October 20, 2011

Minnie's Menacing Gracile Grimace

When I bought JVC about 6 years ago there were quite a few breeders who used our clinic. One of the breeders I met back then bred and raised Dobermans, Ms. White. Ms. White would breed and raise several litters a year. She cared about her puppies but she wasn’t very familiar with the breed. I really feel that one of the most important aspects of a Veterinarians job is to educate. I do a lot of talking to my clients about their pets. Shoot, I think I do a lot of talking period. I love to hear about my clients family, their pets, their hobbies, how their pets got their names, how their pets are doing in every aspect of their lives, everything. I feel compelled to talk about diet, exercise, preventative care, breed specific concerns, the whole gamut of every aspect of my pets, and much of my client’s life. I wear the hat of veterinarian, therapist, behaviorist, psychologist, nutritionist, etc, etc. I have some strong suits and some weaker suits. For example I really enjoy surgery, but I am not so great in reproductive medicine. My predecessor was what we “newbies” call an ”old timer”. Back 30 plus years ago we Vets did a lot of reproductive medicine. Remember 30 plus years ago Vets saw just as many cows, pigs, and horses as they did dogs, and honestly, they probably didn’t see many cats. They could teach me a thing or two, (probably a million) things about reproduction.
Well, Ms. White came in one day with her newest litter of Dobie pups. Now I have already admitted to you that I LOVE the puppy visits. Nothing in the world makes me happier than a puppy. I devote a huge block of my schedule when I see a “litter exam” coming in. I need extra time to hug, kiss, cuddle, smother, smell, and coo over puppies. When we entered the exam room Ms. White pointed out that one of the pups (they were about 6 weeks old) had an odd quizzical look. This little female puppy had a pretty severe head tilt. It was definitely noticeable, but she still had all of the charm, joy, and happiness of the rest of her littermates. Ms. White asked me if I thought that she would “out grow this condition?” I told her that “I couldn’t be sure, but I thought that there was a good possibility that she might.” I asked her if she “thought that the puppy had improved over the last few weeks?” She replied “no, I don’t think so.” I gave the puppy a thorough exam, to make sure that if this was a congenital defect that there weren’t any others we didn’t know about. I didn’t find anything but a sweet, exuberant, playful puppy who just had a crooked neck. I kissed all of the puppies goodbye and told Ms. White to call me if she had any questions or concerns.
4 weeks later I saw that Ms. White was on the appointment record to see another doctor for a euthanasia. I made sure that I stuck around until she got there to see who she was bringing in to euthanize. My greatest fears came true when she came in with her crooked necked puppy.
I interjected and brought her and the puppy immediately into an exam room. She began to explain to me that she had sold the rest of the puppies but couldn’t sell this one because of her head tilt. She also told me that her husband would not let her keep this puppy. So now comes the hard part for me. I have in the past jumped in to try to save a pet from being euthanized by its owner only to have the following happen; 1. I get really angry clients yelling at me, because I have "intervened in an already difficult decision" and “they have MADE THEIR MINDS UP AND SAID THEIR GOODBYES!” 2. I have had clients tell me to “mind my own business” like this clinic isn’t my business? I remind them it is. 3. they say to me “I work for them and I will do what they tell me to do.” That’s my favorite one so far. “Buddy,” I sarcastically replied, “I don’t work for you, and my conscious is not for sale.” He left, he reported me to the State Medical Board, and I still think he is an A-Hole. He can report me to the State Board for that too. 4. I have had some clients cry, and thank me for giving them an option that saves their pets life, because they didn’t think anyone could help them. 5. I have had clients march out, drive down the street to the neighbor vet in my town and have their pet euthanized there. So I took a deep breath and told Ms. White that we do not euthanize healthy pets at this practice. I then very quickly, before she could get a word in, followed up my statement with “you can sign her over to us and we will find her a home.”
I waited on the edge of my seat, and braced myself for an attack. She looked, paused, and then handed over the puppy. I think that she was relieved to have the offer on the table.
We named her “Minnie”. She stayed with us at the front desk for a week or two. During that time, Dr. Wilson, the previous JVC owner, came in and saw her. He immediately looked at me and said, ”You know that dog will be perfectly normal and outgrow that, don’t you?” I replied, “I hope so.”
Within two weeks one of our favorite friends and clients, CB, came in. She saw Minnie and immediately fell in love with her. She announced to all of us that she was “going home right now to tell her husband that she was bringing her home.” I think she wanted it to sound like she was being respectful and considerate in asking for his blessing, but in reality we all, husband included, knew she had made up her mind, and the matter was not up for discussion. She came in the next day and brought Minnie home.

2011 Pets With Santa, Murray on the left and Minnie on the right.
Over the next few months, we received photos, phone calls, and the funniest stories I have ever heard. She told me that Murray, her dog, was having a tough time convincing himself that he was happy to have a puppy in the house. Minnie would play, and pester, and bite, jump, romp, and annoy him until he snipped back as recourse to dissuade her. Problem is, all puppies just think they are playing back; finally. So they continue the annoyances until the play resumes again. Then there was the whole pool fiasco. See, Murray the lab loves to swim, so he jumps into the pool all the time, for a quick cool off dip. Of course, Minnie thinks that whatever her big brother can do, she can do. Labs float, Dobes don’t. So down to the bottom she went, and into the water her mom went after her. After re-learning that same lesson over and over again, CB finally decided she had to do something. So she bought her a child’s wading pool. Minnie loves her pool! She lays in it all day and avoids the deep section.

Within 4 months Minnies head tilt disappeared completely. She remains one of the happiest, sweetest, gentlest girl I have ever met. She truly is one of my favorite patients. And her mom, well, we all love CB too. We are really lucky to have such great clients who help us make happy endings.

Minnie in her 2011 costume, with Murray


  1. So glad for Minnie!

    I believe that the only time euthanasia should be considered is when the animal would not have adequate quality of life.

  2. That's a great story Krista. You saved that beautiful dogs life. -Scott L.

  3. Look how straight her neck is now!!!!!!!! Minnie Rocks!!!!

  4. OMG! That turtle pic makes me CRACK up!!!! I love her!