Monday, December 23, 2013

Fiji's Failing Family. The First Christmas Miracle of 2013.

Fiji and Laura, about 7 years ago.

Ask those of us who work with pets and the public what is the most difficult time of year and many of us will tell you that it is the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Seems the holidays bring out the best and the worst of us.

Clients that you haven’t seen in years show up the days before Thanksgiving and Christmas to put their pets down. It is heartbreaking to know that at this holy time of year when we are all supposed to be full of generosity and love that the horrible stories are in no short supply. 

This week we had three tales of abandonment, impending death, and salvation. 

For those of us who dedicate our lives to helping pets, and in the spirit of the season, I wanted to share the three dogs who this week remind us that there are miracles with just the smallest of deeds.

Laura, my very dear, and incredibly talented, technician called me on Thursday. I knew the moment that she sheepishly and uncharacteristically muttered “Are you busy?” that she had a dog she wanted to save. I have known her for about 8 years. She has worked at Jarrettsville Vet for almost all of that time. She left us for a short hiatus 7 years ago to go to work our local animal shelter as its manager.

I remember that request for a leave of absence conversation to allow her to go to work at the Harford County Humane Society vividly. She wanted to help more dogs (pit bulls in particular), find more homes, and she wanted to improve the adoption rate and care for the most vulnerable needy pets of our community. I sat listening to how excited she was and I told her, “I know you feel compelled to go, and I know that you want to make things better there, but I am afraid that that place will break your heart.”

As a mom of 7 pitties herself, Laura is a dedicated advocate for the breed. She knew that like most other shelters our county shelter has tragically low adoption rates for these guys. Many shelters across the country won’t even adopt a pit bull out. If a pittie goes in the front door they leave in a black plastic bag via the freezer in the back. Laura's heart is in rescue, but like any of us, find sanity is in private practice. It is called 'shelter burn-out.' I understand it as the ugly step sister to my own demon, 'compassion fatigue.'

Laura is still in contact with the people she worked with at the shelter and when a dog comes in with a desperate need they call her to see if she can help. That call to her is usually the first of two. She gets the call from them and then I get a call from Laura. Jarrettsville Vet has become the last salvation for many cats and dogs. I have the luxury of not having to answer to anyone other than the little voice in my soul that tells me I can still save the world. 

Yesterday I got one of those calls from Laura.

Yesterday the call was about Fiji.

Fiji’s story starts in 2006 when he was brought to the Harford County Maryland’s Humane Society’s shelter when he and two other dogs were found abandoned and emaciated on a property. Of the three one dog was euthanized by the shelter due to temperament issues. Unlike most abandonment cases Fiji’s original owner was prosecuted for cruelty. Even after abandoning Fiji his original owner (who referred to him as “Pimp”) sought to get him for "breeding purposes."

Even with this rocky sad start Fiji was never anything other than a happy exuberant boy. Laura described him as “amazing from day one. He became our mascot, a true advocate for not only the breed but for abused animals as a whole.” 

While at the shelter he earned his Canine Good Citizen and was finally adopted by a family.

He lived with this family of kids and another dog for almost seven years. Until they brought a new puppy into the house.

Like many dogs, cats, kids, beings with a heartbeat and a brain, Fiji had a tough time adjusting. And so he was brought back to the shelter.

Here is where I want to judge, condemn, and rant. How in the hell do you give up a pet you have had for 7 years? How do you give up a family member? I know it is my New Years resolution to try to stop passing judgment, But, I just don’t understand people?

After Fiji was surrendered he was given 5 mls of acepromazine (this is A LOT!!) and put on a table to be killed. One of the staff members who knew of Fiji’s story called Laura. 

Seconds later Laura called me.

I cannot imagine a scenario where I would ever say "no" to her. She works tirelessly to keep our patients healthy, comfortable, and she knows every pets individual personality, needs, and wants. She is the most patient, calm, and giving person I know. I could never replace her, and she is a big part of the reason Jarrettsville Vet has such a big heart.

Those two calls bought Fiji back his life.

He arrived at Jarrettsville Vet heavily sedated and free from another person letting him down.

Fiji stayed with us for two days and found another chance in a home where he is loved for being the big hearted smiley faced boy that he is. And should fate throw him another curve ball he will come back to us. He will never face the executioner again.

He is our first Christmas miracle.

I am available to answer pet questions anytime at Pawbly. Or you can find me on Twitter @ FreePetAdvice.

Merry Christmas Everyone!


  1. To me, this is what Thanksgiving and Christmas is all about....365 days a year.

  2. This story is so incredibly inaccurate its mind blowing. I own Fiji currently and the story you have is so wrong. You can contact me anytime to gt the true story before bashing people. Thanks. Clearly you DO NOT know anything about Fiji or the family.

    1. It is never my intention to upset any one and I accurately acknowledge the frustration and emotional turmoil some of these cases bring. However, no mention of anyone is ever given by name and Fiji was brought to us with full documentation and multiple witness provided history. I can provide witness and written acknowledgment to such. It is also a fact that Fiji was in the process of being euthanized when he was rescued by us. I can confirm this by at least two people.
      He was, by our records surrendered at the shelter. I will happily confirm any facts and add your name to the blog if you would like your side of the story added. I am also happy to correct any errors and confirm all facts with the staff members, shelter staff and documents corresponding to his case.

      If there is an error in the story I will correct it.

      I find it appalling that there are any instances where a dog is surrendered at a shelter and the staff at the shelter told his surrendered that he would be euthanized. Had it not been for us he would be gone. In fact he would have been dead within minutes if we had not taken him. That is a fact that I have also confirmed. His story stands as a true testament to what happens when you surrender a pet and it is a miracle he is alive. Truly. Nothing short of a miracle.

      After reviewing this blog and talking to those involved I am disappointed and frankly annoyed that instead of providing any sort of apologies, acknowledgment of the incredibly extenuating dire and deadly circumstances that surround his you want to provide a list of discrepancies.

      If there is a problem with this story that needs to be addressed I will do so. Otherwise I will keep the post as it stands.

      I am truly happy to hear he is doing well and I wish him a long happy life.

  3. This story is so far from accurate it's sad. I own Fiji and he's not in the home you guys are saying have him. I don;t think you obviously know the whole story. SO BEFORE POSTING A BLOG ABOUT PEOPLE AND NOT KNOWING THE STORY YOU SHOULD CONTACT ME.