Saturday, August 15, 2015

Leave them here

I  have learned  few important lessons the hard way. I have regrets and scars to show for a few of them. Life is a list of stories we dictate to our own souls scribe. A long narrative with an endless list of extras and a few consistent lead characters. When your profession leaves you under one roof with a revolving door of 'next mystery guest stars' you learn to make quick assessments of the characters. I don't intend to sound judgmental, but I have learned that I can only help a pet if I can understand my clients description of the problem and the pet parents ability to manage them through the diagnosis or treatment process regardless of the difficulty or degree of illness.

I have also learned that the spectrum of abilities to articulate the problem, weed out the insignificant information, (for instance, "I think that he was the runt and once upon a time when he was 3 months old he vomited" etc.) is another whole ballgame to which vet school does not adequately prepare you for. Medicine is science put into practice, but psychology is principle to a veterinarians art and marriage between two disparate species. Magic, miracles, and mystery are ethereal figments that play somewhere in between.

There was a sweet, gentle pit bull who came to see us at the clinic for two months of devastating anorexia. This dog would show up at each re-check weighing even less than the previous visit. He was at the last few visits a depressed walking skeleton. Every appointment was a long discussion of foods offered, foods refused, and a client who seemed as flustered as we were at the death creeeping into his prognosis. At every single appointment we offered food and he readily ate it. At every appointment we would be more and more heart broken. We all knew he was dying. 

He died a few weeks later. A month after the second dog in the house was left at the local shelter in the same condition. It wasn't until we recieved the call from the shelter that a skeleton dog was dumped with our microchip in it. It wasn't until then that the light bulb blew up! This owner had starved one dog to death and dumped the second before she died. I called the authorities immediately. That family had a baby in the house and another dog. I sent letters to the states attorneys office, animal control, child protective services and the sheriff's office. A month later I had a very angry former client and a whole pile of letters telling me to pretty much shut up and go away. 

We adopted that second dog from the shelter. She lived a long healthy life with a wonderful family. We also became scarred so deeply that we all promised each other that the next case that didn't seem right we would remind ourselves that humans can be awful sick, despicable, or suffering from a mental illness such as Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy. We also decided that we would beg, plead, interrupt, and not walk away so naively the next time, or any other time  thereafter. 

This case is a perfect example of what so many vets do. When we have a case that doesn't make sense.. we offer up a stay at the lodge for observation. I have wished a million times over that I had insisted on that starving dog stay with us.. Maybe, just maybe we could have changed the tide and the ending to read "happily ever  after?"

This is Willy. He has his own story soon to follow. He is currently under residence at Jarrettsville Vet for his recurrent rectal prolapse. His mom, who is a heroine in this particular story, can't manage his sporadic, always inconveniently erupting gophering colon, so we keep him with us. He will have his fourth (and please pray for last) surgery on Monday.

We are keeping him at no charge to his mom with the help of the many wonderful friends of JVC who contribute to our Good Samaritan Fund.

There are always more stories to tell. More lessons to learn, and God willing less regrets to bear to the grave.

I am available for questions anytime, and always free, at

I am available for personal pet consultations at Jarrettsville Vet in Jarrettsville, Maryland.

I can also be found on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.


  1. This is such a sad story. I wanted to leave you a comment, but I didn't know what to say after I first read the about these helpless animals. Through no fault of their own, they ended up in the hands of sick and irresponsible people. I don't think there is any way to teach someone about these kind of people. It takes experience for the little hairs to stand up on the back of your neck when you hear a client's story. You went above what was expected to save them.

    1. Hello,
      I apologize for the awful inexcusable delay in saying "Thank you for all you do!"
      You are amazing! I read and follow your blog. It is an inspiration and I am grateful to know there are people like you who are so dedicated. With love,