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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 12 November 2002 Issue

Suki's Heart

I obtained two strikingly beautiful American Pit Bull Terriers (Mama and daughter) from a 'homeless' couple desperate to find a home for them.  They said their home had been repossessed and they left the dogs at their former home site in an outside dog kennel.  The said they 'couldn't really manage' driving all the way out to the country to give them food and water on a regular basis.  It was the end of summer and very hot in the South.  They said the dogs had been out there more than a few weeks.  My friend immediately drove out to give the dogs food and water.  I asked the couple to please go get the dogs and I would help adopt them into good homes.  They did so the next day and gave both dogs to me.

After getting the mama spayed and vaccinated, the veterinarian informed me that Suki, the mama dog, was heartworm positive. 

Heartworms are worms that live in the chambers of the heart and blood vessels of the lungs.  Untreated, heartworm can cause severe disability and death.  Dogs (and cats) contract heartworm disease through the bite of infected mosquitoes.  Because heartworm disease is difficult and risky to treat, prevention is essential.  Your veterinarian will prescribe a monthly heartworm preventative tablet after your dog (or cat) tests negative for the disease.  The pills must be given once a month, usually from April through October.  However, in areas of the country where mosquitoes live year-round, such as in the South, it is best to keep the animal on heartworm pills throughout the year.  It a prescription from your veterinarian and call 1-888-PET-MEDS for generic, cheaper brands of heartworm preventative.  Buy in bulk, for the year or more and save even more money in the long run.

So Suki is heartworm positive.  Suki is approx. 3-5 years old and had NEVER been on heartworm preventative, and could die from either the heartworms or the heartworm treatment. I was VERY sad to hear this awful news. Suki's big, beautiful, brown, doe-like eyes revealed that something was wrong with her.  Her eyes reflected suffering.  The vet says that since the mama dog is heartworm positive, the 8 month old puppy is most likely infected too.  We'll assume she is positive but we will test her as soon as possible.

Talking the situation over with my friend K.D., we find that we are both angry about the dogs' former owners repeatedly breeding Pit Bulls for profit and never giving the dogs or puppies veterinary care or heartworm preventative.  That's outrageous!  So we go to where the dogs' former owners are staying and we confront them.  We explain (politely) that their "beloved" dogs, which they could neither take care of nor keep, the dogs they gave to me, are very sick with heartworm.  We explain the costs, dangers and intensive care involved in heartworm treatment.  We let them know how well we have been taking care of their dogs, that I have wormed them, had the mama dog spayed, vaccinated and how both are being trained.  We also let these people know that when they claimed that the dogs were "great with kids," "friendly," "friendly with other dogs," "housetrained" "great in a dog kennel" and "very healthy," they had lied bigtime. Neither dog was housetrained.  The mama dog attacked other dogs, menaced people, and repeatedly jumped over a large chain link fence. 

Though they admitted to never providing heartworm preventative for any of their dogs, the former owners were defensive and somewhat hostile. They said they could not help out with ANY veterinary bills, but that they wanted the dogs back. This made no sense to me.  We asked them how they would afford to treat the dogs' heartworms if they did not have any money. They said "We'll figure something out."  Yeah, right. There was no way I would return such badly neglected companion animals back to the neglecters.  After all, neglect is abuse.

THE NEXT DAY, I let the mama dog, Suki, out in the backyard and watch her go into seizures.  She coughs up worms and blood, seizures more (could not stop) falls down and cannot get up, cannot walk, is unresponsive.... So I rush her to a vet.  The vet sees she's in congestive heart failure and tries to talk me into "giving her some steroids and waiting a day or two."  I mean, WHILE SHE'S LYING THERE ON THE COLD STEEL TABLE, OBVIOUSLY SUFFERING.  Her heart is probably torn open by the heartworms.  We are aware that this particular vet
is known to be lacking in the compassion department, so it's all about money $$$$$ for him.  (He was the only office open at the time, or we would have gone elsewhere.) He could make a small bundle from prolonging this dog's agony.  The veterinary assistants all agree that euthanasia is the only option for Suki, as she is in heart failure and is suffering.

I stay by Suki's side throughout everything, to the end.  The vet injects a sedative and walks out of the room. He returns. Before he puts a final end to Suki's suffering, he turns to me and asks "What do you want to do with the body?"

After euthanasia, I talk it over with K.D. and we decide that Suki needs a proper burial, not to be shoved into some freezer and her body burnt by strangers.  So we wait while the vet gets her body, makes me drive around to the back of the building.  The vet brings out a black garbage bag with Suki's body in it and places it in the back of my vehicle.

We drive to a friend's home, find a shovel and start digging Suki's grave.  At least the rain has stopped.  It takes three people to cut through the roots and dig a hole wide and deep enough for a 60 pound dog.  We take Suki's body out of the garbage bag and wrap her in a beautiful king size sheet.  As if the garbage bag is not disturbing enough, we find the vet has left a thermometer in the dog's behind. 

If this were a human, we wouldn't be having to deal with garbage bags and thermometers ...  There would be more respect for the life that has just tragically ended.

I place a soft, pink, stuffed animal next to Suki, inside the king size sheet.  I stand in the night air, in the woods, as two friends lower her into the ground.  Because her caretakers wouldn't spend the thirty or fifty dollars on heartworm prevention pills, we are lowering Suki's body into the cold November ground.

Love and paw pats,
Jillouise Breslauer
Companion Animal Behavior Consultant
What Jill Knows, Copyright 2002
[email protected]

Return to Animals in Print 12 Nov 2002 Issue

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