Animal Stories from

I’ll never forget you, Roger, and you’ll always be our “Bouboutesse.”

From Ed Coffin
Facebook posting, May 12, 2022

"Roger, I thank you for helping me to understand acceptance and that we aren’t all perfect and sometimes, stepping up and being pro-active against all odds, even when most people tell you not to continue, is worth it. You were the worst dog ever, but you had love and affection in you, despite the fact you were often beyond frustrating to deal with. I saw that in you and knew you deserved a chance, even though you were so annoying.

Pitull Roger

It is with deep sadness to announce that this afternoon, we had to make the difficult decision to help Roger cross the rainbow bridge and provide him with the rest and relief he’d been missing for some time since he began his battle with a serious illness earlier this year.

Only a handful of people ever had the opportunity to get to know Roger, as he was plagued with severe anxiety and resulting aggression that prevented him the ability to meet and get to know new people.

Almost exactly six years ago, very shortly after I had to help Fern cross the rainbow bridge, I was contacted through Facebook about a pittie that was found by a woman named Rosa. She had found him on Cottman Avenue circled by teenagers throwing rocks and bricks at him. I immediately made arrangements with Rosa’s son, Alphonso, and drove up to NE Philly to his apartment were Roger was being housed very temporarily — they couldn’t have dogs, so Roger was going to have to be surrendered to the shelter if nobody took him.

Upon entering the apartment, I was greeted by Roger, who instantly lunged up at me with a snarl and snap. He settled down quickly and even went to lay on the dog bed with Alphonso’s son, who was a toddler at the time.

Based upon his outburst of aggression upon my arrival, I knew the shelter would be an absolute death sentence for him — as they’re filled with mostly pitties and aren’t going to have the time to rehabilitate him — which, I ultimately never was able to. It was mostly management.

In the following months, Roger’s aggression issues began to surface and after having getting bitten pretty bad several times myself while pulling him away from other people he wanted to go after, I realized this was a much deeper and potentially dangerous issue.

So, for the next 4 years or so, I had to learn all of his triggers in order to avoid them. I couldn’t really have guests over and if someone absolutely needed to come in, he would need to be muzzled.

About a year and a half ago, his aggression spiked again dramatically and his incessant barking became intolerable, so that’s how we landed at an emergency clinic that prescribed him his very first anxiety meds.

There was a night and day difference, so we knew we were into something! Shortly thereafter, we secured an appointment with a behaviorist at Penn and we started a long and ever-changing medication journey in addition to many routine modifications. He was doing great up until a few months ago.

Once again, his aggression spiked, so we took him to Penn, where they could barely examine him because he was so hostile, but his behaviorist said an MRI might be worth trying. However, their machine was broken. So, I called every emergency vet in a 100-mile radius and finally got him booked that same evening at a place in North Jersey. Given his temperament, they allowed me to transport him there myself while he was under sedation with a catheter placed.

After two nights there and more discouraging news from neurology saying that the MRI would be extremely unlikely to diagnose anything with him, the neurologist called back and told us that Roger had idiopathic (of unknown origin) brain encephalitis (inflammation), which was great news, because we could treat that!

There was no cohesive mass in the brain, so we did a spinal tap to rule out some autoimmune diseases and that came out unremarkable. A possible cause could be a very rare cancer that is unable to be diagnosed on an MRI, aside from “spider-web type” areas of inflammation.

Unfortunately, there is no way to know if it is that rare cancer until an autopsy can be performed.
The good thing was that regardless of the cause of the inflammation, the treatment was going to be the same. Things worked well for a few months with a few med changes, etc., but for about the past two months, he was unable to sleep at night and my husband and I weren’t sleeping for more than a consecutive hour per night and maybe 2-3 total hours combined.

It started to get so bad that yesterday, we consulted with the neurologist, behaviorist, and primary care vet about the next options. Unfortunately, they were pretty grim. We could try some behavior med changes, but that would take 4-6 weeks to even see if it would help and there wasn’t much hope it would help and if anything, could prolong his suffering.

Another option was second MRI, but again, that would really only tell us if the lesions we observed before are growing or not, which could indicate, but not diagnose the rare cancer. And again, there’s different drugs we could try, but the hope of him ever returning to “normal” wasn’t in the picture and if anything, we could prolong the current situation a while.

After extremely deep thought and the blessing of all his vets, we decided the most humane thing we could do is help his cross the rainbow bridge, as we couldn’t even remember the last time he seemed happy and not struggling to do even the most basic things.

I am happy to report that the euthanasia went better than we could have ever expected — as we were sure he wasn’t going down without a fight. His doctor and lead vet tech were crying before we even were, because they know him so well. The whole thing took over an hour just because they know Roger, so the doctor gave him a sedative and a stronger one 15-min later to even prepare him for the actual sedative and heart stopping drug.

The whole process was very peaceful and in a weird way, it made us both happy seeing him just being able to rest peacefully for about 45 minutes before the final drug was administered. We can’t remember the last time he seemed that comfortable or happy. He left peacefully surrounded by all 4 of us petting him and talking to him.

The lead vet tech herself graciously insisted she was paying for everything, including the paw print and a bronze medallion, none of which we even requested. At the end, we all stood around him for 20 minutes or so just sharing funny stories about Roger and at the end, they both gave us big hugs and were crying again.

So, it couldn’t have really gone any better and if anything, I feel mostly relieved and feel that we made the right decision — when he was laying down feeling the sedatives, my husband and I remembered him being that relaxed everyday at home and realized neither of us can even remember the last time we saw him at complete ease and not suffering.

I didn’t completely know what I was signing up for when I agreed to take Roger, but I knew that as long as I could keep him healthy with a good quality of life, I’d make the personal sacrifices to give him the best life he could have. All the doctors say we’re the most dedicated caretakers they’ve ever seen, but I humbly do not feel I did anything any other person wouldn’t have done.

Towards the end, administering his ever-changing cocktail of 50+ pills all throughout the day, including at 3 am, plus communicating between at the docs at different locations (not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars to do all we could, constant reshuffling and ordering medications, filling out insurance claims, etc.) — it became a full-time job. And without hardly any sleep and having to be next to him 24/7 to calm his anxiety and prevent incessant barking all day.

 have no regrets doing all of that for him, aside from the fact I just wish there was a clear diagnosis or light at the end of the tunnel for him to be cured — but, I came to the realization he was holding on for us and if we didn’t help him, he would have fought everything until he dropped dead in the house one day. I didn’t want to see him have to suffer through any of this anymore and the last few days made it even more apparent how hard he was struggling.

I would like to thank Dr. Siracusa at Penn Vet Behavior, Dr. Fry at NorthStar Vets, and Dr. Muir and Lead Vet Tech, Sarah; at The Pet Mechanic — who were all so generous and instrumental in helping us manage Roger, when so many other vets were unwilling to make the special accommodations Roger required. And most importantly, thank you to my friends, Marianne and Heather, who helped advise us along the way when it came to making this difficult decision. Also, to Craig, who Roger hated at first, but came around enough times to become a great friend to Roger and help watch him when we weren’t home.

Oh, and most importantly, thanks to my husband for accepting Roger as his own and selflessly helping to deal with all of these sacrifices to keep Roger safe and happy — and for being the one in charge of organizing and administering his medications. My husband ultimately became Roger’s best friend.

I do not second-guess that this was the correct decision, although I wasn’t expecting it to happen this quickly — I’m happy that we got to spend a few more good months with him before he deteriorated.

Lastly, Roger, I thank you for helping me to understand acceptance and that we aren’t all perfect and sometimes, stepping up and being pro-active against all odds, even when most people tell you not to continue, is worth it. You were the worst dog ever, but you had love and affection in you, despite the fact you were often beyond frustrating to deal with. I saw that in you and knew you deserved a chance, even though you were so annoying.

I’ll never forget you, Roger, and you’ll always be our “Bouboutesse.”

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