I’m going to share what has caused the images that invade my soul and continue to torture me for the past ten and a half months now and I am not going to leave out all names as I usually do. It has never been in my nature to bury the truth or sugarcoat things or walk on eggshells. I have remained silent about this event for the aforementioned amount of time because it involves a business owned by a family member and I did not want to have regrets after speaking up. So I said nothing. But as I lie here, in the worst pain I can imagine, I realize regrets or not, nothing is ever going to make me feel any worse, nothing could possibly make me feel any worse than I do. And so, I will be myself.

I will start with the reason my family spent over three years living in a place we loathed, while I worked in a job I was overqualified for. This will likely be a long post, I’ll warn you now so you can walk away. Not a lot of people read my blog anyway; it’s more for me than anything else. Perhaps getting it out will help me; it certainly cannot hurt me any more than I already am.

In 2009 my family made the decision to move to our personal hell, a.k.a. Jacksonville, Florida. At that time my dog was 13 years old. I lived for her. The reason we chose Jacksonville? I have a very kind cousin who happens to own a veterinary specialty practice, who happened to have a job available that went right in line with my recent experience. It was a step backwards; in MA I ran a veterinary Oncology practice while in Jax I would be a Patient Care Coordinator. Making this move would enable me to get back to Florida – this was about 1100 miles closer to where we wanted to end up (Kissimmee). This would enable me to have access to some brilliant specialists and therefore provide for Dallas as she of course continued to age. The decision paid off immediately as a brilliant Internist who I shall henceforth call P saved her life. Had she not made the discovery and initiated treatment when she did, my girl would not have gotten back up after one of her collapsing episodes. I went on to enjoy her for another 3+ years thanks to this and immediately became aware that I’d made the right decision to move. The life-saving discovery was that of a condition that treatment at my previous job had caused. Had I not left the Oncology practice when I did, they would have killed my dog. They are brilliant doctors, when it comes to Oncology. It was as a favor to me that they looked at my dog for non-cancer issues and I will always appreciate this. I will also always be thankful I left them when I did because reality is, it is what gave me more time with Dallas.

While in Jax, Dallas became senile. Dr. P. was brilliant and truly solved this problem for me by suggesting a medication which immediately stopped the senility from progressing any more than it already had set in. She’d saved her life yet again.

As the dog aged her needs became greater all the time. This was while in school fulltime and while working 40-50 hours a week for the clinic that was helping me to keep her alive. A stressful time indeed but I had my Dallas. I will not elaborate other than to say, those who knew me then know that my life truly revolved around this dog’s happiness.

There were many scares and slight illnesses while in Jax, all of which were promptly fixed thanks to a wonderful team of highly-qualified specialists& techs who did not mind that she was the WORST patient anyone has ever seen. These episodes are all for other posts. This post is to discuss the end.

On May 1st, my dog was ADR. She and I were at work, in their backyard. I had left my desk in order to give her the opportunity to relieve herself. She was falling over and seemingly unable to stand/walk. I panicked- but I always panicked when this dog so much as sniffled.  Not sure whether my concern was legit or just more paranoia as usual I interrupted a doctor who’d stopped seeing patients before my time. He was the only one on at the time –the one on duty had to step out for a bit. I explained the situation and wanted to know if I was just being paranoid again or if something was in fact wrong. He looked at her almost immediately, conducting what looked to me to be a very thorough examination that included neurology even. He felt that she was perhaps dehydrated and weakened from this combined with her under-weight status (the dog did not like food, as you know if you knew me then. Getting her to eat was a huge part of my life.. details in another post). He suggested I leave her overnight for fluids and we would reassess in the morning to see if this increased her strength.

When leaving between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. that evening (hours past my scheduled shift end, as always) I visited with her. I inquired as to which technicians would be in charge of her care overnight. I approved. I informed them that, due to my self-confessed paranoia over this dog, I would not be calling them all night to check on her. I was trying to spare them from myself. I requested that if any changes occurred they call me. I suggested that if there were any bad news, they call Hubby and let him deal with me. Thinking of them all the while, not wanting them to have to put up with my insanity. They agreed. I left both our phone numbers in a GIANT pop up note –which means any time anyone accessed Dallas’ record they were immediately greeted with this message before they could go on.

The next morning I woke up for work. I was due in at 11 a.m. Upon waking up I immediately checked all phones and email accounts. I breathed a sigh of relief and said to Hubby, “Well… no news is good news. I’m going to work and after my shift that Dog will come home with me.” I remember this very clearly. I then went to work, a bit early anxious to see my Dog.

I went in, put my stuff down on my desk. Did a couple things that were pressing, answered phone calls, etc. When I could I said, “Well… I’m gonna go check on that Dog…” Little did I know, no one had prepared me for what I was about to see…

I enter the treatment room. Her cage is wide open, in the way that they are when dogs are trying to die and pose no threat of causing any trouble. She was hooked up to every machine I’d ever seen in my 8 years of working in this field and more. She wasn’t present. She did not respond to me. This was concerning and terrifying as – as much as she was my whole world, I was hers. I asked the tech who was unfortunate enough to be nearest, “What is all this?! What is going on?” She tried to explain what had happened in the night, how the dog’s condition had progressively worsened… each word causing my heart to break more until I collapsed. Finally she told me I needed to talk to the doctor on the case, who shall henceforth be called C. I asked her if it was time, if Dallas “wanted to go to heaven” as we put it in this clinic. She again said that I needed to talk to the doctor but was honest, “… Jessie… if it was my dog… I would…. I’m sorry…”  C was unavailable for several hours. Brilliant a doctor as he is, he is notorious for poor time management skills. My suffering dog, unfortunately did not seem pressing to him. It was pretty clear what needed to be done, but I could not have that confirmed nor carried out for several hours. Dallas had started to suddenly decline around 10 p.m. the night before… she was cold, meaning her body was shutting down, trying to die. She became nonresponsive. She lost all mobility. She could not even urinate; C had to express her bladder when he came in at 7 the next morning. When I got to work, she’d been suffering for 12 hours. And I do mean suffering because if you know this dog, you know how important it was to her that she maintain her control.  This is on top of the obvious physical afflictions going on. I truly believe –as do those who knew her and were there – that she was holding on, waiting for me so that she could see me one last time. Loyal, truly until the very end, she wouldn’t leave me without this. She would occasionally, I am told, come to, look around, and go back ‘out of it’. As if she was looking for me.

In these 12 hours, despite my wishes, and despite how much everyone there KNEW me(remember I’d worked there over 3 yrs at this point) – no one called me to warn me. Or let me come in to make the decision that needed to be made, in order to spare my dog’s suffering. At 7 a.m. when the doctor himself came in, he didn’t have me called either, which bothers me. As the doctor, I feel there should’ve been some responsibility taken. I feel that if any of the other doctors working for this clinic were on the case, they’d have said, “Get Jessie in here right now/Wake her up/ She needs to make a decision / this dog is suffering.” Unfortunately Dallas got the doctor who did not take this action. Then when I came in and discovered all of this on my own, he still could not deal with any of it for another three hours.

The point of this story is to come clean. I didn’t want my family to know, but they do not read my blog anyway to my knowledge. To come clean on the fact that my dog –MY DOG- the ‘daughter’ of an employee of the practice/relative of the practice owner was not treated with dignity. Was neglected. Was left to suffer for 15 hours simply because no one could pick up a phone and give me the option of coming in and making a decision.

In the end, there wasn’t anything to be done for her, other than what we in the industry call humane euthanasia. I could have had her put through an array of tests, to definitively determine what was already suspected. I could’ve then treated in vain. Prior to said-array of tests we would have to place a feeding tube, force nutrition on her and get her strong enough for said tests. Even then, she likely would not survive said-tests as they involved anesthesia and she was nearly 17 with a cardiac issue. I know to my core that she did not want any of this. To have the feeding tube, the forced nutrition would be giving up the control – this would be torture and indignity for her. During this time she, having lost mobility, would also have to have people making her movements for her, all of them – even urination. She did not want this. I know my dog and I believe this to be her idea of her own personal hell. And so, without hesitation, I simply said “she doesn’t want that” when presented with the options.

To this day – this day that is 10 months, 2 weeks and 6 days after the fact, I am tortured with those final images. The feeling of my heart just falling out- when I walked into the treatment room, expecting all to be normal –and seeing her that way instead. The feeling of walking away from that clinic without my Dog in tow. I am tortured by the flashback images that take over my head. Of her lying there, waiting for me –and me not being there! I am tortured by the fact that I left her care in someone else’s hands, rather than cramming myself in her cage with her and spending the damn night watching her myself. I am a changed person. What I got? For considering everyone else’s feelings and sparing them of ‘erratic, worried about Dallas Jessie’ , was my absolute worst nightmare and as a result I care less about sparing other people now.  A once selfless person, I have learned that when it really comes down to it, I should put myself first. I am tortured by the constant knowledge of what my dog went through – and how UNNECESSARY it was.

As I stated, I worked for the practice. I took the job, and spent those years in a miserable place all for her. All so that exactly this would NOT happen.  The hospital – North Florida Veterinary Specialists – that had kept her alive and given me over three additional years of good quality-of-life time with my dog, ultimately made her suffer. Oh the irony. I was there just for her, and look what they did to her. I am tortured – not so much by my decisions during this time- but by the fact that she went out this way. By the fact that she was made to suffer for 15 hours. By the images that will not leave my head. After C had finally met with me, given me the time of day – and he was very compassionate all the while –if you discount the fact that it took him so long to get there – I had decided it had to be outside, in the sun, in the grass, in her favorite place.  I am left with those final images, of being in that backyard, watching her struggle to breath while we waited on him. And the image that no parent wants to see – of her lifeless body afterwards. I fear, I KNOW that these images will never hurt any less. I fear that they will also never let up.

It would always be hard enough, to be alive without her of course. It is much harder knowing what she was put through. Unnecessarily. By the North Florida Veterinary Specialists. If you’re in North Florida and your loved one needs medical treatment, do yourself a favor and go to the Southeast Veterinary Oncology and Internal Medicine in Orange Park instead. Or travel to Tallahassee and see the brilliant Dr. Mark Walker at Capital Veterinary Specialists. As, I was both an employee and family to the practice and if they cannot take care of their own, who can they take care of?

As an employee, I continued to work there for about 6 months after the fact. I continued to sell their services to unsuspecting people. Going against everything I believed in to do my job. Knowing to my core that I did not wish anyone to bring their pet to this place, but having a need to do my job and do it well. (I will admit, I had a terrible attitude about it all!) Acting as a salesperson, telling all of the uncertain callers what they wanted to hear in order to “make that sale” and bring them into the clinic. I will always hate myself for this as well but I do not have it in me to do my employer a disservice. As long as I am on the payroll I will do my job to the best of my abilities. Apparently, even if it compromises my personal values.  But I am no longer on the payroll and so I can speak the truth about what happened and other things I saw while there. Those are for another post as this one is too long already.

The point is, I am ready to admit, that I allowed my dog to suffer by leaving her in the care of the North Florida Veterinary Specialists. By trusting them to take care of their patient and her owner too – me. By trusting them to call me if the need arose… and they did not. And the one who suffered for this lack of action was an innocent, and very undeserving dog.

Please, if you’re still reading, do not follow up with the advice to get another dog. There will never be another Dallas for one thing. And clearly, I am an unfit parent as the one being who mattered to me more than anyone or anything in the world still suffered in the end, as a result of my decisions ultimately. If I could do it all over again, she would’ve been placed in the care of the very capable Affiliated Veterinary Emergency Care next door.  Even they, our next-door neighbors and brand new practice – knew me well enough, that they would have called me when she began to decline. Also, unlike their neighbors, they haven’t yet lost their ethics.

So there you have it. A truth that I was, until now, fairly silent about.

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