Sunday, September 7, 2014

Begging Your Indulgence - For Jack and Sadie

I seldom use the WinstonWeb platform for personal information or to promote a cause. We are an information site and strive to do just that. But I am begging your indulgence for the time it takes to read the following.

Jack came into our lives through my daughter’s involvement with
Jack's first and only selfie
the Louisville Animal Shelter. He was hit by a car on Hwy 397 and suffered 2 breaks in his hip. Jack was a beautiful chocolate lab mix and the folks at the shelter were certain that his owner would show up looking for him but shelter rules required that an injured animal be put down after 5 days.

The weekend was approaching and we were asked if we would care for him for a few days - just until his owner came for him. Myrrah and I bundled him up, made a place for him in our shop and fed and watered him.

Honestly he showed no personality whatsoever. His owner never appeared and days turned into weeks. In spite of his lack of charm, he became a bit of a celebrity through the Shelter’s Facebook page and a wonderful lady from outside the area paid his vet bills. There was a good chance that he would never walk again but we stuck with him for more than six weeks. During that time he made no effort to walk.

As I was about to give up hope for him, he took that first step and soon he was roaming the farm and his personality began to bloom. He followed every step I made and endeared himself with his big oafish demeanor.

I have to say that Jack was probably the dumbest dog I have ever owned. He refused to ride in any vehicle without a fight and he chased and ran alongside as we traveled around the farm. He just couldn’t figure out that cars, tractors and 4wheelers were something to avoid. Between all members of the family, he probably was run over 7-8 times but he always jumped up and never suffered a significant injury.

Sadie was a Beagle and she captured out hearts immediately. Shy
around strangers, she quickly made herself at home on the farm and in the house. She lived her life the way we all wanted to live. She ate when she was hungry, slept when she was tired, chased rabbits in the woods behind the house and harassed the older dogs on the place when she was feeling frisky.

Extremely bright, Sadie could charm the food right off your plate with her cocked head and serious eyes. Somehow she managed to eat as much steak, hamburger, potato chips, turkey and ham as any human member of the family.

When the weather was cold, she demanded to sleep in our bed and would start the night at my feet. By morning she had wormed her way to the lion’s share of my pillow. When the weather was hot, she chose my recliner.

Playful, she had a game that was totally frustrating to my wife. After eating her breakfast outside, she would spend an hour in the woods and fields and swampy areas around the house and return for her mid-morning nap. Her scratch on the door was a signal to Tracy to grab on old towel and position herself to catch the dog before she could enter covered in dew and sometimes mud.

Tracy had about a 50% success rate. Failure resulted in a comic chase around the house as Sadie would see how many beds and pieces of furniture she could roll on before she was caught – usually ending in my daughter’s upstairs bed.

Two weeks ago we noticed that Sadie was having difficulty keeping her balance and drinking excessive amounts of water. A trip to the Vet confirmed antifreeze poisoning. A frantic drive to the MSU Vet School confirmed that it was too late. Sadie was doomed to a painful death.

After a series of convulsions, we knew what we had to do.

I am an old farm boy and have had many dogs and cats and I have put several down over the years. It’s the most difficult reality that all pet owners have to face at some point. This one was the toughest I have ever had to face. I think as we get older – in some strange way- we value life even more, especially for those that are young and healthy. Sadie was only 3 years old, had the heart of a lion and her death was absolutely senseless.

We noticed that Jack seemed to miss Sadie as much as we did. He lost his appetite and his desire to follow me around the farm but he showed no symptoms that were similar to Sadie’s. After a few days, we realized that there was something more than depression going on here.

The Vet confirmed – Jack had been poisoned also. As a bigger dog that probably consumed less of the poison, its effect was slower and less defined. It was too late for him as well.

For the second time in less than a week, I dug a grave on our property where we are rebuilding our home after the April tornado. Both of these animals survived an F4 tornado as a garage came crashing down upon them but they couldn’t survive man’s thoughtlessness or cruelty.

We’ve searched our property for any source of antifreeze. We knew we wouldn’t find any as we have always been aware of the danger of antifreeze and took care to never leave any around the place. We have spoken with and warned neighbors and will probably never find the source – never knowing if this was a horrible accident or an intentional act.

It is believed that antifreeze poisoning kills as many as 90,000 pets every year. The toxic ingredient is ethylene glycol, which has historically had a smell and taste that is appealing to animals and can kill a medium size dog with just a small amount. An animal can happen upon even a small spill that would be deadly. Antifreeze containing ethylene glycol is also deadly to humans as well.

Unfortunately, there is a history of individuals using food laced with antifreeze to kill animals intentionally. The internet can be searched to find article after article of this crime. There have also been incidents of hunters who have used antifreeze to control coyote and wild dog populations in their hunting areas without regard to domestic animals or other wildlife. It is a painful and cruel death.

These acts are illegal in Mississippi under animal cruelty laws.

A number of states now require a bitter additive to be put in all antifreeze to make it less palatable to animals and most manufacturers have done so voluntarily. When buying antifreeze or engine coolant, check the ingredient list for denatonium benzoate to confirm the bitter agent is included.

Unfortunately there are still a few brands that don't use the additive that costs only 3 cents per gallon and there are still gallons of older antifreeze stored in garages and shops all over our community.

Today, there are several brands of antifreeze based on propylene glycol, which is much less toxic than ethylene glycol and has the advantage of being bitter-tasting as well.

Maybe it’s time for our legislature to look at following other states and apply some common sense regulations on antifreeze and its disposal and maybe we can encourage our local retailers to carry the less toxic antifreeze containing propylene glycol. (a quick check around town indicates that many do not)

Accidental poisonings can be easily prevented. If you spill antifreeze, swab it up fully, wash down the area and dispose of the cleanup materials properly.  Check the ground and parking area underneath your vehicles for signs of leaks. Don’t leave antifreeze in open or leaky containers and dispose of used antifreeze properly. Place it in a sealed container and many auto shops and parts stores will dispose of it for you.

If you lease land for hunting, consider adding a specific restriction of the use of poisoned baits.

It’s too late for Sadie and Jack and my family lives in fear that somehow our other pets may suffer the same fate since we have not been able to find the source. But maybe our loss can help remind folks to be cautious and thoughtful, use the new antifreeze products that are less toxic or think twice before using a deadly poison as a lazy man’s option in the woods.

w mccully