Staff Pet of the Month

Five years ago I made the most difficult decision of my life. My best friend of 13 years was at the end of his life and needed me to help him.

Merlin came to live with me when he was 6 weeks old and 1 month prior to me moving out of my parent's house. He was a great companion; he could always be found fulfilling his duty as my co-pilot in the car and was a permanent fixture at East Ridge Animal Hospital.

As he neared his 13th birthday, he was showing his age. He was slower to get up, lay down and his back end would occasionally collapse. The bad part about being a technician and having pets is that when they get sick you tend to forget all your technical skill and training. This was never truer than when I found a "hard spot" below Merlin's anus. I thought "is this normal?" It was not. He had an anal sac gland carcinoma that had spread to his lymph nodes. (Anal sac gland carcinoma is a malignant tumor of the anal glands that can sometimes spread in the bloodstream or into the lymph nodes.) It was 2 months after this discovery that I had to make the difficult decision to have him euthanized. I had dreaded that day & thought when that day came I would be out of my mind with grief. Although I was very sad then, and still have a difficult time thinking about it now, it comforts me to know that I eased my friend's pain and allowed him to end his life with dignity; surrounded by people who loved him and who he loved

After Merlin, I thought that it would be a long time before I could love another dog.

3 months. Yup, that's all I lasted without puppy love in my life. That's when Dante entered, tail wagging and tongue lolling, to happily fill that empty space in my heart and home. Into the waiting room of East Ridge Animal Hospital he came with his seven brothers and sisters. I couldn't tell you what his siblings looked like, it was love at first sight and I only had eyes for him! At five and a half weeks of age, he was an eleven pound ball of cuddly fur. He slept a lot at that time but instantly became my constant companion. He even made a trip (in my book bag) to the airport to pick up a friend! Consistency is crucial when training a puppy, so with my full time work hours; Dante came to work with me every day. Luckily I worked at a place where I was able to maintain his schedule!


Early on I realized he was going to be a big, rambunctious dog and that if I wanted to continue to be in charge we would need some training. We have been enrolled in some type of training class (Like obedience, fly ball, agility, and play group) since he was six months old. He is my equivalent of a child although he is spoiled, he is well behaved. He has a large basket of toys that is overflowing and he loves to play with the squeaky ones when I'm on the phone with friends and family. When I go away on vacation, instead of going to a kennel, he and the cat get a sitter that stays at the house with them.

The first day home from my spring vacation in 2009 I did something not so smart. I had a small plastic container with peanut butter in it and offered it to Dante to lick clean (His all time favorite treat). In one swift motion, Dante had ingested the container along with the peanut butter. I hoped that the container would be small enough to pass through his system. If the container became lodged somewhere in Dante's digestive tract, this obstruction would cause him to become very ill, and at that point he would require surgery. So, I watched and waited. Every time I took him outside to go to the bathroom, I anxiously looked for any sign of the container. Every day I hoped Dante didn't vomit or show any signs of abdominal pain. We were fine until day ten; that's when he vomited.

So off to work we went the next day for some diagnostics. Dr. Lefler had me administer some barium and take an x-ray. By observing the natural movement of the barium through Dante's intestinal tract, we would be able to see if the container was still inside Dante's belly; causing an obstruction. The x-ray findings were suspicious of an obstruction so off to surgery we went. The obstruction was in his colon which is not a good place. Normally when a foreign body, like a plastic container, makes it to the colon, it can pass in the stool and does not require surgery to remove it. This was not the case with Dante. His foreign body happened to be a squeaker from one of his favorite toys, not the plastic cup I saw him eat!!! The squeaker must have been ingested weeks before when I was on vacation and had left a toy for him to play with. The squeaker would have perforated his colon if we had waited any longer to do surgery. Perforating his colon would have been a death sentence. Luckily, the squeaker was removed in time, along with the plastic cup that waited behind the squeaker. Dante's colon was sutured up and the foot long incision into his abdomen was closed. I was told to keep him calm (yeah right!) and to keep his stool on the loose side so that he didn't strain the stitches holding his colon together. This meant canned food mixed with mineral oil (ewww), but I did what I had to do. The first day I brought him home, he shot out of the car and ran to the fence, stood up on his hind legs and started barking at the neighbor kids. I thought "Oh my goodness, he just wrecked his surgery"! My next thought was "how am I going to make it through two weeks of this?" and "how do I go back to work and tell my patient's parents to keep them calm after surgery when I can't even do it myself?"

Somehow, Dante and I made it through those two weeks and have been doing great since then. I still miss my friend Merlin, but I think Merlin would’ve loved Dante as much as I do.

He keeps me laughing, and supplies me with a never ending supply of love, hair, and sloppy kisses. And although he's still my spoiled child, all of his squeaky toys are put away when ever I'm not there to watch him!!





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