Priceless


A painful reminder came this past week of what I call, “the terrible summer.”  Of what happened to Bella and Kiwi.  All those wretched feelings I thought I’d sufficiently managed with such tight control, came again, flattening out my mood and my spirit, as if someone had driven a steamroller over my heart.

This past Monday, an update revealed a settlement had been reached in the Adkins vs Purina Class Action Lawsuit.  I will participate, not because of the money, which is simply reimbursement of vet costs for treatments, etc, but because at every corner since the girls unexpected deaths, I’ve written and talked to anyone who would listen about what happened.  I wrote to my congresswoman, my senator, the director of HHS, and the lead Vet within the FDA.  I’ve spoken to other vets, other dog owners, and even approached strangers perusing the aisles at stores, their hands hovering over the dog treats I too had purchased in good faith.  Finally, they were pulled off the shelves in January of 2013, and the relief I felt no other dog or dog owner would have to go through what I did was enormous.  No longer would I need to haunt the dog food/treat aisles, ever vigilant for the unaware pet owner.  The reason?  Traces of antibiotics not allowed in the US.  It didn’t matter to me the formal statement also said they had not been able to link this with the illnesses/deaths of our pets.

Much to the horror of many, they were allowed back on the shelves about a year later.

As consumers, here in the good ole US of A, we expect the best.  We’re reminded occasionally that even our strictest of standards can sometimes run amok when the media suddenly shares an outbreak of salmonella, or some other illness, from tainted chicken, hamburger, or lettuce.  As time has gone on, we’ve also come to expect the same high standards when it comes to feeding our pets.  Whether we go to a big box pet store, or a small holistic pet supply store and purchase something, the last thing we anticipate is for the item we’ve purchased to make our pets sick.  The very last thing we expect is for that product to make them sick enough to die, or be euthanized.

Sadly, this is exactly what happened.  To thousands of dogs.  To Bella and Kiwi.

In June 2010, I bought my first bag of treats.  In January 2012, I stopped feeding it to them when I learned other dogs were becoming ill, some dying.  Seven months later, this would happen to the girls.  Two dogs with different dams/sires, both diagnosed with Stage IV Kidney Failure. I remember their vet’s reaction.  “Could they have gotten into antifreeze?”  Tearfully, I told her about the jerky treats.  She was skeptical.  I brought her several articles.  She had no idea.  And then, she did what she could.

As I began to fill out all the claim paperwork, I had to go back and pick up their records for the treatment they’d received.  The valiant efforts to keep them with us dutifully cataloged.  Her notes said things like, “treatment seems insufficient.  Significant kidney damage.”  And, “levels are climbing, she feels bad this a.m.”  Or, “ate this a.m., not interested in food p.m.”  She’d been Bella’s doctor for twelve years, eleven for Kiwi.

In one area of the claim, it says “You may be entitled to a reimbursement for fair market value of your pet with supporting documentation.  Please enter that value here.”  I typed in the word that came to mind, “Priceless.”  The claim form would not accept it.  It said, “that value is not recognized.”

Perfect.  Because to me, no, their value cannot be recognized.

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16 Comments

They are sweet looking kids, and it’s heartbreaking that something given as reward or just to make their lives a little more fun could have done this. When I adopted Penelope, they actually gave me a litany (there may be a hard copy sheet, even) of treats not to buy, and what was most likely saf(est). I never really thought about why they gave me such information; now I am thinking about it.

She (and Sweet Siddy La before her) always gets bones, preferably uncoated, and treats called Sammy Snacks, which are manufactured less than 60 miles from where we live and are formulated to be shared (the peanut butter ones aren’t bad!). I always check labels on anything else I consider, to avoid rawhides or treats or whatever manufactured outside the US. She and Gossamer don’t get to eat people food and I try to watch their weight and health and happiness.

I’m probably not unique in that I live my life and do everything for my pets, just to live up to the love and everything else they give me. You clearly did everything you could for your darling girls.

Fair market value. How brutally, cruelly insulting.

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    I hear you. Little Dog is so spoiled, it’s actually getting a little out of hand, and we’ve been thinking a companion might be in order. Other than me. 🙂

    I’m sure you know this…, but, be careful of what you buy – even if it proclaims “Made In the USA!” No telling where some of the ingredients are sourced. Little Dog was on a homemade diet simply b/c of what I went thru with B & K. He ate it really good for a while – about 18 months – then he just went off it. I couldn’t get him to eat one bite, and after about three days of him eating only boiled chicken, and losing about .5 lbs which is a TON for a 4 lb dog, I discussed with his vet about putting him back on regular kibble. I tried Blue Freedom first b/c it’s ranked as a five star on Dog Advisor. He couldn’t tolerate it. Ate one bag (4 lbs) then started having issues with diarrhea. I ended up back on the dog food he ate when I first adopted him – Nature’s Recipe Easy To Digest, which is only ranked a 3.5 star on Dog Advisor and that worries me some, but he seems to be doing well on it – so far. It makes me cringe a little b/c with the homemade diet, he didn’t drink much water. On this kibble (Blue and NR) he drinks – a lot. And of course that was one of the symptoms first exhibited by B & K…so, you know. Freaked out about it sort of.

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      Oh, and yeah. Fair market value. It makes me just spitting mad.

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      Truthfully, I just don’t give Penelope anything not easily identifiable as having been made by human beings, rather than extruded from a machine who-knows-where. Also, I shop pretty much exclusively at the very local store down the block from us, and they have a great product line, thank goodness. Sammy Snacks are not bones or antlers, to be sure, but I eat them myself and read the ingredients list. She is one healthy girl at about two and a half, and Siddy lived to fourteen, bless her.

      Sigh. We have to be so ever-vigilant. It just stinks.

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      As to market value – the fees I paid when I adopted Penelope, and Sidney, and Gossamer, and every animal I’ve ever been blessed with are NOT their PRICE, but the support for rescue operations and the SPCA I expect to come with any ADOPTION. I did not PURCHASE these family members, they are not property.

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      I wish we had a holistic type of dog food/treat supply store somewhere nearby. The vet I take him to runs a store SORT of like that. But they sell a lot of manufactured dog foods along with raw foods, Stella and Chewy, etc. He’s very picky, and I have a lot of trouble getting him to eat anything except boiled chicken. The girls were not like that at all. I would put food down, they would eat it. Little Dog – no. I’ll have to check and see if I can get Sammy Snacks on line.

      And it was the same for me when we adopted him. the fee we paid went towards all of the same things, so, exactly. We didn’t buy him. He was adopted. But the question really just stinks all around from the humane/emotional level, you know?

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Donna, thank you for sharing this story. I knew the basics but certainly none of the details and, like most horrific things, the devil is in the too-many-details that brought all of this to be. Your beautiful sweet babies suffering and your tremendous loss, and for what? As I read through I fluctuated between being so very sad and then frustrated and then just increasingly ANGRY at how in the world such a thing can happen, and then CONTINUE to happen, unchecked.

Hugs.

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    God. Same here. ANGER every time I think of it. Just recently, Petco and Petsmart both stated they would (AGAIN) stop carrying these treats from China. I mean, honestly. The Chinese Gov’t doesn’t care about their own people – much less OUR PETS.

    Most of all, I just feel that overwhelming SADNESS. I think what punches me in the gut is, they should still be here. Yes, they would be old, but here. I know a lot of Yorkies who have lived 15, 16, 17 years. Hell, there was one here in the neighborhood who JUST passed – at 18.

    This spring/summer Bella would have been 15, and Kiwi 14. I feel they were both cheated out of several years. I also know I loved them enough to last a lifetime.

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I can’t even imagine. I’d be so distraught. I’m glad you are doing something about it.

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My first column, for my former newspaper, was 650 words about my daughter’s miniature dachshund, Hitch. When the column was published I did not know it was going to be the first. After it ran I wrote the editor the following email. This incident is part of my memoir, the part which set us up for broken hearts.

Sue,
It is very fitting that you chose the piece about my grand-dogger Hitch. A couple of days after I sent the piece to you he became very ill with hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. This is a rapid onset condition with no known cause in little guys like Hitch. It involves internal bleeding, dehydration and death within hours of onset. The morning my daughter and her fiancé took Hitch to the Vet we were devastated. He was rushed to the twenty-four hour care facility in Middletown where they indeed work miracles but we thought there were no miracles for Hitch.
I cannot describe the day I had to go to work with the life of that little dog on my mind and the fear and pain in my daughter’s heart. It was awful for all of us. That such a little sprite of a dog could mean so much to us is amazing.
I told my daughter the little guy has spirit and that he is a fighter, little dogs have to be tough. Within twenty-four hours we were told Hitch was probably going to make it through. The relief I felt when we knew he was going to survive was like something I had never experienced for a species other than my own before.
Hitch made it back. He bounds across the lawn again and yips welcome to all of us. He is not at 100% yet but he is getting there. I just wanted to thank you for choosing that piece and wanted to share the back-story about the little guy that is so important in our lives now. Feeling like I do about this dog…imagine if he were a child. I cannot wrap my mind around that.
Carolynn

A few days after the I sent the email the Vet told my daughter Hitches illness was probably caused by the rawhide treats bought at Petco. I have told everyone I know about the treats.
Thank you for posting this. My heart goes out to you and the thousands of pet owners who have walked your path. God bless those little sprites of our lives.

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    I remember hearing something about Hitch before – maybe it was another story with his name, which I love btw.

    Thank you for sharing his story and what happened to him. I’m so happy little Hitch lived on. What you said about “we knew he was going to survive was like something I’d never experienced for a species other than my own before.”

    Amen. I’m sorry to report, I cried harder – and still do – over the girls than I have over some actual humans. There, I’ve admitted it. It is what it is, to pull out a worn out phrase.

    This past week has been a little like hell week, to be honest, having to scan and download each vet document, because of course it makes me read the notes, and then I’m reliving it all over again. But, it’s done. And by doing this, I feel that I’m honoring their lives in some way.

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      I have also cried for my pets more than for humans. It’s the humans, that by action or inaction, who make you cry and it is, into the fur of the pet, so loyally seeking to comfort you, your tears fall.

      Hitch lives with. It’s supposed to be temporary, almost 2 years by now, but I think he is here to stay. We know, especially my husband who adores him, that though Hitch loves us, and especially loves my husband, he will always love my daughter and her husband more. They are a loyal breed, loving the one they’re with, and yet, never forgetting the original bond.

      You are indeed honoring the lives of Bella and Kiwi. XO

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“fair market value of your pet with supporting documentation” is a phrase that just made me choke and get very, very angry. Your poor dogs. Your poor family.

I’m glad you’re taking part in the lawsuit. It is unconscionable to me that those treats were sold so long (and are still being sold, some places, I think. Though didn’t Petco only just pull them?) I feel very, very grateful that I dodged the jerky treats bullet.

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    Yes, Petco and Petsmart both decided (again) not to carry any treats made in China. It’s a small consolation, but this sort of thing has to start somewhere. (again) Oh my gosh, Jen. It was unbelievable what happened, and the way I felt when I found out they were THAT sick, the suddenness of it, so totally unexpected, and then they were just…, gone. July 18th it began, and by August 23rd, it was all over.

    I’ve got Little Dog who is doing a stupendous job in filling up the holes left behind, and still, I really, really miss those girls.

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