I was talking to a neighbor the other day about my dogs. We have two standard poodles, a five-month-old puppy, Geordy, and our four year old, Ryker. (anyone guess their namesakes?) The neighbor asked why we chose standard poodles. I thought for a bit and remembered an experience while I was working as a vet tech at a pet hospital during college. One day stands out in my mind. A woman brought in a two-year-old standard poodle and asked us to put the dog to sleep. She stated that it was too aggressive, it couldn’t be trained, and she didn’t want it any longer. We were shocked. The dog was in perfect health and interacted with us just fine. We talked to the woman at length and tried to convince her to give him up for adoption, to get additional training, anything other than putting the dog to sleep. But she insisted and it was her legal right. She was convinced that even if someone adopted the dog, she would be liable if it bit anyone. She didn’t want to spend any more time, energy, or money on the dog. We told her we needed to think about it and agreed to board the dog overnight.
We had a team meeting to discuss our dilemma. The staff was upset and angry about putting a healthy animal to sleep. We knew that if we turned her down she would simply find another clinic to put the dog asleep. The hospital where I worked was a referral hospital with a fairly extensive intensive care unit. At that time there were a number of dogs that were struggling with canine parvovirus. Back then it was a deadly problem. At that time we had three young dogs in our ICU that were very sick with parvo. One of them was a very young
Australian Shepherd puppy, which had been brought in because it’s rear paw had been crushed. On exam he was found to also have parvo. While we were talking about the poodle, one of the veterinarians mentioned that some studies had reported that blood transfusions from a healthy immune dog had been effective in treating some cases of parvo. After much debate and soul-searching we called the woman and said we would put her dog down, but only if we could use the poodle’s blood to transfuse the sick puppies in the ICU.
She agreed. I remember crying as we put the poodle to sleep and collected his blood. But two of the three puppies we then transfused, survived. One of them was the Australian Shepherd with the injured paw. He became my buddy, Chester. No longer show quality, he was still a great dog. (Another TV show reference possibly?) Years later when my wife and I decided to get a new dog, I just couldn’t get the image out of my mind of that lady’s elegant standard poodle. Thankfully, my wife agreed, and
Ryker entered our lives. He travels everywhere with us. He goes to work with me and works as a therapy dog. He enjoys agility classes with my wife. Maybe I picked a poodle out of a sense of guilt or I was simply trying to right a wrong. I’m not really sure. But I know that our lives would be poorer without Ryker. He helps me connect with the people around me. Sometimes I get to see the world through his eyes. He could care less if my car is new or clean. Only that it will take us to the park. Which makes me ask myself: maybe we should be more like our pets? Focused on the things that really matter. Like that walk in the park.