See that adorable West Highland Terrier? His name is Scooter. On Rick's birthday, September 15th of 2009, Scooter died.
Scooter was a force of All Things Doggy, including the need to be the biggest and baddest there is (he got that from Rick). Unfortunately for Scooter, our other dog, Ambush (note the name?!) is bigger and badder, a mixed breed of what looks like German Shepard and Big Goofy Dog -- 99% of the time, Ambush is simply a big goofy dog who really reminds you of Scooby Do. Most of the time, due to Scooter's need to prove himself, they were kept in separate yards, with the occasional inter-mixing. Then one day, on a rush out of the house to take the heathens somewhere, I saw that Scooter wasn't moving. He was on the ground with the other dogs simply looking down at him.
I yelled for Rick, and after shoo'ing the kids back inside, we took Scooter to the garage to assess his condition. It wasn't good. Mud caked his tongue from when he'd laid on the ground, his breathing was simply gasps, and I suspected a punctured lung. We wrapped him around with plastic wrap and his breathing eased. A sucking lung wound at the age of 12 for a dog? Not good. And when Rick had lifted him up, he said he could FEEL the broken parts of his ribs and back.
Then Scooter tried to stand up.
Have I mentioned the tenacity of this dog yet?
Now, Scooter picked a fight with Ambush two years or so ago, and lost then too, and after four days in the hospital and endless drain tubes, he healed. Amazingly. But now he's 12 years old, so old for a dog, and his body has endured so much. And in the midst of our anguish, decisions must be made.
Rick decided to take him to a local vet, and as of right now, the only vet in our country area. We take him in, and I try to speak for Rick, I try to be the Devil's Stupid Advocate. If the machine needs to be turned off, I have to step up with my emotions off and say this is what's best. He hasn't been MY personal dog for 12 years. I don't have the memories of him as a puppy. It was 5:30pm and the vet is closing for the day, but they all go into Critical Mode as we rush in.
And as this lady is looking him over, I say those words: Is it in this dog's best interest with these wounds and his age to simply relieve him of the pain and put him down?
The vet cleans him up, starts an IV, starts antibiotics, and the worst of it, she gave Rick hope. I had to leave to pick up the kids and while I'm gone, they've shaved his fur and even the vet said you could see the broken, damaged bones of Scooter even more so. Scooter fought every inch of the way, so they sedated him to SHAVE HIM.
So now he's on the ventilator, he's on pain meds, he's on antibiotics. They tell us he'll either pull through over night or not, but there's no way to really determine. We take turns petting him and ruffling his ears and telling him he's the bravest, dumbest, cutest thing ever and kiss him g'night with promises to see him in the morning.
The call came in just after midnight: Scooter died.
I had a flannel blanket with dogs all over it and we took it up there, and the vet gave us Scooter all wrapped up so we couldn't really see him. We went to the receptionist and she chirped up with, "Your total is $400."
Well now I'm just angry. Rick is standing there, prepared for around $100 or so, holding his dead dog on this birthday, and these people who I attempted to talk to the night before on what was best for Scooter are now asking for more money than it took to save Scooter before (at a different hospital -- and with a four day stay!) Rick pays the $100 he'd brought with him, and they happily -- yes, I said HAPPILY -- agree to let him pay out the rest.
So now we see a reminder every month in the mail when a statement comes reminding us how much we owe because the vet did not make the best decision for our dog. Granted, I'm not a vet, but I've been around animals my entire life, and the odds for a 12 year old dog with such huge, huge injuries to make it all, to go through the pain meds and the antibiotics and oxygen cage and blah blah blah -- did you really do what you thought was best for Scooter, or what you thought was best for YOU, Dear Vet, in a tanking economy? In all honesty, my anger knows no bounds and we will never, ever use that business again, and even suggest to others not to as well. Again, not knowing a lot about vets but I have to wonder: Do they not have an oath as well? Is it not their MORAL POSITION to do what's best for the pet, not what's best for the people, the owners or the vet, but to be an ADVOCATE for our creatures who can't speak for themselves?
One of the saddest -- sad to the bone, heart-breaking-standing-there kind of sad -- things I have ever, ever witnessed is a grown man crying as he digs the grave for his dog, on his own birthday, no less.
Less than three months later, Elly, Scooter's "wife", died at the age of 13, under our coffee table surrounded by us all. She's buried next to Scooter, where I'm sure he's taking turns frolicking with her while growling at other dogs to know their place on the totem pole - because even in Dog Heaven, he's still Top Dog.