A breach of ethics: What happened to Dennis the dachshund

Dennis, our little cream-colored dachshund, cannot speak for himself but he knows things beyond my understanding. His acuity leaves me awed.

Consider how he began trembling one bright morning this week as my son prepared to take him to the vet for standard vaccinations. Dennis only trembles when he senses an approaching thunderstorm or when the lawn care crew is running mowers in our yard; he doesn’t like loud noises.

There was no such noise on this sparkling, early-autumn day as my boy took Dennis out to the car. Dennis loves to ride; his trembling was peculiar. The Boy texted me: I think Dennis knows he’s going to the vet.

Perhaps he did.

Perhaps he had a premonition.

Dogs don’t know words like unethical, breach, violation, and gross negligence.

But I have to wonder, now, if Dennis somehow sensed what was lying in wait for him.

He could not know the particulars, could he…

That the vet parking lot would be crowded and that The Boy would follow the “Check-In Behind Building” arrows to the back. The Boy knew that COVID regulations still preclude owners from accompanying pets inside. Vet techs would have to come and get his dog. And so it was. The Boy was handed a clipboard as Dennis was carried away into the facility.

As he completed the paperwork, another employee returned to collect it, mentioning the neutering clinic…The Boy said, We aren’t here for that. Dennis has an appointment for his rabies and distemper shots and to have his toenails clipped (dachshunds, even little ones weighing twelve pounds, have ponderous nails).

The Boy knew, of course, that the spay-neuter clinic shares the same building with the animal hospital that provides our veterinary services.

The vet tech said, No problem, we will just send him over to the other side

A moment later, she called The Boy on his cell: I have to tell you that Dennis already been sedated…

For surgery.

For which an appointment was not made.

A surgery which was not needed: Dennis has been neutered. Two years ago. By this same facility.

The Boy, in utter horror, demanded the immediate return of his dog and all of his medical records.

And then he did what children often do in extreme distress: he called his mom.

By the time I arrived, The Boy was standing in the parking lot with a very woozy Dennis in his arms.

Short version: Dennis spent the remainder of the day at home in The Boy’s lap, sleeping off the drug. I returned to work, and on my arrival at home in the evening, Dennis greeted me at the door as always, albeit somewhat unsteadily. He crawled in my lap, trembling, until he succumbed to slumber, long and deep. The next day he was his normal perky, trusting self.

Longer version, still unfolding: Answers to questions.

How does a facility sedate an animal for surgery without verifying an appointment for that surgery?

How can a sedative be administered before permission is in hand?

How can no one have looked to see that the animal had (quite obviously) already been neutered, with the presence of a bright green tattoo right there on his groin, before sedating him?

How can there be such an egregious lack of standard treatment protocol?

In the human realm, would these violations not be malpractice? Are animals of a lesser god, deserving less humane treatment?

Most chilling of all: How far would the practitioners have gone before they realized their errors? When I began asking these questions, the manager told me the clinic has neutered animals without testicles.

How…I can’t even process that.

The nonchalance with which apologies were given spawns even more questions, including why the clinic nor the vet’s office has called to see if Dennis is okay. My son reported the entire incident to the agency which governs the joint practice and, to be fair, a representative of that entity did call to check on him the next day.

He is okay, thank God, but this story is far from over.

In the end, it’s a matter of ethics. Being entrusted with the care of another living creature is one of life’s highest honors. To love another creature and to see love reflected in sentient, soulful eyes, a divine gift.

Dennis is not able to speak for himself, but he knows.

Sleeping off the sedative, safe in The Boy’s lap

No words

Eleven months

At eleven months
you have two bottom teeth
and one coming in at the top
—you sometimes like
scraping them together

you blow kisses
usually to
the dogs
(you do love
a dog)

you wave hi and bye
after thinking about it
for a minute

you hide your eyes to play
Where’s Micah?
There she is!

you look so like
your dad
when he was this age

and like your Franna
you’re a girl
who loves a hat

My beautiful Micah at eleven months

Misty reflection

There’s a scientific explanation
for the mist rising
from the glassy ponds
along my morning commute

then there’s poetry
the perceiving of
elemental transitions
autumnal ghosts rising
from the silver surface

the old heron
is still there by water’s edge
not wading
but watching
in the cool gray

quite possibly studying me
an unnatural phenomenon
a recurring phantasm
passing through
its world

Lumia Shot: Foggy WatersTom Mrazek. CC BY 2.0.

Slices of life recycled

If the writer
observes the world
then the artist
recreates it
and the poet
preserves it all

Knowing yesterday was a milestone anniversary of my father’s death, a friend created this digital image as a gift. She took lines from one of my blog posts, Fresh-cut grass, written in his memory: Grass, though cut, always heals itself and grows again, and you are always present in that sweet scent. She used pictures in my posts to make the grass…here in these blades are slices of my first Christmas, the cross necklace my father gave me, a portion of his Air Force uniform, and a lamppost like the one that stood in the yard of my childhood home; my father used say that when he turned onto the street he could see the light of home shining straight ahead.

I’m in awe of the gift and its artistry.

A metaphor for life itself.

My father’s presence remains in the scent of fresh-cut grass. Here is Sunday’s poem, marking the twentieth year of his passing: September, When Grass Was Green.


with thanks to E. Johnson for the digital masterpiece and to Two Writing Teachers for the original impetus to start a blog for capturing Slices of Life. I began by writing each Tuesday in April 2016, then every day each March, then for Spiritual Journeys on the first Thursday of each month, and on occasion for other writing communities like SOS— Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog…and every day thus far in the year 2022.

If you are reading…thank you.

We are our stories. Let us write them and live them well. And bring healing to one another.

Twenty years

September, When Grass Was Green

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow…

(T. Jones/H. Schmidt, 1960)

I remember
our last conversation
in September
twenty years ago

you said you’d
been cutting the grass
and that maybe
you’d overdone it
going back and forth
with your mower
making a pretty pattern
—you thought your chest muscles
were sore from the turning

it worried me

—you were worried
about other things

but happy to be retiring
in two weeks

the thing about last things
is that you don’t know
they’re the last

I remember promising
to come celebrate your retirement
and how we spoke of you
having more time to spend with
your grandchildren

I remember getting the news
a week later
as soon as I walked in from shopping
with the retirement card I just bought
still in my hand

I remember that September day:
so glorious, cloudless
sky so blue it hurt
all the trees still green, sharp-edged,
clinging hard to the light

never again will September
be as bright

or kind

I remember coming home
for the last time

to speak at your funeral

to thank you,
my duty-minded, dedicated

twenty years
come this twenty-fifth day
of September

don’t you know
the grass is still oh so green
and Daddy, you are still
in the scent
of its cutting

Yesterday’s sunrise

with thanks to Susan Ahlbrand for the Do You Remember prompt with musical inspiration on Ethical ELA’s Open Write earlier this week. Susan remembered her own father’s passing with Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September”. I chose “Try To Remember” as a frame instead. The song predates me; I recall hearing it on my father’s radio when I was very small.

I still have the retirement card I bought for my father on the day that he died, with three workdays left to go. The card mentions that it’s a great time to be alive.

Twenty years, and that remains the great dichotomy of late September.

Acts of faith haiku

do it anyway
acts of faith are rewarded
refueling the soul

One little ruby-throated female visited the feeder this afternoon. Although days had passed without a hummingbird sighting, I refilled the feeders and left them out anyway, in case…


In the wake of
my hummingbirds’
it has been suggested
that I befriend
a crow.
I don’t know…

American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos. jpmckenna – Plotting 2020 AdventuresCC BY-NC 2.0.

—A crow’s endearing pose? To give them their due, crows are highly intelligent; they use tools. They play. They mourn. And this, from the Corvus entry on Wikipedia:

Crows have demonstrated the ability to distinguish individual humans by recognizing facial features. Evidence also suggests they are one of the few nonhuman animals, along with insects like bees or ants, capable of displacement (communication about things that are not immediately present, spatially or temporally).

Not tiny and fairy-like, but certainly enchanting…furthermore, as I finished this post and went outside, a crow called —caw-caw—from the pines…