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 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