The recent death of Pennsylvania DOC K9 Totti has galvanized me into action more than any issue in many years. K9 Totti, a two-year old yellow lab, was left by her handler, Sgt. Chad Holland, in the car on a day when the temperature outside was in the high 80’s. Unlike some police cars, the DOC vehicles do not have safety monitoring equipment installed that could save a trapped K9. Instead, Holland left K9 Tottie for over two hours while he attended a training session. The temperature inside the car would have rapidly escalated to over 100 degrees. There is no doubt in my mind that this poor dog suffered. When Holland realized his negligence, he and coworkers rushed to the vehicle and took actions to cool the still breathing K9 down. They then took her a veterinary facility where she was treated. I know I put the timeline in a previous post but this is germane so please bare with me ( failed to notice until today that in this timeline issued by the DOC they referred to K9 Totti as male when in fact the dog the officer was female):
12:15 p.m.- Dog handler stored training items in his vehicle at the end of a training session
2:44 p.m.- Dog handler realized Totti was locked in the car. Dog handler and other Drug Interdiction Union staff cooled Totti down with water and carefully placed him in ice to reduce body temperature.
2:58 p.m.- Totti was placed in truck and driven to vet clinic.
4:15 p.m.- Totti’s body temperature was back to normal, but creatine levels were high; blood sugar was low but being treated; heart rate remained elevated
7:30 p.m.- Totti passed away
The key words for me here is “creatinine levels” as they indicate Totti suffered acute and irreversible renal failure because her body was subjected to a very high temperature for several hours. It dawned on me today why this dogs death has resonated with me on such a passionate level; my own dog Callie Ann who died last November. Yes Callie had lymphoma however THAT is not the reason she died. I have been reluctant to go into great detail surrounding her death for several reasons ~ the primary being that nothing could bring her back. I could publicly flog the person responsible yet it wouldn’t change the outcome. At the end of the day my black angel still wouldn’t be by my side.
After Callie’s initial chemo dose, her lymphs reduced by 90% and her oncologist was extremely optimistic. During the week until her next chemo she became quite nauseous. It didn’t stop so I decided she needed to be seen. I checked her temperature and it was slightly elevated. Not wanting to subject a nauseous dog to a two-hour car ride to the specialty practice, I opted to take her to our local veterinarian of many years. She started an IV and put Callie and me in a cluttered back room. I laid on the floor next to her, constantly talking and petting her. She seemed warmer so I asked them to check her temperature; it was elevated to 103.2. The vet assured me this was fine and said “that shows her immune system is working”. Something in my gut didn’t feel right but I am not a veterinarian so I stayed silent. We spent several hours in that room with the vet’s children coming in and out as they apparently stay at the practice after school. I asked again to have her temperature checked and the male tech openly expressed his annoyance via his body language and audible sighs. I insisted and her temperature was now 105. I called out to the vet saying that Callie was in danger but she assured me she wasn’t. At this point I began to panic and emailed her oncologist in literal desperation. My email opened with “Please help me”. He responded and said Callie needed to be hospitalized and TREATED. A few minutes later someone from the specialty practice called the veterinarian asking if she was going to treat and admit Callie. She said no, that actually she was closing early and if I wanted Callie to have further care I could take her to an animal emergency clinic. When she hung up with them she turned and told me the same thing. We left and drove straight down to Portland. The specialty practice also has a 24 hour Animal Emergency Clinic in the same building so that’s where I wanted her as opposed to an emergency clinic that was a bit closer. The Animal Emergency Clinic and the specialty practices collaborate so closely that I knew this was best for Callie. When we arrived they took her from our car into the building via stretcher. A few minutes later the technician came out to tell me Callie’s temperature was over 107. My heart dropped when I heard that number because I knew that it was extremely high and she risked organ damage. They immediately gave Callie a cold bath and were able to lower her temperature. But that begged the question ~ what were her internal organs doing? Having an ultrasound was an option and I chose to pay extra money to have the internist come in and do it that night. I was thrilled when she arrived to see it was Dr. Sarah Noble, my German Shepherd Sasha’s internist whom I have come to respect tremendously in the three years she has been treating Sasha. The ultrasound was good and her labs were somewhat acceptable so her prognosis was guarded. Time would tell. We spent the night at a local motel and went back early in the morning. The Animal Emergency Clinic transferred Callie over to the specialty practice even though she stayed in the same area. As soon as Dr. Noble entered the room I knew by her face that my time with Callie was drawing to an end. Her creatine levels would not stabilize and she was in acute renal failure that they could not reverse. It was from having a high temperature for several hours without treatment. They told me the exam room was “yours for as long as you need it”. I spent four hours with my angel, telling her how loved she was, how much joy she had brought to my life, and how I never, ever expected this to happen. I would have paid any price, done anything if only I could have changed the outcome. When I saw that she was becoming uncomfortable I summoned Dr. Noble. At 1:15 pm on Friday November 6, 2015 I said goodbye to the best friend I’ve ever had.
I then embarked on what I called “The Crazy Train of Grief” which literally lasted for two months. I did things I’d never done before such as hacking my hair off in the bathroom, not eating, cooking, cleaning the house, paying bills ~ I merely existed. I shared my intense grief with another woman who lost her “heart” dog several weeks after I lost Callie. We bonded because we both had loved and lost beautiful black angels who filled our lives with unbridled joy. The pictures I post every Sunday morning at 7:33 am along with a prayer is my special tribute to these incredible dogs who blessed our lives. Until the day comes when each of us meet our black angels again, my weekly ritual must suffice.
Callie’s premature and unnecessary death also prompted me to become a “helicopter” dog owner, a word usually applied to parents. I oversee every aspect of Sasha’s treatment, get copies of every lab result and progress report which I then scan into the computer. I’m respectful to all the veterinarians on her team because they’re all consummate professionals. However I’m not afraid to ask a question (or 100) if there’s something I don’t understand and basically micromanage all her treatment. I learned trough Callie Ann’s death to never take what a veterinarian says as gospel if it raises an internal red flag. I only wish I hadn’t been so trusting last November.
So for this reason, K9 Totti’s tragic and unnecessary death has provoked me into action. I’ve collaborated on a petition which now has over 100k signatures, checked and double checked facts by email with the reporters who wrote various articles, and created a firestorm on Twitter. I’m not writing this to call attention to the negligence of K9 Totti’s handler; I do that through other venues. Instead, I’m writing it because I finally understand just why this K9s death is so intently personal to me.
Ending with a quote that I use as a signature for my email!