K9 Killer Dan Peabody Had Major Charges Dropped But DA Appeals…

K9 Killer Dan Peabody Had Major Charges Dropped But DA Appeals…

I’ve written about former Cherokee County Lt. Daniel Peabody several times, the most recent being  Former Cop And Serial Dog Killer Dan Peabody ~ Manipulative As Ever… on December 3, 2016. On June 10, 2016, when Peabody arrived home from work at 4 pm, he left his partner, K-9 Inka, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, in a 2001 Crown Victoria police sedan which was not equipped with any type of heat sensors, not left running to provide air conditioning and with the windows closed. The outside temperature was in the low to mid-90s that day yet Peabody forgot about his partner for (3) hours. When he finally checked on Inka around 7 pm, she was dead. Peabody raised her from a puppy yet he was so distracted by another dog issue inside his home that he forgot not just a dog, but a dog that was a trained K-9 officer, a dog he spent every hour of his working day with. How does one do that?

Peabody was so distraught that night that he was taken to the hospital. On June 16 he abruptly resigned from his job of (16) years with the Cherokee County School Police Department. Per department policy a necropsy was done which indicated conclusively that K-9 Inka died from heat stroke as suspected. Temperature testing conducted on the car indicated that after about two hours and 45 minutes, the temperature inside K-9 Inka’s crate would have been 130 degrees F. She was trapped inside for (3) hours. K-9 Inka, a living sentient being in addition to being an officer,  roasted to death.

Then the unexpected happened. Investigators received tips that K-9 Inka was not the first dog to die in Peabody’s care. He was partnered with a Golden Labrador, K-9 Dale, from 2007 until Dale’s retirement at age (6) in 2012. Peabody claimed he was so attached to K-9 Dale that he wanted to adopt him which the department allowed. During the initial stages of the investigation into K-9 Inka’s death, when investigators from the Cherokee County Marshal’s Office asked about K-9  Dale, Peabody was evasive but then claimed the dog had choked to death on a tennis ball. During further questioning, Peabody admitted that he shot Dale shortly after his retirement because Dale was “ill” although no veterinary records supported his claim. Chief Marshal Ron Hunton of the Cherokee County Marshal’s Office made the following statement regarding Dale’s death:

Hunton said that Peabody claimed he shot the dog because “it had been aggressive” and suffered “some kind of ailment,” adding that the dog’s skull had a defect that could be consistent with a gunshot wound.

Peabody said Dale was buried at his former home and on June 20, armed with a search warrant, investigators dug until they discovered a dog’s decomposed body. They assumed it was K-9 Dale as there was evidence of a gunshot wound (GSW). Imagine the shock when forensic investigators discovered it was not Dale but a female Belgian Malinois, approximately (10) years old which they suspect was K-9 Inka’s grandmother. She also died from a GSW to her head.

Peabody was arrested on June 22 and charged with animal cruelty in K-9 Inka’s death and with providing a false statement about Dale’s death  He appeared in Cherokee County Superior Court with his attorney on October 13, 2016 where he entered not guilty pleas to (2) counts of aggravated animal cruelty and one count of making a false statement. In December his attorneys filed a motion to quash the indictments  against Peabody. 

On January 18, 2017, Judge Jackson Harris of the Cherokee County Superior Court dropped (2) of the most egregious charges;  aggravated cruelty to animals. Judge Harris left one count remaining, making a false statement to investigators. One media source indicated the false statement pertains to K-9 Inka’s death while another says it is regarding his false statements about the death of K-9 Dale. In either event, he lied. Repeatedly.  He also confessed yet his attorney made a successful argument that Peabody was on duty when K-9 Inka died because as a handler he is on duty continuously:

The state argued that when Peabody left his car and went inside, he “stepped away” from his duties, therefore the law does not apply. However, Peabody contends that as a K-9 handler, his duties related to the police dog are continuous, and the death of Inka happened “during the performance of his duties.”

Needless to say many people, both civilians and law enforcement, were shocked to learn of Judge Harris’s ruling which didn’t come to the media’s attention until February 21, 2017.

Daniel Peabody is a cold-blooded killer. He showed a callous disregard for the safety and welfare of his partner K-9 Inka, he murdered his former partner, retired (6) year old K-9 Dale by shooting him in the head shortly after he retired. He also killed a non-working dog, a female Belgian Malinois with a GSW to her head. His wife, Tyler Verlander-Peabody, was cited for operating a boarding and training business without a Cherokee County occupation tax certificate, sheriff’s officials said. She was also charged with operating a boarding and training business inside a residentially zoned district and operating a boarding and training business within 75 feet of a residential property. I have been unable to find the outcome of her citations but am fairly confident she was simply given a fine as no animals were reported to be in danger. According to her LinkedIn profile, which has since been deactivated, Tyler Verlander-Peabody has a company called Mirror Image Farm where she offers riding lessons, horse training and boarding. Her profile indicated she is highly accomplished in Schutzhund and French Ring:

Tyler Verlander is the proud owner of two Belgian Malinois (C’Spot & Freya), two horses (Molly & Tommy), and one pony (Abbey). Tyler has owned dogs all her life ranging from small dachshunds mixes to Anatolian Shepherds and most recently, her competition Belgian Malinois.

Tyler brings 15 years plus of animal training to the learning table. Just as every human learns differently, so do dogs. Tyler’s doggy students are able to be taught in the very individual manner they deserve…tailored to their learning style and delivered in a positive and clear manner. This concept also pertains to her human students so they walk away understanding and comprehending the training concepts so that they can mirror those talents at home.

She has been an active member of the Atlanta Working Dog Club since 2006 where she has been a trainer since 2010. Since 2006, she has been trained by her Coaches Robert J. Leigh (Training Director-AWDC) and Mike Morgan (Vice President-AWDC) in the German sport of Schutzhund (IPO) and French Ring.

Tyler’s dog C’Spot de Atlawor is handler/owner/trained (Titles: CSAU, BH, IPO 1 & 2 & 3-highest level) and Freya de Atlawor (Titles: CSAU, BH, IPO 1 & 2). Tyler’s coaching comes from the top trainers in the US.

Given a life lived full of dogs and her experience with the Atlanta Working Dog Club, Tyler is more than equipped to handle any dog with the care and responsibility needed for the dog owner to rest assured while they are away and/or in training.

Outside of the dogs, Tyler’s other love is in the horse community. She was riding before she could walk. Tyler has been teaching riding lessons and training horses for 12+ years and has trained with some of the top hunter/jumper trainers in the South East. Her company is Mirror Image Farm where she offers riding lessons, horse training/boarding.

Tyler Verlander-Peabody and her husband Daniel Peabody also own a dog training and boarding facility called The Doggy Dorm.

All of these phenomenal accomplishments yet she failed to obtain proper licensing.

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Then I stumbled upon an article and called Georgia to confirm since it was the only reference I could locate. Miraculously it was true. Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon G. Wallace has appealed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the (2) felony charges of aggravated cruelty to animals. The Cherokee County District Attorney calendar log is extremely long so I’ve chosen to insert a screenshot of the page pertaining to Peabody.

screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-4-38-02-pm In closing, I’d like to share a few more things. The first is a statement made by Peabody’s defense attorney, David R. Wellingham of Marietta, GA on July 7, 2016. His statement came on the heels of the discovery of the third dead dog. Attorney Wellingham begins by calling the charges against Peabody  “absolutely baseless.”  He then continues to describe how Daniel and Taylor are grieving:

“Inka’s passing was a horrible and unintentional accident, one that has left Lieutenant Peabody completely devastated,” the statement says. “As their vast network of friends, family and law enforcement colleagues will tell you, Lieutenant Peabody and his wife, Tyler, love and adore animals. Lieutenant Peabody would never, ever intentionally abuse or show cruelty towards any animal, especially his beloved companion, Inka.” 

Attorney Willingham then states Peabody “has lost a member of his family,” and that he and his wife plead for privacy as “they continue to grieve Inka’s passing.”

“The truth will come to light, not in a court of public opinion, but in a court of law,” the statement goes on to say. “Until that time, the Peabody’s urge the public to withhold judgment and take false and distorted media reports with a healthy dose of skepticism. The Peabodys would like to thank their friends and loved ones for their continued love and support during this most difficult time.”

Next, a photo of the (2) deceased K-9s, Inka and Dale

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K-9 Inka EOW June 10, 2016
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Retired K-9 Dale EOW 2012?

K-9 Inka
EOW June 10, 2016
Cherokee County School Police Department, GA
She has gone home to rest for the final time
“Officer Kilo Inka is 10-42 … Good Girl Inka”

~~~

Retired K-9 Dale
EOW ?2012?
Cherokee County School Police Department, GA
He has gone home to rest for the final time
“Retired Officer Kilo Dale is 10-42 … Good Boy Dale”

The first to sense the hostility of a suspect,
The first to react to protect his master.
The first to enter where danger lurks.
The first to detect the hidden intruder.
The first to take action against violence.
The first to sense his master’s joy.
The first to know his master’s sorrow or fear.
The first to give his life in defense of his master.
The last to be forgotten by those who work with others like him.
They know him as a “Partner,” not just an animal.

Finally, where are retired K-9 Dale’s remains? 

Veterinary Visits In Maine Just Got Complicated…

Veterinary Visits In Maine Just Got Complicated…

Like nearly every state, Maine is dealing with an opiate and heroin epidemic. In 2015, Maine experienced 272 overdose related fatalities. In January 2017 one of Maine’s media outlets, WMTW, did an outstanding feature entitled Goodnight moon, goodnight mum,’ ‘Chronicle’ investigates Maine’s heroin epidemic. Anchor David Charns did a phenomenal job detailing the pain and heartache of addiction through a series of interviews and videos including one with Oxford County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Matthew Baker Sergeant who, moments after arriving home from work in February 2015, discovered his 23-year-old daughter Ronni near death in the upstairs bathroom. Despite CPR from her father and several doses of Narcan by paramedics, she died, leaving behind an 11-month-old daughter Claire. Ronni’s daughter, now 2, lives with her grandparents and is the source of the name of the WMTW article:

When Claire asks for her mother, she and her grandfather look up, past that second-floor bathroom, to the sky. “I’ve always told her that that full moon is mum,” Baker said. “We go outside, and she says, ‘Goodnight moon and goodnight mum.'”

In an effort to combat the Maine opiate epidemic, the Maine Legislature enacted Public Law 488 which became effective January 1, 2017. PL488 affects nearly all facets of healthcare except in this law, veterinarians are included. I didn’t have all the exact data on PL488 so reached out to my State Senator, Thomas Saviello. I must tell you, he is the only government official to respond during the two weeks I called and emailed various agencies, elected officials including the State House. A sad indictment against them but a huge kudos for Senator Saviello. 

What I do know about PL488 and its impacts on veterinarians is such. If an owner takes their pet to be seen and the veterinarian feels it necessary to prescribe a narcotic or benzodiazepine for your pet, they must first do a check on the owner with DHHS to determine if the owner is taking a controlled substance. As I previously mentioned I still need to clarify the parameters but the fact that a veterinarian or perhaps his staff has the power to access a person’s prescriptions is a huge HIPAA violation. But I digress. Let’s use a hypothetical situation. The owner has an anxiety disorder for which he takes Valium on a daily
basis. He also has a severe back issue (long-term) so is on hydrocodone for pain control. His cat is hit by a car and taken to the vet where she undergoes successful emergency surgery but because her injuries are severe, the vet prescribes a pain medication; hydrocodone. Would the fact that the owner is on hydrocodone prohibit the vet from prescribing it for the cat’s postoperative pain? If so, would he be allowed to prescribe a different pain medication such as tramadol which also falls in the opiate category? Is
he is prohibited from prescribing any narcotic because the owner is on two (2)?  Or is it only if the owner is on the same drug? If his prescriptive powers are limited
because the owner is taking a controlled substance, what criteria is used to determine if the animal can or cannot get a prescription?

Whilst I understand the opiate epidemic our country is tackling, how can a veterinarian or anyone for that matter be absolutely certain that a person who is taking several controlled drugs is abusing or trafficking? Plus the thought that an innocent animal might have to suffer needlessly because his owner is prescribed a controlled substance is not only abhorrent but inhumane.  I want to know if it’s possible for the check to be done during non-business hours when DHHS is closed. Does the veterinarian’s office have to speak directly to a DHHS employee or is the information accessible online? And if it is accessible online, how can we, the human patient, be assured it’s secure? If the drug check on the owner can’t be done when DHHS is closed, then what happens to the animal who is in pain?  Any pet owner knows that many accidents happen at night, weekends or holidays when government agencies like DHHS are closed; what then?  Going back to HIPAA, who has authority within the veterinary practice to request the DHHS information? Can a receptionist do it? A vet tech? Or only the veterinarian? Finally, I do not understand how PL488, a state law, can override HIPAA, a federal law enacted in 1996 by Congress and signed into effect by then-President Bill Clinton. Under HIPAA an individual’s medical and other health information including prescriptions is private and protected. The Privacy Law sets limits on who can look at and receive our health information such as covered entities and their business associates. As a nurse and former Union representative, I am extremely familiar with HIPAA. In light of PL488, however, I reviewed it once again and nowhere did I find where veterinarians, veterinary technicians, or veterinary employees of any type are entitled to our records in any form. Additionally, PL488 is, in essence, requiring veterinarians to understand human medication dosages compared to animals which often differ greatly.hipaa_violations_by_type_-_pie_chart

I chose a veterinary team for my German Shepherd based on their reputations and expertise in animal physiology, not human. I value all members of her team despite being in different practices because of their knowledge. Having said that, I expect they keep current with the newest modalities of treatment for my dog. They work long hours yet now the State of Maine expects them to undertake additional training in order to understand and monitor the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP)?  A program historically used only for humans?

This is ludicrous. There has to be a middle ground, a way the government, human healthcare providers, and law enforcement can work together in an effort to reduce the rampant drug abuse without violating a person’s rights or including veterinarians where there is potential for an animal to suffer because “something” raises a red flag when in reality it could be legitimate.

Once I have all the specifics, I’ll revisit this in a future post.

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Into The Light At Last…

Into The Light At Last…

This is going to differ a bit from my usual posts in that I’m foregoing my usual photo inserts and won’t be overly wordy. I had my left eye repaired on Tuesday and can see the floor even more clearly. It was quite an unusual day because usually, they are extremely prompt in taking you into the exam room. However, due to several emergencies, they were running really behind. I had to wait 3 hours for my procedure.My appointment was at 2 pm but I didn’t leave till 5:15 pm. I kept myself occupied by listening to the rather old patient in the exam room next to mine and since had to change rooms a few times was treated to the joy of several rather loud patients. Let me preface the next part by saying as a nurse I’ve met many “older” senior citizens (80+) and have come to the conclusion they fall into two categories. The first is composed of sweet lovely people who personify manners often long forgotten. The other category is the constant whining complainer, usually non-stop and loud. They are demanding and obnoxious. The patients heard from neighboring exam rooms on Tuesday fall into the latter category.  I truly love seniors for they represent the past which is often forgotten. I used to enjoy talking to them when I worked overnight and one had insomnia. If I knew they immigrated to America I loved asking about their homeland, Ellis Island etc. But the nasty ones made an overnight shift seem 24 hours long so I really sympathized with the staff at the eye center that day.

When I finally had my procedure it was shorter than the first one as I didn’t have as much scar tissue. I have a checkup next week then on March 7 an appointment to get fitted for new glasses plus contacts.

But the drive home! Because of the various drops used in my eye, every car light, street lamp, and store sign appeared as gigantic colorful arcs. I was so glad I had my $2  zebra striped hooker sunglasses with me. I suppose the light show was similar to what the late Timothy Leary described when he talked about tripping the light fantastic with LSD.

 

I Rang Your Bells Today…

I Rang Your Bells Today…

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It seems like yesterday we were celebrating your 6 month birthday

Today you would have been 11 years old, a calm yet a dignified senior. I know your eyes would still be clear and brown, following me silently as I moved about. I also know you would still have your “fetish”  about being clean, something that used to crack your doggy daycare owner up. I took out the bells I hung on the door to housebreak you and allowed myself to wander back to April 2005 when you first entered my life. It was such a long drive, nearly 4 hours one way along a stretch of the turnpike that was completely barren; no stores or gas stations, just trees as far ahead as one could see. When we arrived at the PAWS Shelter in Calais I could literally see Canada as it was just a few minutes walk from where I stood. We bonded immediately ~ so much so that it was uncanny. I remember when out-of-state relatives came to visit in May. They asked if they could take you outside for a potty trip only to return 15 minutes later saying you wouldn’t go. I took the leash from them and walked you out. Once I said the word, you immediately went. They didn’t realize all your commands were in German and acted a bit indignant. But what fun we had! I took you to puppy class that summer and remember how the black flies attacked us. Many of the other humans weren’t bothered but not being a native Mainer black flies were new for me. I researched and found that fabric softener sheets acted as a deterrent so the next week you had them tied onto your collar and I had them stuck everywhere.

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I think it was during that class that I first realized that many people from this area resent outsiders or as they refer to us, flatlanders. I was so tempted to ask the extremely rude and condescending class instructor if I needed special dispensation to cross the Maine border but figured it wouldn’t go over too well. I let it bother me for all of one night and after that, I got a secret chuckle out of it. The irony of being called a flatlander is I learned to drive in a mountainous region very similar to Maine sans the rude people. It wasn’t until the last day of class during the graduation ceremony that I wanted to punch her lights out. When handing out the diplomas she referred to you as a “primadonna” and in a snarky tone of voice asked where your Downy dryer sheets were; that you’d have to toughen up if you were going to be a Mainer. Instead, I sweetly told her that although she seems to find the dryer sheets amusing, at least your eyelids weren’t swollen like many of the other puppies in the room that night. She quickly shut up. I also never took her up on her Intermediate Training Course because she was an idiot.

That night when you hopped into my still new Volkswagen Jetta (oh those heated seats), I realized you had quickly become too tall for it. A few weeks later we went car shopping for a mid size SUV. I don’t really think it was because you were a black dog but when salesmen would show us SUVs you hopped into the back of the black ones every time which was a hoot. Unfortunately, because Mom only drives a standard we wound up with a greyish green Honda. I still smile when I think of the dealership’s reaction to me wanting to trade in a 6-month-old car with less than 3k miles on it. They were great though and even installed a barrier gate I bought for the back (not that you ever used it). We had a lot of fun that year taking road trips in Maine to learn about our new state. We also visited other New England states and my home state of NJ. We even spent a few vacations either in NJ or some other state. You were so well-behaved, never chewing or barking unnecessarily in the hotels and never failed to get a compliment from housekeeping.

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I took a job as the jail nurse that fall and even though you were only 6 months old knew from the outside of the building exactly where my office was. A few times I brought you into the sally port and had you walk up the stairs and across the catwalk as I called it.

It was important to me that you become accustomed to different surfaces as well as surroundings. That was one of the reasons I walked you on sidewalks in a busy town, dirt roads, and dense woods. I crossed busy city streets with you while traveling so you wouldn’t grow up fearful of traffic. People often asked why I spoke your commands in German since you weren’t a GSD but I told them it was a habit.

Your first autumn you decided to pull the chinking out from between the logs of the house. As I painstakingly hammered it back in I told you if we froze to death that winter it would be your fault so you better knock it off; didn’t faze you. Looking back I wonder if you rather enjoyed it as true chinking is made with hemp. Other than your chinking fixation you were a great puppy, never chewing shoes or door jambs. Although we did suffer a bit of pain when you were teething. Such alligator teeth! Yet at the same time, you were kind for I remember picking Molly, the terrified beagle up from a transport in MA. You snuggled next to her for the long drive home which eased her trembling.picture-4029

The next spring when you turned one you began digging holes in the ground, usually in the same area. You dug so deep that I told you I was going to rent you out as a gravedigger. Once you FINALLY got out of that phase I turned the area into Callie’s Place. A Vietnam veteran down the road made picnic tables, chairs, and wishing wells,  I asked if he could put “Callie’s Place” on a well and he did. Over the summer with your help, of course, I laid weed paper then covered it with cedar chips. We encircled it with rocks we brought down from the mountain and added a small child size bench. Over the years I added a few decorative glass items but for the most part, it remains the same today. Funny how your last summer you and The Germs teamed up and dug a huge hole in the backyard.

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I remember when we added Inga to our family and how leery you were of her at first. As tall as you were you were scared of a tiny puppy. Eventually, you became best buddies. The two of you even destroyed the mattress when I boarded you for a few days at doggy daycare, earning your picture on the Wall of Fame.

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The years seem to have passed much too quickly. It wasn’t because I worked but rather that it was such a long commute each way that my 12-hour shifts 3x a week turned into 15 or 16 hour days. But at least it gave me four days off in a row so we could do “dog things’. For a dog that was part labrador, you never cared for the water. When we went to the river so you and Inga (and later Sasha) could swim and cool off, you only dipped your feet in the water, preferring to explore the woods behind us. That’s why it was so ironic that your last summer you not only ventured into the river but actually swam. I’ll never forget that summer because at the end of it I kept saying it had been the best summer of your life. Little did I know it would be your last.

There were a lot of “Labrador” traits you didn’t share; playing ball and water sports. I remember when the canine DNA tests first came out and I did one on you. The results were  55% GSD, 34% Labrador and the remainder a bit of this and that. Perhaps the GSD component played a factor in your amazing tracking ability. I often wondered if the “this and that” included Great Dane as you were so tall, much taller than The Germs. You weighed 100# but were lean and muscular. That takes me to the summer of the “boneyard”. You would go outside every day and bring me an animal bone and then sun yourself on the deck. After the third “gift” I followed to see where they were coming from only to discover a boneyard. A quick visit from the Dept of Fish & Game answered my questions. He said they knew coyotes were using my mountain as a crossing to the river because they track activity when possible and if a pack of the coyote encounters a deer they “take it down”. It all clicked then because I often heard coyotes howling in the mountain and every once in a while I’d hear a God awful noise, almost like a woman screaming. The warden explained that was the noise a deer made when being attacked. I kept a loaded gun and when I’d hear then howl I’d shoot off a few rounds hoping it would disperse the pack thus saving a deer.

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You were the first dog that was truly mine.  Yes, I had one when I emancipated but you were different. Whereas that was happenstance I searched Petfinder diligently for you. Once I decided you were the one I had to wait for you to turn 8 weeks old. I still remember how excited I was when I brought you home. Our friend Tom tried to talk me into giving you to him because you were so adorable. Little did I know that the fluffy black baby I’d picked out on a computer would turn into a dog that gave me more love, attention, and concern than my own parents.You had such an uncanny ability to hone into my every emotion, often before I knew they were there. I think with the proper training you would have made a wonderful PTSD dog.

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I also looked at your ThunderShirt today, the first time since you left me. For such a big fearless dog thunderstorms reduced you to a quivering mass of jelly. When Maine approved fireworks in 2012 it became even worse for you because people were either shooting guns, fireworks or both. I’d read such good reviews of the ThunderShirt and must say it helped you tremendously although initially, I thought you looked funny wearing it.

I’ve thought about you a lot this week because your birthday was approaching. I wanted so much to make a tribute video but simply couldn’t get the hang of it. Plus I recently received some news about the veterinarian whom I blame for your death. One of the vets who fought to save your life that night sent a letter of complaint to the Board of Veterinary Medicine. She knew your vet was grossly negligent to keep you in her office all day with a slow dripping IV and a temperature escalating to a dangerous level. The Board issued her a reprimand ~ that’s it. She caused your death by allowing your temperature to reach over 106 degrees then told me it was time to leave as she was closing early. By the time I got you to the emergency clinic 2 hours away your temperature was over 107 degrees. They worked all night and got it down but the damage to your organs had already occurred and you were in acute renal failure. I did what I thought was best for you that day ~ taking you to your lifelong local vet because of the temp and nausea. I thought it would be easier for you to take a 20-minute car ride than a 2 hour one. I was wrong, a mistake that will never happen again. Not only was she your veterinarian but she was my friend;  we both hail from the city. We shared the same values, opinions and we had the same accent. I didn’t mention her for a long time and when the Board sent me forms to fill out I kept procrastinating. Now, however, I call it as it was; she caused your death. I know it, the doctors in Portland know it and most of all, she knows it. She apparently zeroed out my bill as I never received one (I wouldn’t have paid it anyway). She also purged all of your dog and cat siblings records because when I started going to a new veterinarian they called to get records and were told they didn’t have any plus never heard of my name. I saw her this summer at the Farmer’s Market while there with Sasha. She was heading over when she spotted me and did a fast about-face. Too bad because even though Sasha has a bum leg and lost her vision, once a Schutzhund IPO 3 (masters level) it’s ingrained. I would have told her to sitz  (sit) and gib laut (bark) just to watch the vet scamper as GSDs always made her nervous especially if they were working dogs. Oh well, there’s always next time.

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I miss you Callie Ann my angel, just as much as ever. I find myself remembering the abundance of joy and laughter you brought to my life more now than I did after you first left and I jumped on the Crazy Train of Grief. I still cry every once in a while when I see your picture appear on the digital frame and sometimes I daydream, remembering the many happy times we shared, how you enriched my life in ways that you can’t possibly know. There’s a black girl named Maddie who left her Mom one month after you left me. I like to think that you have found each other and are spending your days playing, free of the stress and pain of illness. And most of all, I KNOW we’ll be together again. You’ll run up with your favorite toy, Pinky, and look at me with those beautiful brown eyes and nudge me as if to say “Where’ve you been”? And I’ll tell you I had things to do but I’m here now and will never leave again.

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Jeanne B

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**I tried to get this up for her birthday but have literally been snowblowing and hand shoveling snow for over 6 days.

Discrimination Against Chronic Pain Sufferers…

Discrimination Against Chronic Pain Sufferers…

In September 2016 I posted about Chronic Pain & Pills… and the difficulty a family member was having. He is 73 and retired after 47 years of steady and often physically challenging employment. He was a tractor-trailer driver for 40 of his 47 years in the workforce so essentially sat in the cab of the truck for over 10 hours a day. He began feeling ill in 1991 but typical for him wouldn’t take off work to see a doctor until I finally insisted. His PCP at the time diagnosed him with fatigue. Hmmmm. As a nurse,  the diagnosis of fatigue didn’t sit well with me so once again I insisted he seeks a second opinion. This doctor ordered basic blood work and when it came back within normal limits, he also diagnosed him with fatigue. Again my professional experience kicked in and I instinctively felt they were both wrong; it was more than fatigue but I didn’t know what or whom to turn to.

One night while working at the hospital I saw a pamphlet about Lyme Disease which was still somewhat new in 1992. I remember looking at it and with each paragraph, my mouth fell open a bit more. It specifically described the symptoms and the discomfort he’d been experiencing since the previous summer. More telling, however, was the photograph of the classic red rash; a red ring surrounding a clear area and a red center. I remembered he’d been bitten by a tick the summer of 1991 and developed an identical rash. Small at first, it enlarged in size over days/weeks until it was approximately 6” in diameter. It lasted for at least a month and always felt warm. I realized that I might have found the answer to his lingering illness so made an appointment with an ID (infectious disease) specialist in  Philadelphia. After a comprehensive examination and specific blood tests, she diagnosed him with Stage 3 ( late disseminated) Lyme disease. He was hospitalized in ICU and after several days transferred to a medical floor for nearly a week. He had a port implanted in his chest prior to discharge and once home, received IV antibiotics for several weeks through it.  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity he began to feel better. Unfortunately, Stage 3 Lyme Disease can cause long-term joint inflammation (Lyme arthritis) usually in the knees along with a host of other complications, many which continue to resurface years later. He developed severe arthritis in his knees which the ID specialist thought was probably made worse by his profession ~ driving for long hours all week. He also developed arthritis in his hands, specifically in his fingers. It hurt his hands to try to grip things and he often dropped them. As a  driver, he often had to unload freight. I  remember he developed callouses on his inner wrists. When I asked what caused them, he said he was unable to unload the freight by hand so picked the boxes up using his wrists. Yet not once did he complain.  His dedication and strong work ethic were beyond reproach.

Shortly after moving to Maine he started seeing a rheumatologist for his arthritis. He began receiving injections to his knees which initially worked very well but as the years passed the effect of the injections didn’t last as long. He was still working so his knees were bent every day and he was frequently unloading freight by his wrists. His rheumatologist prescribed Vicodin which he only took on the weekend and even then, only if he couldn’t stand the pain. When he retired at age 66, he was finally able to live the kind of life most of us take for granted. He had the freedom to watch the news on television, walk the dog, drive to the store, sleep in a regular bed, make toast and a cup of tea in the kitchen. All those little everyday things that he wasn’t able to do for 40 years while living in a truck. Yet even with these lifestyle changes, his knees and hands continued to hurt and were steadily worsening. He had the Vicodin prescriptions filled every month even if he had leftovers from the previous month because he didn’t want the doctor to think he didn’t need them. They were prescribed four times daily as needed but rarely did he take more than one or two a day and some days none at all. 

He went to the rheumatologist for his routine appointment in March 2016 and upon arrival was told they needed a urine sample.  When leaving he was given a paper saying that in the future he had to bring his Vicodin bottle with him. That was new but given all drug-related issues in society not surprising. In the beginning of April,  the doctor’s office called to say the test didn’t indicate enough Vicodin in his system so it would no longer be prescribed for him. Dumbfounded doesn’t even come close to describing my reaction. He was glad he had leftover pills because when the Vicodin was stopped nothing else was prescribed. He didn’t see the rheumatologist until August so he would have been in horrible pain for five months. During the August visit, the doctor said that he wasn’t allowed to prescribe Vicodin based on the urine test, that it wasn’t his policy but rather that of the hospital whose umbrella he was under. He added that the hospital was working with the state to decrease narcotic prescriptions. He prescribed a different medication which is completely ineffective against the severity of his pain.

It pains me to watch him struggle to get up from a chair or limp when he walks. My heart aches as I see him wince in pain when trying to open a jar. Now is the time he should be enjoying his life but because of chronic pain, he is doing anything but. He wants very much to go to Tennessee this summer to visit his family but is worried that his arthritis will affect him; that he won’t be able to participate in simple activities with his grandchildren due to his pain level. Every week I read of more drug-related arrests and indictments in our small rural community. Many are for trafficking which simply amazes me. Where do they get the drugs? If a 73-year-old man with arthritis so severe and painful that it’s adversely affecting his life can’t get a prescription, where are these people getting them? I asked his PCP about it but he said he doesn’t prescribe for a patient who’s been “cut off” by another provider.

As to the medical center’s across the board policy, I have to wonder if it ever crossed their minds that not every person with chronic pain is a potential trafficker? That not every senior citizen is supplementing their income by selling some of their pain pills? Why do doctors automatically assume that everyone who complains of severe, chronic pain has nefarious motives? What gives them the right to play God with a person’s health and welfare? A person who has been their patient for 15 years? Yet because of a prejudicial policy, he suffers each and every day, his quality of life so impaired that he is often unable to enjoy his days.

The same thing applies to the state. In April 2016 over two-thirds of the Maine legislature voted to override two harm reduction bills vetoed by Governor Paul LePage ~ LD1552, a bill that would provide public funding for syringe exchange and expand syringe access, and LD 1547, legislation to allow access to the life-saving overdose antidote Narcan (naloxone) without a prescription, something Governor  LePage vehemently objected to. During a town meeting in Damariscotta last year LePage said:

“There comes a point in time where who is responsible for who. You know a shot of Narcan is $70 and the person who gets it doesn’t have to pay it back.”

So a state whose governor publicly implies that a human life is not worth $70 is the same state establishing narcotic prescribing guidelines?

With no doctor to help and pain that is severely impacting his life, my family member has decided to try medical marijuana  because it’s legal in Maine. As I researched cannabis I was surprised because it’s definitely a profitable business. You make an initial appointment with a doctor who is certified by the state to prescribe medical marijuana. Upon completion of the appointment, providing your medical condition is one that qualifies,  you will be issued a Medical Marijuana Card (usually tamper-proof). The first visit ranges from $150 to $300 and the annual recertification is about $50 less. Then there is the cost of the actual cannabis which can be approximately $300 a month.  My family member doesn’t want to smoke so will try a concentrate that he can add to a cup of tea. And of course, insurance doesn’t cover any of the costs whereas a prescription for Vicodin is $10.

So let’s recap. A senior citizen with a long, well-documented history of Lyme Disease and arthritis. Retired after 47 years in the workforce, 40 of them as a tractor-trailer driver. No history of drug or alcohol abuse. He didn’t take Vicodin four times daily because he didn’t want to develop a dependency plus the prescription said: “as needed”. Yet for not taking them when he didn’t need them or was driving, the hospital’s inane and unjust policy is forcing him to turn to an alternative source in an attempt to obtain some degree of pain relief. In doing so, he’ll be spending several hundred dollars a month of his limited retirement income; money that he could spend on enjoying his life instead.

Maine, like every other state, is seeing the tragedy of the nation’s prescription opioid and heroin epidemic but it is also seeing an increase in people with chronic pain, especially as baby boomers age. Chronic pain now affects more than a third of Americans yet as I have discovered, getting help from your physician, no matter how many years you’ve been a patient, is often impossible.

I will never go to that hospital for a procedure because of his experience. And should I develop a condition which causes me chronic pain, I’ll definitely seek help elsewhere because no one should be made to arbitrarily suffer like my family member; to have his treatment altered based on not taking as many pain pills as they think he should but rather, as prescribed. To be judged on the results of a single urine test as opposed to a long documented medical history and 15 years.

What a sad indictment against the medical profession. When did it lose humanity and compassion?

Halfway To The Light…

Halfway To The Light…

Finally! I had my right eye corrected last week with a laser procedure called a YAG.  Because my eye was blurry from the various solutions and gels, I couldn’t really tell if my vision was improved during the ride home. Plus I had a late afternoon appointment so it was dark during the drive. When I woke up the next morning, however, I could see the floor in my house for the first time since the spring of 2016! Who would think seeing a floor would bring such joy? Now mind you, I’m not talking about everyday happiness here but the real deal, yell-out-loud unbridled bliss! And it got even better because as I was taking my daily vitamins that morning one dropped on the floor and of all the ones to drop it was  Turkey Tail  , which is a capsule containing freeze-dried, brown, turkey tail mushroom. A brownish capsule on a hardwood floor? See where I’m going with this?

I was going to post that day but wanted to give it some time to make sure the improvement lasted and it has. I go on Tuesday, February 13 for the left eye and they’ll probably also book my appointment for the optometrist so that I can finally get glasses and hopefully contact lenses for near vision. The timing is perfect because I’m at the strongest strength in the cheater glasses. Sometimes I alternate between two different strengths if I have an especially long paper to do. I’ve also started to slowly catch up on blog reading which I wasn’t able to do very well before.

On the way down we stopped at a sporting goods store where I had an unused gift card from my AT hike. Since I haven’t been able to hike, walk the dogs or snowshoe, I’ve gained some weight. Plus my legs aren’t nearly as strong as they’ve always been. So I bought a new pair of snowshoes since mine are ancient. I was going to buy my second choice, Tubbs Wilderness because they were less expensive even though I really wanted my first choice, Tubbs Mountaineer. When in shape I do backcountry snowshoeing so having really good crampons are important to me and the Mountaineer’s are very aggressive. Lady luck was with me because they were having an in-store sale and I wound up getting the Mountaineer for less than $200 (the amount of my gift card). The Wilderness wasn’t on sale so it was a no-brainer. Of course, I’ve started out just walking to rebuild leg strength and then will snowshoeing on trails and a rolling field near me before I even attempt to ascend. Currently, my legs are a step above the straw man from the Wizard of Oz so one step at a time.

It’s been a heck of a year but soon it’ll be over.

winter