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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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.

Blue, aka mainebluedog, Needs Help…

I’ve written about a pit bull puppy named Blue, aka mainebluedog, several times. He was found with his muzzle taped in the mountainous and heavily wooded terrain of Maine at Sunday River Ski Resort on October 2, 2015. Miraculously he was discovered by resort security who called animal control. She in turn immediately took the puppy to Bethel Animal Hospital which is owned by Dr. Gary Stuer, one of Sasha’s veterinarians. He and his staff went to work trying to save as much of the puppy’s lips, mouth and facial tissue as possible.  They estimated he was only between 5-6 months old!  The authorities were notified and the HSUS announced a $5,000 reward however over a year later the monster that did this to an innocent and defenseless puppy has yet to be found. The investigation and reward both remain open.

This is very similar to what the area would have looked like the first week in October.

 

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After staying at Bethel Animal Hospital for nearly one month, the puppy now named “Blue” was adopted by a wonderful family from Maine. Because of the open investigation, they have remained anonymous to protect Blue. Everyone has respected their request for anonymity and continues to do so. Because of the widespread media coverage, many people were interested in Blue so his new family set up an Instagram account hence the name “mainebluedog”. Just looking at the photos and video clips show how very loved he is. I don’t know their names; I reached out to them via his Instagram asking permission to write more about Blue and use some of their photos to which they kindly agreed.

Follow Blue on Instagram

Blue is a very active (you will see for yourself on his Instagram video clips) and well-traveled fellow.  His family noticed that he was limping and took him to their veterinarian. It was discovered that Blue has Medial Compartment Disease in his elbows. The preceding link provides a good overview of the disease as it’s actually composed of several different conditions. Blue is under the care of a veterinary specialist and in mid-December had his elbows scoped. He currently has some restrictions on his level of activity thus the Boo Mobile.

 

Blue had his follow-up appointment on December 29 and his Mom reports that the appointment went well but he’ll remain on exercise restriction for several months at which time they will discuss his progress with the specialist and see what the next steps are.

As you can imagine, the type of special treatment Blue needs is expensive. Whether or not surgery will be needed remains to be seen. A friend of Blue’s family has kindly set up a fundraising page to help with expenses,  Help Blue Get Back On His Feet.  His story is also featured on The Dodo!

 

Blue has such an indomitable spirit and supportive, loving family that I’m confident he’ll meet any challenges head-on. However, everyone needs a bit of help at times and I can’t think of a more worthy cause than Blue’s health. This poor boy hasn’t even reached two and has already endured such trauma. When I think of him as a mere puppy, alone in the woods with his muzzle taped shut my emotions are polarized; I’m thankful that he was found because I’m sure he would have died. At the same time, I’m disgusted by the sadistic and cruel person who committed such a barbaric act against a living, sentient being.

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When my GSD Sasha developed her unique medical issues, there were times I wouldn’t have been able to fully provide what she needed if others hadn’t helped me. It would give me immense pleasure If I can help pay it forward for Blue.

Please consider making a donation to Blue’s fundraiser  Help Blue Get Back On His Feet.; I assure you any amount will be appreciated. Also, if you would kindly share his Go Fund Me link within your social media and email circles it would go far in helping reach the goal. **Goal met!

 

I last wrote about Blue on October 17, 2016, in a post called A Little Joy After My Bleak Posts Of Late…  At the bottom of that are three links to my initial posts which were part of a blog challenge. All four posts have additional links and photographs.

Blue’s a pretty funny boy don’t you agree?

 

In closing, I’d like to explain how I chose the cover photo because I found it significant. Blue is relaxed in the snow looking towards the mountains. Although they aren’t the mountains where he was found, had things turned out differently he wouldn’t have this wonderful life.

“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”
 ~Karen Davison (The Perfect Companion)

My Life Has Become An Old Country Song…

I don’t even now where to begin anymore for it seems that every day something else goes wrong. Still waiting for my January 31, 2017 appointment for YAG procedure  (but only one eye) to remove the scar tissue. The office can’t even give me a general idea of how long before the second eye is done. Then I have to go back to be fitted for glasses and the way they book far in advance I’m thinking that won’t happen until March or April. Meanwhile I have to keep replacing the cheater glasses as my vision worsens. I’m currently at the next to the strongest strength and have to practically have to hold something directly in front of my face to be able to read it. Then of course there’s the green circles and arches that appear every time I look directly at a light. Visual disturbances have always been a primary trigger for migraines so it’s like a vicious circle. I don’t want to keep the lights dimmed because of Sasha’s impaired vision so I basically try to avoid looking at lights or lamp fixtures. I don’t go out unless it’s to the doctors so haven’t left the house since Dec. 6.

When I saw the new neurologist on December 2, I was told his staff would call me as soon as they got the preauthorization for the Botox  injects for migraines (it’s very expensive so needs a PA). They also said that once they had the PA they’d get me right in because I  haven’t had Botox since June 13 and it’s supposed to be given every 3 months. I’ve been getting Botox for several years and my insurance company approves in 48 hours max. Since my appointment was on a Friday I hoped to hear from them no later than the following Thursday, Dec. 8. Nothing. So I called their office on Monday Dec 12 and after speaking to two different people was transferred to “Chrissy”. Left a VM for her around 10 am but no callback. Long story short I called every day and always had to leave a VM. On Thursday Dec. 15 I called and instead of the elusive Chrissy’s line I chose the prompt for making an appointment. Told the woman my story and upon checking my file she didn’t see anything about the Botox PA. I called again on Friday Dec. 16 and used a line I haven’t used in several years. Once again I chose the prompt for making an appointment and when a woman answered I offered my condolences on Chrissy’s death then asked to be connected with whomever took her place. The woman was quite shocked and said “Chrissy’s not dead!!!”. I started my response in a sickening sweet voice I break out from time to time and said “Oh dear me, I must apologize then because I surely thought she was. Followed that with full bitch mode by saying “Why else would someone fail to return nearly a dozen phone calls? What other reason could there be for such egregious incompetence? And by the way, will you send me an application because I’ve always wanted a job where I did nothing yet collected a paycheck”. She was really rattled but assured me she would get a message to Chrissy. I laughed and said that may be but she wouldn’t call back. She said she’s send the message from her terminal to Chrissy’s. Then I told her to add that IF Chrissy called back she would be reaching an advanced practice nurse so don’t even try to give me any BS “because that won’t float”. I didn’t even bother waiting to see if Chrissy (whom I’d decided may not be real) to call; I called my insurance company who has always been wonderful to work with. Upon checking the file and phone log, she told me someone from the neurologist’s office called on Tuesday Dec. 6 but something must have come up as they said they would call back in a minute. The insurance company said there was no record of a callback. I really had to fight to hold back tears at this point as I was beyond frustrated. The insurance company said they would have their pharmacy department reach out to the office and that she personally would reach out. By the way, never did hear from Chrissy that day. Om Tuesday Dec. 20 the same woman from the insurance company called at 9am. She started off ny asking if the neuro’s office had contacted me and I said no. She said that both she and the pharmacy department left VM’s the previous week and they had not been returned either. She asked my permission to open up a case so they could track this providers office and of course I said yes. She also suggested I call the office to at least make the appointment for the injections as they had approved them. Lo and behold  before I had a chance to call the neuro’s office they called me. After I got up from the floor where I had collapsed in shock, Chrissy told me she had taken a few days off the previous week. I won’t bore you with the details of what I said but it wasn’t pretty. She countered with “I was waiting on your insurance”. I followed up with something that also wasn’t pretty. She told me she had good news for me though ~ she had my appointment date. January 2, 2017. I was like WHAT?????? So by the time I get the injects it will be 7 months since I last had them and I’ll be so far off schedule that they won’t be effective until the second set of injections in April. I’m going to get them in Jan. but have already started looking for a different neurologist. He might be great but his staff is hands down the worst I’ve ever encountered and since moving here I’ve met my share of rude and incompetent medical support staff. I’m just not putting up with this nonsense all the time. Before I bid a farewell to Facebook I met a woman in a GSD group from Maine. We struck up a casual conversation and then I didn’t see her for a few days. When she came back online she said she’d had a “breakthrough” migraine. Not knowing what type of medication she took I told her of the good results I’d had with Botox. She said that she gets the injects every 3 months in Worcester MA. I remember being shocked as from her location to Worcester is over 250 miles and a 4 hour drive ~ one way! I wondered why she would travel so far but after my “Maine Botox Experiences (yes plural) I think I can understand. I initially made an appointment with a neuro in Lewiston (same city the current one is located) in 2011. They booked me out over 7 months which put me into 2012. A week before my appointment the office called to say they had to cancel my appointment as the neuro was out. I said let’s book it NOW. Then they said they didn’t know when he’s be back. Very odd. I called a week later and they said he was still out. A few weeks later I received a letter saying he had left the practice but they would be contacting me within 10 days to schedule me with one of the other providers. Yes you guessed it ~ they never called. Then I made an appointment with a pain treatment center that  did Botox for Migraines. Also in Lewiston which is 55 miles one way.  Now Botox has to be refrigerated so you pick it up from the pharmacy on the way to the appointment and keep it in a small cooler bag. First visit went well. The second visit I picked up the Botox and we were about 15 miles from Lewiston when I received a call  from the office saying that Dr. XYZ “doesn’t feel comfortable doing Botox and would prefer you book with Dr ABC”. I said “Are you kidding me? My appointment is in less than 30 minutes, you KNOW I live over an hour away, and Dr. XYZ decides NOW that’s he not comfortable dong Botox???”. I had to go the following week to see Dr. ABC whom I actually liked better. Saw him 2 more times and bam! The pain center closed. At this point I gave up on Botox I really did. Then a few months later I was driving down a road in the town closest to me (16 miles away) when I saw something that made me slam on the brakes. Hanging outside a medical building was a shingle for the neuro I had to wait over 7 months for and then he poofed from the practice! I jotted down his phone number, made an appointment and got in within a few weeks. He’s the one who’s been giving me injections until he announced this past August that he was closing his practice in September and relocating to Kentucky. I swear to God this is so bizarre I couldn’t make this up as I’m not that creative. And as I said in a previous migraine post, the states are clamping down on doctors so to get a small prescription for pain medication is like pulling teeth with a pair of tweezers ~ virtually impossible.

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I am most definitely not in the holiday spirit. It was with great reluctance that  I put a tabletop fiber-optic tree out today and called it good. It’s hard to be “ho ho ho” when you can’t see the floor, you’re terrified to walk outside lest you fall because you can’t see the ground and lights cause visual disturbances which in turn triggers a migraine. Extremely stressful and it’s gotten to the point where I don’t even want to see anybody. In the past when I was stressed or feeling pressured I turned to books or knitting but haven’t done either in over  year. I was dreading Christmas anyway because my mind has been drifting back to last Christmas. Our dear friend spent the day with us and following dinner we sat in the great room with the fire crackling and watched movies. I was still very upset over the death of my dog on November 5 and it was his sarcastic humor that got me through both Thanksgiving and Christmas . Yet for some unknown reason I never took a single picture either holiday and after he committed suicide in April 2016  I’ll never have that opportunity again. He was our adopted family member; we spent every holiday together. It’s more difficult than I’d imagined.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255

So I spend my days just piddling around, use the dictating app on my laptop to write a blog entry or Siri on my iPhone to make a call for me. The dictating app hasn’t mastered my NY accent so I have to try and manually correct the apps interpretation of some of my words (don’t even ask). And Siri the brat. Took me 2 years with my previous phone to train her and now I have to start all over again. Just today I told her to call “Mt. Blue Pharmacy” to which she replied “I don’t see a listing for your mother”.

Since this has been such a whiney post I’ll end with something funny. I have the new iPhone 7 but have only set up the most basic features until I can see better. There’s a new feature that, when enabled, lets you say “Hey Siri” and she’ll answer. The other night for the heck of it I said “Hey Siri”. The response was definitely a Depends moment. Siri said “I can’t talk right now as I’m having a staring contest with iPhone 7 Plus and I think I’m winning”.

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The Staring Contest
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Reason I chose iPhone 7 over iPhone 7 Plus

Death of K9 Lina ~ The Aftermath Part 2

Death of K9 Lina ~ The Aftermath Part 2

On September 23, 2016, Matt Durrett, 4th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney of Washington County announced Deputy Jonathan Cornelison was not criminally negligent in the September 9th hot car death of K9 Lina because there was insufficient evidence to prove that he intended to hurt the 2-year-old K9. After the decision was announced Madison County Sheriff  Phillip Morgan declined to comment stating he hadn’t been able to thoroughly review the prosecutorial decision. On September 26, Sheriff Morgan announced the disciplinary action Deputy Cornelison would be subject to:

Deputy Cornelison will:

1. Be suspended without pay for 60 days.

2. Be removed from the K9 program.

3. Be decertified as a K9 Handler.

4. A letter of reprimand will be placed in his file.

Sheriff Morgan also announced that the department would install heat sensors in the K9 vehicles.

Nice, tidy ending for the tragic and unnecessary death of a young, vital Belgian Malinois named Lina. Yes, there is a difference between intention and negligence. Law enforcement officers understand that very well whether they choose to admit it or not. While I’m sure Deputy Cornelian didn’t get off duty that morning and decide “Today I’m going to kill my partner by leaving her unattended in the patrol car with the windows closed”, he was nonetheless clearly negligent and therefore responsible for her death.  In October 2015 Russ Hess, a retired handler and executive director of the United States Police K9 Association,  told reporters that “Police officers need to be held to a higher standard to protect their canine partners”. Both veteran handlers and animal advocates say such deaths are preventable and illustrate acts of negligence or over-reliance on technology to protect the dogs.  In this October 2015 interview, Scott Heiser, Director of the Criminal Justice Program for the California-based Animal Legal Defense Fund said: “To our way of looking at things, an officer who allows a dog to die of heat exhaustion on duty is as neglectful as leaving a service revolver on a school playground.”

I agree wholeheartedly. Heat sensor systems such as Hot-N-Pop should be mandatory in all K9 vehicles.category1

Project Paws Alive, a nationwide 501(c) non-profit organization has created a nationwide K9 Heat Alarm Fund to provide law enforcement K9 Units with K9 heat alarm systems for agencies that cannot afford to purchase the equipment for their K9 vehicles. For those of you not aware of this truly wonderful organization, they operate completely on donations and sponsored support. Their mission? To provide lifesaving safety equipment to all working dogs. Please visit their website or find them on all social media venues.

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K9 Lina

Having said this, I still hold Deputy Cornelian 200% responsible for the death of K9 Lina.

Even if his vehicle had been equipped with a heat sensor unit, the system is not meant to be a long-term solution for your K9 partner while you help a friend fix a lawnmower, talk on the phone, pay a bill, stop in the station, run errands or confer with another agency on a police matter. I don’t care how busy you are, your dog depends on you, and  Deputy Cornelian failed her. Failed at keeping a beautiful dog alive and failed the taxpayers of the Madison County.

A handler still has to check on his partner even if the vehicle has a heat sensor system. You cannot solely rely on the equipment to protect your partner on a hot day while you run errands etc for hours.For the sake of argument let’s say Cornelian’s Crown Victoria was equipped with a heat sensor. Did it have the ability to pop a door lock? If so, was K9 Lina free in the vehicle or confined behind a barrier?

When he exited his vehicle after work that morning, why did he not automatically take K9 Lina out as well? Place her in the kennel behind the barn on his property where she lived?

When you train and handle a dog, they become just as close to you as any human partner. You cover each other. The handler depends on the dog to do the job they’ve been trained for and the dog depends on the handler to provide the basic necessities of life; food, water, cool air, and a place to sleep at the end of a long shift. But maybe I judge too harshly. Poor lad was “overworked” and suffered from “lack of sleep“. Perhaps people in Arkansas have a different genetic code than the rest of us mere mortals because, despite these obstacles aka excuses, instead of going to sleep after taking his children to daycare, Deputy Jonathan Cornelison made a series of choices. He chose to help repair a lawnmower at a friend’s house, chose to pay his water bill, chose to talk to his father on the telephone, chose to go to the bank, chose to go to the jail to meet with a probation officer and prosecutor, chose to go to the sheriff’s office, chose to go to an auto parts store, chose to meet with a Huntsville police officer regarding a DWI case and chose to have that discussion at JamDot Chillspot Spot Sports Bar & Grill in Huntsville.

At least we know Deputy Cornelian and the Huntsville officer stayed cool during their meeting because according to their Facebook page,JamDot Chill Spot is a restaurant/Sports Bar in Huntsville, AR where you can chill with friends and enjoy a nice meal and adult beverage. We have 10 TVs!!” Very nice considering the temperature at midday was 91 degrees F.

Meanwhile back at Cornelian’s home, I wonder how hot it was in the Crown Vic where K9 Lina was literally trapped?

Actually, I could tell you and be relatively close. I could also tell you the physiological effect extreme heat has on a dog’s body. I researched the subject in-depth following another hot car death of a K9 earlier in 2016. I also included this hot car temperature called Heat Kills in K9 Lina Part 1. It is excellent and easy to understand plus it includes videos which demonstrate how quickly the interior of a car becomes a death trap.

As sad as I was I felt there wasn’t much I could do about K9 Lina’s death.  I started to file away the URLs, photos, and notes I’d gathered on her. Then I saw it; staring back at me.

It was the first local newspaper report written approximately 1.5 hours after Deputy Cornelison discovered Lina’s body. I remember when I initially read it I had a feeling it would disappear so I quickly took a screenshot plus saved the page as a web page archive.

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Do you see what it was in the second paragraph that caught my eye? 

I’m glad I saved it because it did indeed “go away” but in its place came a social media firestorm; not for the deceased Lina but rather, the “poor kid”. I even discovered a relationship of sorts between Cornelison and the family of another disgraced handler. There was no pity for Lina ~ only blame-shifting by the masses. As I was preparing to begin writing this (never dreaming it would become so convoluted) I looked at the MCSO website to see how they had memorialized K9 Lina. As you can see, on November 18, 2016, she was still listed as being part of the MCSO K9 Unit.

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To complete the story of K9 Lina’s tragic and preventable death, I’m going to have to write another post;  K9 Lina ~ The Blame Game Part 3.

Insomnia Over a K9 Death…

Insomnia Over a K9 Death…

I’m having an extremely difficult time sleeping ~ all because of something I discovered regarding K9 Bak, the deceased officer from Stephen’s County Sheriff’s Dept. in Duncan OK. On November 4, 2016,  I wrote a lengthy post on the horrific way this loyal six  year veteran died called The Tragedy of K9 Bak… which went into great detail about the circumstances of his death, or in his case, murder.

But my insomnia isn’t from thinking about how K9 Bak died but rather, the events surrounding the memorial service the community organized  as a way of honoring his life, something  I closed my original post with. Last night a few details came to light.

Since the Stephen’s County Sheriff’s Department had not made any type of memorial arrangements yet, a member of the community took the initiative and began making plans for a community memorial. It was to be held on the East Side of the Stephen’s County Courthouse (the Sheriff’s Department is located within the same building). The reason for this is there is a monument on the East Side that is a tribute to fallen officers. It was scheduled for 10 am on September 6.

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Stephen’s County Courthouse

Sheriff Wayne McKinney told the Duncan Banner why his department would not be doing a memorial for K9 Bak at this time. Since the Duncan Banner only allows a few views before locking one out until you subscribe, I copied their article to a document with a sharable link.

Community hosting memorial for K9 Bak

On August 31, one of the organizers announced that the  memorial service had to be relocated from the courthouse to the local park which is one half mile away. The reason? “Changed location to Duncan Park. Sheriff up for reelection so can’t be honoring this officer at the courthouse. Hmmmm”. I checked the election results only to find that Sheriff McKinney did win however the election was June 28. My turn to say “Hmmmm”. For whatever reason the organizers had to move the location.

K9 Bak’s EOW was August 5, 2016. His former handler, Matthew Peck,  was terminated immediately. Some details of K9 Bak’s death and Sheriff Wayne McKinney’s response are in this video report from NBC4i from August 27.

On August 29, Peck was charged with one (1) count of felony animal cruelty.

On September 6 as promised community members had a small but lovely memorial for K9 Bak that brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t see a uniform presence in any of the photos and one of the attendees said “It would have been nice to have some police support”. Perhaps they were in street clothes?

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Bless this comminity!

In closing, sadly this is not a video of K9 Bak however  I wish he had been remenbered by his “family” like this. Perhaps they will ….someday. After all, he was a loyal BlueDog.

Made An Unusual Discovery…

Made An Unusual Discovery…

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am passionate about K9 deaths due to handler negligence, especially hot car deaths. To digress a bit, I fact check everything several times using different sources because I’ve come to find that mainstream media is often rife with errors. For example with a recent K9 death there were four different ages given for the dog and worse, some media referred to the K9 as male while others wrote female. The K9 (who was killed in the line of duty) was a male.

I was doing research and fact checking data on a K9 who was part of a department in one of our southern states. Because of handler neglect the dog was forgotten for over five hours in a locked patrol car that didn’t  have heat sensors. This occurred during the middle of the day when the heat is highest plus in the south states it’s always hotter  and more humid than their northern counterparts. Sadly the K9 died.   During the course of reading I stumbled upon something that almost made me vault from the chair in shock. Another K9 died in a hot car death due to egregious negligence earlier in 2015. This happened in a southern state as well but a different one. When I checked the distance, there is over 300 miles between the two locations; it wasn’t as if the two departments were even remotely close to one another. I don’t know about you but with the exception of relatives and old acquaintances I don’t arbitrarily know people who live 300 miles away. Yet I found a connection between these two handlers and it was a somewhat new connection; they weren’t old social media friends. I even checked as far back as I could on the youngest handler but he had never lived nor worked in the other state. I should mention that I discovered the connection on a social media site and the individuals involved were rather cryptic in their comments which is to be expected. However finding a connection of any type seemed odd and out-of-place. That I began to wonder; do these disgraced law enforcement officers purposely reach out to each other? I know that officers who have lost a K9 in the line of duty or due to sickness or age after retirement are often comforted by other handlers who have lost their  K9 partner in a similar way. That seems appropriate and normal. But for two officers whose negligence alone was the cause of death in  otherwise healthy K9s  to be corresponding (one handler has been charged with a felony and fired by his department) ~ now that seems very strange.

So I’m on a mission. Yes America is a free country and the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech however something isn’t right here. Is there a secret group reserved just for police officers whose carelessness and negligence are the direct cause of their K9 partners life?

If there is a great physical distance between two small town police departments, how did they suddenly begin communicating after the death of their dogs? It almost smacks of collusion and I definitely don’t like it.

When a handler loses their K9 partner they are usually devastated. On June 24, 2016, retired Clearwater, Florida K9 Officer Major  was laid to rest due to medical issues. He served the Clearwater Police Department and the city of Clearwater for six years before being retired in 2014. Below is a touching tribute written by his partner, Sgt. Michael Spitaleri:

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Saying GoodBye To Major

To my faithful partner,

Today has been the most difficult day of my career. I made the decision to end your pain and suffering, however I’m hurting far more than I anticipated. I already miss you, buddy.

I remember picking you up from the airport right before we began K-9 school together. My first impression wasn’t accurate. I thought you were small and you appeared to be a bit timid at first glance. I honestly didn’t know if you had what it took to be a police dog. Nonetheless, we started K-9 school together in November of 2008. I quickly learned my initial assessment was wrong. You proved yourself to me time and time again. Your willingness to please me, your loyalty, and your fearlessness was very apparent as we progressed and graduated K-9 school in March 2009.

As a team, we had immediate success on the road. During our first week together that March, you successfully tracked and located a man who threatened his wife with a knife. Our skills and ability got better day in and day out from that point. Throughout the years, we located dozens of criminals, illegal narcotics, firearms, and other items of evidentiary value. These arrests and finds wouldn’t have been possible without you. You made me look like a superstar at times; truth be told, I was nothing more than the guy who held your leash.

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Your reputation with our coworkers was highly respected. I always laughed when we would train with the SWAT team. During those training sessions we were around some of the toughest men I have ever had the privilege of working alongside. When I would get you out of the car I would watch as these tough men would find the nearest corner of the room in an attempt to be as far away from you as possible, because they thought you were “crazy.” You weren’t crazy; you were my protector. You were their protector. You knew no limits and you would stop at nothing to make sure we made it home safely to our families. You took your job seriously.

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I’ll never forget when I would try and key the radio to talk. It never failed; as soon as I got our call sign out “K4” to the dispatcher you would begin barking so loud they couldn’t hear a thing I was trying to say. I would get messages and/or requests from the dispatchers to repeat my transmissions. They knew I couldn’t stand it when you “talked” over me; however it was something you never grew out of. We still laugh about it to this day.

When you retired in 2014 due to medical conditions, the adjustment to being a normal dog was difficult for you. You would watch me get ready and run to the door in anticipation of going to work. I know you didn’t understand the reasons I retired you, however I did it because I loved you, buddy. I wanted to make sure your medical conditions didn’t get worse. I wanted you to live a good quality life during your retirement. You deserved that and I stand by my decision. Just like you looked out for me every single shift, it was my turn to look out for you and protect you.

Although I know you didn’t enjoy retirement like humans do, I’m proud to say you adjusted as much as you could. You became my wife’s dog. You became my children’s dog. You made sure they were protected when Daddy went to work with his new dog, Echo. You would lay by my kids’ door at night while they slept, almost as if to say “I got them, Daddy, you go to work, and they’ll be fine”. I felt at peace knowing you were home keeping them safe. Thank you for protecting them like you protected me for all of those years.

I could go on and on about you. You made me the K-9 handler that I am today. You never met a challenge that you didn’t rise to the occasion. You were a great partner and I am forever thankful for you.

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Major, I love you and I will always remember our time together. Please go find the nearest police officer when you get to heaven and tell them you are a police dog and you are reporting for duty.

Until I see you again………….

Love,

Dad