It was the middle of December, my 2nd year in Corvallis, late in the afternoon at the hospital. My next scheduled appointment was a new client, bringing a puppy for an acute onset of vomiting. They arrived right on time, checked in with reception, and were ushered into the exam room. I walked in and introduced myself to the nice young couple and their children—boy about 4, his sister probably 6—and the 14-week old Golden Retriever “Daisy”.
As I talked with the owners and obtained a brief history on Daisy, a few “red flags” popped up—a “backyard breeder”, had given Daisy “all” her puppy vaccines, owners had purchased her @ 9 weeks of age, no vaccines since. Daisy seemed fine yesterday, began vomiting overnight, now had diarrhea also and was very lethargic. . My initial exam findings . . . pale gums, depressed, mild abdominal pain, mild fever, and (bad news!) loose stool with a familiar, awful odor of fresh blood.
I discussed the strong possibility of an intestinal viral infection called Parvovirus with the owners, and obtained a blood sample to check Daisy’s white blood cell count—typically very low with parvoviral infection. While that test was being run, I discussed cause, treatment, and prognosis of the infection with the owners. Summary . . . bad disease, but treatable with hospitalization, IV fluids, IV antibiotics, anti-diarrheal; mostly needing to prevent dehydration from the vomiting and diarrhea.
If treated appropriately, most dogs recovered and went home after 3-5 days with no long term after effects. However, without intensive treatment, rapidly progressing dehydration and death. Sort of an “all or nothing” choice for the owners. The problem here was expense—the family loved their puppy, but both parents had concerns about how much they could afford to spend with their tight budget and 2 young children to care for.
I left the room to check on the lab results—very low white blood cell count, very likely parvovirus—and prepare an estimate for treatment; $1000-1500 back then. Returning to the exam room, I informed the owners of the diagnosis and estimate of costs for treatment. We had an emotional discussion about treatment vs. humane euthanasia. The end result was pragmatic—the owners couldn’t justify spending that much for the puppy, at this time of year—felt it was inappropriate in light of necessary living expenses for their family. I understood, they opted for euthanasia, and I exited the room to leave them alone as a family while I prepared the injection.
Somehow, that injection never made it’s way into the syringe. I wandered around the treatment room, acknowledged the forlorn faces of my assisting staff . . . and headed back to the exam room with a big grin on my face.
In answer to their puzzled looks, I said “How’s this for an early Christmas present . . . you pay me for the (already agreed upon) examination, lab fee, euthanasia, and after care fees; and we hospitalize Daisy and treat her until she’s ready to go home and enjoy her first Christmas with her family?” Amid quite a rush of crying and laughing—I’m not going to embarrass my manly self by listing those who shed tears—we all agreed on this solution.
One of the “perks” of being a practice owner is that, occasionally, you get to facilitate “good things happening to good people”.