In which I meet a Puggle Breeder – Repost

The parking lot should have been my first clue. Not content to just fill every spot, there are cars parked on the grassy verge next to the clinic, cars parked on the shoulder of the road in front of the clinic, and cars double parked in front of each other.

Going inside, it doesn’t get much better.

This is possibly the most crowded veterinary waiting room I’ve ever seen, and I’ve sat in Guelph’s waiting room more than a few times. Tula and I are crowded in next to a man with a tiny, sweater wearing Yorkie on his lap. Across from us sits a big, bully headed cross breed of some type or another.  It’s probably one of those mystery blends that are being marketed as ‘rare’ – a Victorian Bulldog or some such thing. Whatever it is, it’s adorable, and it’s stressed out. A baby sits next to it in a stroller, and every so often, when the baby shrieks in excitement, the bully leans over and licks the baby on the shin, eyes shining with worry. Mom tells me that her Bully loves the baby more than she loves anyone else in the house, and it’s clear that she not exagerating in the least.

There’s an adolescent Doberman, looking like nothing so much as gazelle in dog form, all gawkiness until it moves, when it become fluid and graceful. An older European couple have matching black and white Shih Ttzu type dogs on their laps, and one more peeks out of the sweater of the girl sitting next to them. There’s a Great Dane by the door, a quietly watchful Border Collie sitting behind a potted plant, and a pair of madly twirling Pugs in the corner.

In the middle of all these dogs sits a woman with a single cat in a carrier. The cat is keeping just as quiet and just as still as it possibly can, and I am thinking to myself that I would not want to be the tech who has to try to take that cat out of the carrier.

Tula is anxious about all of this, but she behaves herself like a lady. Every so often, when another dog really worries her, she’ll reach up and pat one paw on my leg, staring at me with her liquid brown eyes. I ruffle her ears and tell her it’s all fine.

Most of the dogs are well behaved, especially given the stress and the crowding and the long, long wait times. We’d arrived at nine to check in for Tula’s spay, and had been waiting for forty minutes when the woman with the Puggle walked in. As soon as she came in the door, she began a litany of the same command – “Sit sit sit sit sit, you sit now, sit good boy, sit sit sit”. Not once did the dog do anything even remotely approaching a sit, but every once in a while, as he was leaping at her legs and twining the leash around ankles, she’d reach down and pet him, telling him he was a “good good boy, momma’s good boy”, so it’s possible he had been immaculately trained to act like a lunatic.

Every word she said to her dog was pronounced in a loud tone that was obviously meant to draw attention. She’d tell her dog to ‘sit sit sit’, and when he ignored her she’d look around the room, smiling proudly, waiting for us all to acknowledge the utter adorableness of her dog’s behaviour. The breeder sitting across from me had a gaggle of puppies in a crate at her foot, none of which had made a sound since we’d arrived. She and I looked at each other, shrugged, and rolled our eyes, which left me too distracted to notice that there was an empty seat next to me.

The Puggle Mommy sat down next to me, while her dog sprang repeatedly to the end of his flexi, lunging at every dog he could reach. She was alternating ‘sit sit sit’ with ‘good boy, momma’s boy’, and I tried to remember my New York/Toronto subway training – don’t make eye contact with the crazy people. Eventually, Puggle noticed that there was a foxy cream Frenchie standing right next to him, so he lunged at Tula and proceeded to ram his nose up her butt.

Tula, as I said, is a good girl, but her patience for boys is nonexistant, outside of those one or two times a year when she’s willing to pursue them like a liquored up Cougar at a team sports bar. The rest of the time, Tula would be quite happy to see boys all kept on some remote island where there are no boats, which is pretty much just what she told the Puggle. There were teeth and snarling ‘and get the hell away from me, you misbegotten wretch’ type insults flung in his general direction. Puggle, being not altogether stupid, immediately backed off, giving Tula a concilatory play bow and tail wiggle.

His mom, on the other hand, was laughing indulgently at the antics of her ‘good good boy’, and when Tula snarled at him she proclaimed (loudly), “Oh honey, she just thinks you’re too studly for her, with all your manliness, so leave that little girl be”. She then beamed at me, clearly waiting for me to agree with her. When I didn’t, she took a closer look at Tula and said ‘what kind of dog is that?’.

‘French Bulldog’.

‘Oh, French Bulldog. I’ve never seen one before. Where did you get it?’

‘I bred her’.

‘Oh, do you breed them? I’m a breeder, too!’.

She was practically ready to explode with excitement, and happily shared with me that she had a litter at home (of course) of ten (naturally) “Pure Bred” Puggles. I was as polite as I could possibly be, but I couldn’t help asking “Aren’t puggles a cross between Beagles and Pugs?”. ‘No, no’ she protested – hers weren’t like that. Hers were all real purebred Puggles. I was just too tired to either fight about it or to try to educate, so I shrugged and went back to my magazine. Two minutes later, Puggle mom asked me ‘So is she spaded?’ (yes, really – she really said “spaded”, I swear to God).

‘No, she’s here today to be spayed’.

‘Oh, that’s too bad. Can you imagine what cute puppies they would have?’, as she indicated her dog, which was busy trying to strangle itself on the end of her flexi lead. I couldn’t help looking at her with an expression that I’m sure was three parts incredulity, and one part disgust. I pondered all the things I could say, and settled for just shrugging again, and going back to my magazine.

Tula and I finally got called to go in to the office and meet with the vet. When I left, Puggle lady was busy telling the European couple next to her that she still had puppies available for sale, for just “$200 for purebred ones”, and “wouldn’t Sheezoos crossed with Puggles be darling?”.

Her dog was peeing on the potted plant.

Ema at the Veterinary Cardiologist

I have a long, hard story about what we learned at today’s appointment with Ema. The short story? It’s fixable – expensive, but fixable.

At the moment, however, I’m just not up to writing about it – not yet. For now, I’m just going to give you a pictorial on Ema’s appointment with Veterinary Cardiologist, Dr. Sandra Minors, at the Mississauga Oakville Veterinary Referral Clinic.

Ema in the car enroute to the clinic. The resolution isn’t great, but you can sort of see the color of Ema’s tongue here – a uniform blue, almost all the time.

See the rest, after the cut – and please don’t forget to help, if you can.

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WTF, Veterinarians?

Let me preface this rant by saying: I love most of the veterinarians I have ever dealt with. The majority have been pleasant, intelligent, and have dealt with me rationally. I have been happy to put the life of my pets into their hands.

Lately, however, a few glaring exceptions have reared their ugly heads.

Recently, I got a phone call from someone who had purchased a French Bulldog (not from me) a few years ago. Since their own breeder has gone awol, we’ve developed sort of a surrogate help line relationship. At any rate, one morning they noticed that Albert was limping. This was a clear limp – he was favoring his left leg, and walking with a sort of hop-skip step that usually says to me “ouch, something is hurting me”. It’s not to be mistaken with the “complete foot lifted off the ground, I can’t put any weight on this at all” step, but it’s still a limp.

Immediately, they made an appointment to take Albert in to the vet’s office, which is located in Manhattan and shall – for now – remain nameless. This is a really modern clinic – they have all of the bells and whistles, including some stuff I’ve never even heard of. At the appointment, Albert’s examining vet manipulates his leg, agrees that yes, it looks painful, and immediately recommends treatment consisting of a $3500.00 MRI, and patella replacement surgery – likely on both knees, including the one Albert wasn’t limping on. This was after a cursory diagnosis consisting of a five minute manipulation, and a twenty second case history.

Estimated cost of double patella surgery? $10,000 minimum, and possibly more.

Now, Albert’s parents are good people, and if $13,000 worth of surgery were required to save his life, I have no doubt that they’d beg, borrow and max out credit cards to raise it – but $13,000 for a limp? They called me in a panic, and wanted to know what to do. Should they do the MRI? The vet said the MRI was ‘just a formality’, and that Albert would definitely need the surgery.

OK, first of all – since when is an MRI a formality? Why would you bother doing it, if you’d already decided ahead of time that you were going to operate on this dog, no matter what the MRI results showed? I’m sure it could not possibly have anything to do with the fact that this MRI machine is rather new, and comes with a hefty price tag. I do like the way that the vet explained that a ‘pre surgical MRI is sort of like pre surgical blood panels’, giving the vets a base line idea of what is going on. Of course, the big difference is that blood panels don’t come with a $3500 price tag, but that’s a minor quibble.

Secondly, since when is the instant reaction to a relatively mild limp in an another wise healthy and asymptomatic dog “Let’s cut him open”? How is this reasonable? What happened to the ‘let’s watch and see if it gets worse’ school of thought? Would it hurt the dog to leave it for a day or two? If this really is patellar luxation, what’s a week or two?

My suggestion (as a non veterinary layperson) was what I usually recommend for anything ouchy – crate rest and anti inflammatories. My second suggestion was more emphatic – find a new vet, at least for a second opinion. More exactly, my reaction was “try crate rest and anti inflammatories for a few days, and if he doesn’t seem any better in 48 hours, go see a different vet for a second opinion”.

They did, after borrowing a crate from friends, and in less than 48 hours Albert was walking normally again. They still got a second opinion, this time from an old time veterinarian out in Queens that Bulldog owning friends suggested. He didn’t have a shiny, high tech clinic, but he acted like he enjoyed meeting their dog, and he told them that Albert seemed just fine to him.

Sometimes, less really is more – less veterinary care, less invasive methods of treatment, less panic. Sadly, this is NOT the first time I’ve heard MRIs “prescribed” for minimal issues, including one other case of slight limping. I tell people to apply the ‘what would you do it were YOU?’ rule – if it was your knee, and you had a slight limp, would you run out and get a $3500 MRI – and would you let your doctor cut your knee open immediately, or would you take some aspirin, apply a cold pack, and wait it out?

My second encounter with veterinary stupidity came in the form of some vet records I read just recently. Overall, they illustrated a case history of a vet who had routinely fleeced his well meaning owners for every dollar he could get, but one item stuck out like a sore thumb – he had made them come in monthly to get their dog’s flea medication applied.

In office. For a fee. And no, he didn’t make this optional, but rather seemed to suggest that this is just how it’s done.

Seriously, vets – WTF? It’s hard to stick up for you as a profession that I like and respect, when some of you are acting like snake oil salesmen.

And speaking of malfeasance, I am happy to report that I have heard back from the CVMO, and that they have deemed my report against the veterinarian who tried to have Teddy killed worthy of a full investigation. Since they only proceed on about 10% of the cases they have reported to them, this feels like a major milestone to me. Let’s hope we can get his license pulled.

Speaking of Teddy, here’s his photo update from this week. Proud mom Hope reports that he is the absolute best puppy in the universe. Who am I to argue? I still think it might have just a little something to do with who owns him.

Teddy on the table

Teddy on the table

In Praise of Great Vets

A few years back, when Sean and I were still in a fairly new-ish relationship, we took in his elderly family cat. Misty had first been his sister’s cat, and then had sort of become his mother’s. Now that his mother was sick, Misty became ours. She was already elderly – 19, by his best estimate, and plagued with illnesses. Diabetes, a tumor on her jaw, hyperthyroidism – the list was fairly long, but in spite of it all, Misty was a happy, content little cat. We gave her her insulin, monitered her diet, tried to keep up her calorie intake and hoped for a few more good years.

In the spring of 2005, Misty seemed to go downhill. It was almost impossible to keep weight on her, so we moved her over to a pricey, vet recommended diet. I had my misgivings, but Misty was Sean’s cat, and I decided that the best move on my part was to step back and let him and his vet sort out her care. Sean isn’t like me – he doesn’t pester his vets with questions and second guessing and ‘but I read this on the web’ type statements. I suppose that makes him a better veterinary patient than me, although I’m not so sure that being ‘pesky’ isn’t frequently a good course to take when charting the care of our pets.

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