To: Robert J. A_____, DVM

Dear Dr. A_____,

Max died Saturday.

You remember my dog, I'm sure; you just saw him last week. Cute little guy, a black-and tan terrier/poodle mix. He loved everyone. He was a rescue, and the nicest dog you'll ever meet. It took him a long time to come out of his shell; we theorized that his last home wasn't very nice. He didn't bark for nearly a year.

My daughter brought him to you Monday morning because his claw was bleeding. That was odd, because he'd had his hair cut and nails clipped on Friday, and it hadn't been bleeding then. You stopped the bleeding and sent him home.

Later that day we noticed that his belly was somewhat distended, and that there was some kind of soft lump under his muzzle. We brought him back. You said, basically, "Huh," adding that you'd never seen those symptoms before. You gave him a steroid shot and sent him home with some pills.

By Tuesday the stomach was more swollen and looked bruised, and Max was wheezing. You said "Huh," again professing to be stymied, and gave us some other pills to help him breathe. They didn't help.

On Wednesday his entire underside was bruised. We brought him in for a third time. Finally, you were alarmed. You had us take him to an emergency animal clinic. After an exam they asked the question that never occurred to you: "Was he exposed to any poison?"

Yes. I had forgotten about the rat poison in the basement. He'd never gone in there, and I thought it was out of his reach in any case. Two days later, on Friday, they sent him home. They said they considered a blood transfusion, but didn't do it because, they said, he seemed okay. At home he ate some cheese with his vitamin K pills. He was very tired and a little traumatized; Max was a rescue, and I'm sure he thought he had been abandoned, again.

The next day it was just Max and me at home; the family was out doing things. I knew something was wrong when Max wouldn't eat anything, not even his beloved cheese, though he constantly drank water. I could tell he was in pain. He looked gaunt, as though he'd lost weight overnight. His legs trembled uncontrollably; he was too tired to stand, but it must have hurt too much to lie down. He vomited several times.

By mid-afternoon, he could barely walk. He went out on the deck - his favorite place - looked around once, and slowly, painfully, went back inside.

I knew, then, beyond a doubt, that he was dying. I think he did, too. The vet was closed that day. The animal hospital was an hour away, but I knew he wouldn't survive the trip. Together we waited for the end, in the home he loved for over six years.

Max was maybe 8 years old, and he had a lot of good years left. He loved nothing more than playing with us; he had boundless energy. But at 8:07 pm on Saturday, November 2, he died. It was horrible, but I am glad I was there for him. He did not die alone.

Now Max is gone, and I am brimming with anger. I am angry that the animal hospital sent him home too soon. I am angrier that you, Dr. A_____, failed to recognize the symptoms - or even to ask any questions. The vet at the animal hospital picked up on it immediately. You, however, cost Max two full days in which he could have been treated by a competent vet. If and when we get another pet, I sure as hell won't take him to you.

But most of all, I am angry at myself. I put out the rat poison that Max ate. My friends and family tell me it's not my fault, but I am having a really hard time accepting that. If nothing else, I am responsible. It was my job to keep Max safe, and I failed, and he died.

I know Max wouldn't blame me, or love me any less. But that doesn't take away the anger, and it won't bring back my friend. He was a great dog.

Tomorrow we'll pick up his ashes, and we'll bury him under the deck he loved so much with his collar and his favorite toys. We'll miss him for the rest of our days.

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I'm so sorry. I would be so angry too as I've been in the same boat when a vet doesn't do his job. I would probably still have my little guy if I could have found a competent vet with half a brain and I took my boy to a university thinking they actually knew what they were doing. I don't blame you at all for being mad, you have every right!
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Oh PH.... How terribly tragic and painful....  I am so sorry for your loss, the horrible experience with people you should have been able to trust with your beloved little one, and most of all, for the guilt you feel. You surely know in your heart that you would never intentionally put your pup at risk, but we are only human and all make mistakes that we strongly regret. You are right in knowing that Max would not blame you, since he knew your love for him and that you had saved his life by bringing him into your family. He obviously had a wonderful life with you and I'm sure was very grateful for the blessings that your family were to him. My deepest sympathies for your loss.

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