We aren’t in the business of selling sick dogs


The little white Bichon pup was cute as a button. He dashed back and forth in the little visiting room as if performing on the adoption stage. He was the maestro and his tail the baton.  The lyrics were “take me home”, and so we did.  We had considered a Wheaten Terrier while at the store but the dog actually threw up on us when we were petting him and seemed sick, so we reconsidered.


The puppy we brought home looked happy in the beginning.  My kids called him Nugget and adorned him with a golden name tag. Within 48 hours we knew something wasn’t right.   I am a bit of a hypochondriac so everyone takes my diagnosis with a grain of salt.  Unfortunately I’ve seen too much pain in my life and recognize it well.  I tread the line of ‘wise’ versus ‘way off’ with caution.


“Let’s ask an expert” is usually my default self check.  When I went for his initial visit to the vet, blankie and wee wee pads, all in tow, the vet said our puppy had coccidia parasites and maybe kennel cough. Interestingly while I was at the veterinarian’s office in came a husky man, bundled and confused, a little worried about his new Wheaten Terrier. I recognized the dog.  He was Shake-a-Paw’s vomiting terrier. The dog was ill and coughing. I told his new owner that while I was at the store that particular dog threw up on me and I had a feeling he was already ill.  I felt something sick in the pit of my stomach.  I sensed a trend.


Since I brought little Nugget home I maintained a strict regimen of the food I was sold, in the proper amounts, plenty of fresh water, the vitamins Shake a Paw recommended, and now the dog came home with a medication called Albon for Coccidia but the dog seemed to be getting worse. 


On day 5 the puppy became very ill, lethargic, unable to eat, heaving.  Again my family took my prognosis with a grain of salt when I cried: “This dog is dying”.  Ok there Virgilia, chicken soup for the dog, a chill pill for you and call us in the morning read the bubble over my husband’s head.  This time I was sure he was dying.


The vet was closed and there was no emergency number. I called my friend’s vet, and he advised me to get the dog to an ER. It was Thanksgiving and family and friends were on their way to our home for the feast and to meet the new doggy.  While the turkey roasted and my gracious friend took my chef’s hat I went rushing to the Animal Emergency Room in Fairfield.  Nugget was ex-rayed and found to have pneumonia, his lungs had fluid, he was beginning to dehydrate from vomiting and his chances of survival were 50/50.  Before I knew it he was swept out of my arms and in an incubator on strong antibiotics, IV fluids, and oxygen struggling for his own life. My kids’ birthday puppy might die on Thanksgiving. 


At the hospital the Dr. Jableki told me that another dog purchased at Shake-a-Paw had been there with the same pneumonia, that he had not responded to medication and had to be admitted also.  I asked if it was the Wheaten Terrier but it was not, it was a third dog, same week – I believe the doctor said it was a lab retriever but I did not get the name of the owner.  To avoid failure they gave mine a medication called chloramphenicol and told me that if and when he came home I was to administer it using gloves.  To humans the mere touch of that medication could cause aplastic anemia, an incurable and fatal disease. I was to administer this potentially fatal to humans drug for 20 days at my home with my children. 


Before I even walked out of the hospital I was made to pay 80% of the lower estimated bill up front ($1,300.00).  They offer credit cards…


At this point I did not know whether the dog would live or die. I tried to call the store manager but no one was around until the following day. On Friday when I spoke to the manager he reiterated several times that while he would reimburse some of my expenses there was a cap on any medical reimbursements so I should consider wisely how much I spent. I wondered what price he was putting on the dog's life. My other option in the contract was to return the dog (they would probably have him euthanized) so they can sell me another --- why would I kill a baby we can save and go back to the store to buy yet another sick dog?  I faxed him an official letter saying Nugget had been “unfit for purchase”. 


I called the manager of the store.  “Sir, are you aware that at least three of the dogs you sold last week are ill?” That’s when the manager said, “We aren’t in the business of selling sick dogs.” I decided to look them up.  Here are the top 66 complaints http://www.consumeraffairs.com/pets/shakeapaw.html.

After reading that, I told him that I begged to differ.  At this point it is clear that their business is in fact to crate as many pups as they can into their stores probably before they are ready to leave their moms, stuff them with anti parasite chemicals because they are presumed infected given their circumstances, have them in cages where they defecate and eat their stool, and sell them to unknowing customers like me.  I wasn’t crass, I wasn’t angry, I was matter-of-fact.  Some things are too sad to make you angry. 


He called me several times over the weekend and asked me not to contact the warranty company.  He asked me to me fax the hospital bill to his store, I am not sure why.  Maybe there is data collection involved in claiming on the warranty, maybe the premiums go up, maybe it is recorded somewhere that it won’t be if he reimburses off the books.


Nugget is not yet out of harm’s way.  I don’t know what the future will bring.  Right now I just look in his big eyes and feel grateful for the chance to have saved him, despite all the distress it meant to our family. The medical expenses thus far are high but the price of buying a sick dog can’t be calculated.


My appeal to you is to help close these puppy mills.  As of a couple weeks ago I had no idea what this trade involved. Please look at these 11 facts about puppy mills: http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-puppy-mills


If you are moved to action please spread the word, refuse to buy from these stores, rescue a mutt, or join the humane society and find out how else you can help.  https://secure.humanesociety.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=6041&s_src=web_shadow


As for Shake-a-Paw, I sincerely hope that if they begin to lose sleep at night they recognize it is guilt emanating from what’s left of their better selves.  Maybe those involved in this trade should have a meeting with their conscience, change their business practices, and begin to repair the blemishes on their souls-- because I am not in the business of being a priestess.

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