This is an updated version of Maggie’s Story. It is the details without as much emotion, of what happened to our sweet girl Maggie after a series of tragic events. This story was published in the March/April issue of the City Unwrapped Magazine. ANOTHER UPDATE AT BOTTOM!
If you don’t read anything else in this story, read this:
*NEVER allow your pets Rabies Vaccine to expire
* Know your rights as a pet owner
* Understand all surgery comes with risks and ask questions
“We have some terrible news….” Instantly I knew, she didn’t have to say anymore. I knew Maggie was gone. All I could do was blame myself, the decisions I made, or didn’t make. Maggie, our loving 2 year dog had died. But, the more I learned, the more I understood that I was not the only one who failed Maggie, the “system” also failed Maggie and this is her story.
Maggie came to us on her own. On our last day at a cabin in Cherokee, we looked up and there was this little pup, full of mats, ticks and fleas sitting by the door. She was so happy to see us. The cabin owner told us she had been running the mountain roads for months by herself and there is no way in the world she would survive if someone didn’t help her. That was our calling. My kids loved her, my other dogs loved her, we all bonded immediately. She played catch and ran the yard faster than any other dog I have seen. She whined when my kids left for school and jumped for joy when they came home. She loved them with all her heart, and they loved her.
December 30th – It was like any other day. My husband left for work for a few hours and I just didn’t feel like cooking. My kids and I each ordered small individual pizzas that come in a small box. One of those boxes was left by the sofa. Maggie jumped on the sofa and sat near it while my kids played UNO on the floor near her. Rosie, one of my other dogs, walked over towards the sofa, Maggie jumped down, bit her, Rosie bit back and the first fight ever between my dogs ensued. I grabbed Rosie by the collar and tried to push Maggie back and somewhere in between there I was bit in the hand and knee. When the dogs were finally separated, I looked down, my hand was throbbing in pain, there was blood seeping through my pants and I knew I had to go to the hospital. While at the hospital, they asked if my dogs were up to date on their rabies vaccinations and I said yes, because I thought they were, and they told me they had to report it to Animal Care and Control.
December 31st – An Animal Control officer was at my door at 8:00 am and told me Maggie’s rabies vaccine had expired a couple months previously and he was going to have to take her and Rosie (hers had expired too) for 10 days. We begged and pleaded for another alternative, but he gave us no alternative. According to him, it was the law that if the dogs were past due on their rabies shots, and because I did not know which one bit me, he had to take them both. Between the tears in our eyes and the pleading in our voices, he took our dogs to be quarantined at Animal Care and Control and told us we could pick them up on January 10th. After having to tell my kids Maggie and Rosie had been taken, they were so sad, we started counting down the days they would be with us again…9, 8, 7, 6….
January 5th – I recalculated 10 days in my head. If my calculations were correct, my dogs should have been able to be picked up on the 9th, not the 10th. So I called the number given to us, which really transfers you to ‘311,’ and asked again when they would be able to be picked up. They re-iterated the 10th. I thought maybe they didn’t count the first day as a day.
January 9th – An Animal Control officer came to the door with a sheet of paper that indicated I had abandoned my pets and they could be euthanized or adopted out if not picked up within 72 hours. And that my dog (Maggie) was so cute, she would be adopted out quickly. What? Our paper said the 10th! Apparently, the initial Animal Control officer had the date wrong and so did ‘311’. Frantically, I called my husband, but he was at work and would not be getting off until late that night. We decided to pick them up first thing in the morning.
January 10th – We arrived at Animal Care and Control the minute they opened. When we got to the desk, CMPD Animal Care and Control Released Rosie to us, but encouraged us to spay Maggie. While my husband and I were not fond of the idea of spaying Maggie (no particular reason), the lady behind the desk at Animal Care and Control made us feel like it was the responsible thing to do, it would cost less than Rosie’s release ($202.00) and that the spay was no big deal. As we were signing the spay permission papers, my husband asked about the questions on the sheet of paper and she said, it was no big deal, don’t worry about it because that was only for people who actually brought their dogs in specifically to be spayed. We signed the paper.
January 11th – Before school, my daughter Betsy put Maggie’s blanket and toy in our car. I was supposed to pick her up at the bus stop and then we would go get Maggie. Betsy and Reece were so excited for this day, as was I, after having not seen Maggie in 12 days! At 11:45 I got a call from the Humane Society telling me Maggie had passed away after receiving anesthesia. She didn’t even get to the surgery before she died. My life felt like it fell apart. I could not bear the pain I was feeling. All because of decisions I had made and lack of information I had.
January 11th 3:30 pm – Betsy walked in the door and asked why I had not met her at the bus stop. I had to tell her. The scream that came out of her mouth was from her soul. It was a heart wrenching scream I will never forget. Ever. It is etched in my brain.
4:30 pm – Reece walked in the door, wondering why we were home. We had to tell him about Maggie. He pulled his sweatshirt over his head and just cried. My husband held him while his heart was breaking.
Today, I am still wracked with guilt, heartache, and sadness. I don’t know that I will ever forgive myself for the tragic events surrounding Maggie’s death. However, I truly believe Maggie was meant to be a teacher. She was sent specifically to us because she knew I would tell her story. She knew I wouldn’t let it go.
In the days following her death, while I felt like I could hardly function, I did some research. And what I found out made me even more angry at the events leading up to Maggie’s death and this is what I need you to know.
Rabies Vaccine – Do not rely on your vet to remind you your animals rabies vaccinations are expired. Put it in your phone, your calendar, anywhere that will ensure you know your dogs rabies vaccination is up to date.
Know Your Rights as a Pet Owner – When the Animal Control officer came to our door January 30th, he did not explain to us that we had the option to quarantine our dogs at our veterinarian. Yes, it would have cost us more. No, maybe it would not have made a difference in the ultimate outcome of Maggie’s life. But we weren’t given that choice. When in a stressful situation like that, we assumed he knew all the answers. We trusted him. But had we been given the option and did not take it, that would have been our choice. Not his. We would have been able to make an informed decision. And that is what I am asking you to do. My dogs were not bad, not vicious, they just happened to get in a fight, and I got in the middle of it. It could happen to you. And if you get bit, you can bet Animal Care and Control will come knocking. It is their job to keep the community safe. And while circumstances are different, my dogs never posed a threat to anyone, or even each other and we should have been given that option. Know your rights, stay informed before a situation happens. You will feel much more in control if you are ever in this situation if you know your rights.
There is Nothing Simple About Any Surgery – Do not assume any surgery is simple. All surgery comes with risks. One thing lacking at Animal Care and Control is that if you reclaim your pet and you choose to have a spay, you are given a piece of paper to sign. That’s it. You do not talk to a vet, you do not talk to the Humane Society who actually performs the surgery. I assumed the vets at the Humane Society would do bloodwork prior to Maggie’s surgery. I assumed wrong. In order to keep costs low, for the people who need the Humane Society, they only offer bloodwork at an additional cost. We did not know that. When we were given the paper to sign to have Maggie spayed, it was just glossed over, like it was nothing. If you are ever in this situation, I urge you to ask questions, request bloodwork, request to speak to medical personnel, know every detail of the surgery. If you are not 100% comfortable with what is going on…Don’t do it.
After Maggie’s death, I had the opportunity to speak with the Medical Director, Operations Director, and CEO of the Humane Society as well as with the Director at Animal Care and Control. The amount of compassion and concern shown to me and my family was truly amazing. They understood my pain, they were very empathetic to our situation. “A tragedy of errors.” It was also discussed that Animal Care and Control and the Humane Society’s current spay/neuter policy for reclaimed pets would be reviewed, and possibly be refined, so that pet owners are informed of all of their choices, options, risks and effects. Once this new policy is in place, it will be known as “Maggie’s Rule.” I was also assured that CMPD Animal Care and Control officers would be reminded about offering quarantine option at your own vets office, as well as the importance of explaining the spay procedure.
Maggie’s death will not be in vain, her memory will last forever. I urge you to get to know the Humane Society, I urge you to learn more about CMPD Animal Care and Control. Both organizations are doing their best for animals and society. Unfortunately, sometimes lessons are learned from the hardest of situations.
Maggie was our teacher. Maggie is your teacher. If one animal gets their rabies vaccination, or person verifies the vaccine is up to date, if one person reads up on their rights as a pet owner, if one person asks more questions about surgical procedures because of Maggie’s Story, then Maggie saved one dog…one family. I urge you to listen to Maggie’s Story and take it seriously. In all my years of owning dogs, this has never happened to me before. But it did….tragedies happen. Let Maggie be your teacher…and learn something from her story.
As of today, “Maggie’s Rule” still has not gone into effect and CMPD Animal Care & Control has not changed any of their policies as far as I know. I hope the word gets out about Maggie’s death and people stand together to stop this from happening again.
*UPDATE 3/7/2013 – I spoke with the Humane Society of Charlotte today and they assured me the forms ARE BEING CHANGED and Maggie’s Rule WILL go into effect. Unfortunately it takes longer than we want these things to…But in the long run, it will work out because if ONE dog is saved…It did it’s job!
*UPDATE 7/11/2013 – “Maggie’s Rule” has gone into effect!
The Humane Society of Charlotte spent a lot of time working on these new forms. They added questions, changed questions and made what it clear what you were about to sign. They also have in bold type, the following question:
I understand that HSC Spay/Neuter Clinics may not perform a complete physical examination before surgery is performed. I also understand that pre-operative blood work and IV catheter & fluids are recommended and offered at an additional cost ($40 each).
~I would like pre-operative blood work performed on my pet prior to surgery: Yes No
~I would like my pet to receive an IV catheter and fluids during surgery: Yes No
The Humane Society of Charlotte understood the amount of pain the loss of Maggie was to our family, but it was more than that. They took a terrible event and turned it into something positive for the community. They understood that things needed to change on their forms so people were made aware of their options. And they did that. They took the time to listen to me and in the end Maggie’s death wasn’t in vain, it is what happened to Maggie that had those forms change, those new rules will always be known as Maggie’s Rule and I am sure she is looking down on us smiling, knowing those “rules” may just save another pet.
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