Vol 11 No 2

Spring Flowers

Spring 2009

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Tales of Gold


March 17, 6:16 p.m.    “Can you help us?  Our vet says Susie needs x-rays and probably surgery for something that she swallowed and may be stuck inside. We’re on a fixed income and can’t afford what this might cost.  Our vet said if she is not x-rayed and maybe operated on she will die.” -          Email excerpt

This desperate plea for help came into GRRI’s email account Tuesday evening.  It was immediately forwarded to the GRRI Board of Directors.  Within hours of receipt, an action plan was decided upon and Susie’s adopters were called; a message was left on their answering machine that “yes, we could help.”

They were first offered the option of keeping Susie and obtaining an emergency line of credit via a program called CareCredit ®. (  CareCredit is a convenient, low minimum monthly payment program to help clients afford the best treatment recommendations for their pets. The application process is quick and easy. You’ll instantly learn if you’re approved.  It can be done right from the participating veterinarian’s office and the money is available immediately.   This was critical in Susie’s case.  There were several emergency veterinary hospitals that accept CareCredit  within driving distance from Susie’s home.

A follow-up call by a Board member the following morning determined that her family could not afford treatment.  They also hadn’t taken her to be examined by their veterinarian. Susie was vomiting, had not passed any stool in four days and was lethargic. Our Board member asked them to surrender her back to GRRI so that we could get her to one of our rescue friendly veterinarians ASAP.  They refused, saying they had to think about it.

Hours passed and they continued to delay a decision. They were attempting to feed Susie despite our admonitions not to.  Feeding a dog with a suspected blockage is extremely dangerous.  GRRI’s attorney recommended having them bring Susie to an emergency hospital with the understanding that GRRI would pay for the emergency treatment and they in turn would make a donation back to GRRI.  (A 501(C)(3) organization cannot pay for private veterinary expenses.)  At this point saving Susie’s life was the main priority. This is not a practice that GRRI normally offers.  The adopter again refused to take her to the emergency hospital that was recommended. 

GRRI’s President placed a call to them and gave them two options:  take Susie to the vet we recommend with the understanding that GRRI will pay the bill, or surrender her to us so she doesn’t die.  At 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, March 18, 2-year-old Susie came back into rescue.

A GRRI Board member was visiting with her mom, waiting for word to go get her.  She went to Susie’s home and her family tearfully handed her the signed intake paperwork.  Susie was now officially ours.  “I have her” was relayed across cell phones, and another GRRI Board member and her husband jumped into their car and drove to a designated meeting area so they could get her and bring her to their rescue friendly vet.  Dr. Joseph Zuckerman of Village Animal Clinic in Ardsley, NY had been notified of our emergency and was on alert, waiting to help.

Upon arrival they were ushered into a treatment room and a medical history was taken. Susie was extremely stressed at this point and didn’t want anyone to come near her.  Dr. Zuckerman took her leash, walked her around, and then sat next to her.  He waited patiently while Susie got used to his presence. Then she allowed him to perform a physical examination.  Because of her stress level she was given a mild sedative before the radiographs were done.  The films revealed that there was a suspicious area in her small intestine “larger than the width of a vertebrae”. This is always suspect so the approval was given to perform an exploratory surgery.   “Do you want to wait 30 minutes to see what it is?”  Dr Zuckerman asked.  “Sure” was the reply.

Susie FBO

About 20 minutes into the surgery a vet tech came out and said there was a really large foreign body obstruction (FBO), the worst Dr. Zuckerman had ever seen. It was really messy; it was wrapped around the coils of her small intestine.  A call went out to have our volunteers start sending positive thoughts and prayers for her survival.  A plastic bag was brought out with a large mass inside of it.  We were told it could be a man’s sock.  There were two pieces, each about 9-inches in length, 1-inch in diameter.

Again a tech came out…there was some kind of string or rope in there, like hemp, and 1-1/2 feet of her  small intestine was shirred around it like a curtain would be on a curtain rod.  Putrid black fluid leaked from her blocked intestine.  We later found out that Susie had ingested a skein of knitting yarn.

Two hours after surgery began, at 8 p.m., Dr. Zuckerman came out.  He said she was resting and he and the tech would stay with her until she awoke; then he’d give her some morphine.  He had to make a large incision down the center of her stomach. Then an incision was made in the center of the small intestine where the blockage was; he cut the rope-like mass in half, then  made another incision to one side so that he could remove half of the sock/rope mass’  he did the same on the other side and extracted the other half.  It would have been helpful to know what she had eaten so he could determine if he had successfully removed it all but that information wasn’t available.   We had to hope that he’d gotten it all.  The following morning Susie was very combative and didn’t want anyone coming near her.  She was vomiting a black tar-like fluid and swampy smelling bile.  She looked terrible.  She was receiving IV fluids and antibiotics. She couldn’t have any food or water until bowel sounds could be heard, indicating her intestines were functioning properly. Normally this occurs within 24-48 hours.

Susie Day1

Our GRRI volunteers cooked up some boiled chicken and sweet potatoes and pureed it in a Cuisinart so it would be easy for her to eat. Probiotics were purchased to help restore the “healthy’ bacteria in her intestinal tract.  They were allowed to visit her later that afternoon and both were shocked by her appearance.  This was clearly a very sick dog.  Dr. Zuckerman said she wasn’t doing as well as he’d hoped, but then she’d been through an awful lot the past couple of days. She didn’t let them touch her either so they quietly sat on the floor with her until she fell asleep.

On day two, fearing the worst, we received a new update.  “She’s showing some spunk and we hear faint bowel sounds.  She’s letting one of the techs examine her. Her temp is normal, the incision looks clean.”

Susie's Incision

She was given a small amount of water. If she kept it down she could have an Italian meatball sized portion of the chicken mixture.  Again our volunteers went to visit her and received a very pleasant surprise.  Susie remembered them and actually wagged her tail a bit.  She went outside for a walk and then came into a treatment room for a visit. Again, patiently waiting for her to accept them, they sat on the floor with her. Soon she came over to be petted.  She ended up with a full body massage which she loved.  She rolled on her side so they could see her incision.  Then it was time to feed her.  Dr. Zuckerman brought in a small amount of food which had been warmed in the microwave.  She was ecstatic…FOOD!  She gobbled it down and then looked around for more.  “If you keep that down, then you can have some more every hour” she was told. Life was looking better and better. 

The 3-5 day period following any kind of intestinal surgery is always the most critical.  The body needs protein to heal.  If a dog’s blood proteins are low, then it increases the risk at the surgical site that the sutures can break down, spilling the infection into the stomach membranes. This spillage results in a serious condition called Peritonitis.  

Susie & Eileen

Susie was discharged from the hospital three days after her surgery.  She was moved to a foster home where she continued to receive the love and pampering that she needed. During her stay in her foster home we discovered that Susie was terribly unsocialized and fearful of people, particularly men.  We learned she had been disciplined with a newspaper.  Her emotional healing would certainly take longer than her physical one.  Her foster home decided to adopt her.  They are committed to helping heal her emotional trauma.  She is under the care of a homeopathic vet and her prognosis is excellent.  She’s got a long road ahead of her but it will be one of joy, happiness and love.  She’s currently living in Westchester County in her forever home with other rescued Goldens and several rescued cats.  Susie is very happy and content.

It’s for dogs like Susie that we do what we do.  We saved a dog’s life on Wednesday, March 18th.  The love and thankfulness shining out of Susie’s eyes as she gazed at our volunteers spoke volumes.

Susie, Dr. Z, and Jen

Heartfelt thanks to all of the volunteers who helped in this rescue; to our GRRI Board of Directors; to our GRRI Attorney; to our volunteers on stand-by to help with the intake and transport; to the volunteers who have been visiting with her in the hospital, and most of all, to our rescue-friendly veterinary clinic, Village Animal Clinic, and Dr. Joseph Zuckerman and staff.

Could something like this have been prevented?

Goldens are retrievers; through instinct, they love to carry objects around in their mouths. They’re also notorious for ingesting socks, underwear, pantyhose, plush toys, etc.  If you know you have one of those Goldens who does more than carry something around in their mouth, then it’s critically important to make sure that your home is as safe as it can be so your dog doesn’t experience what Susie did.

VPI Logo

Susie in chair

Additionally, pet insurance might have allowed Susie’s former adopters to provide the care that she so desperately needed.   Pet insurance companies like VPI Pet Insurance offer several different plans tailored to individual needs. There is an economical plan to cover surgeries and hospitalization; a superior plan to cover accidental illnesses, emergencies and illnesses, including cancer.  Add-on riders include pet wellness routine care and cancer.   It can be financed in monthly installments or in one annual lump sum.

None of us ever want to be put in the position where we have to look into the eyes of our beloved friends and say I love you so much but I can’t afford to help you.

Thankfully GRRI didn’t have to either.

To make a donation to help offset the cost of Susie’s medical bill, donations may be made via Paypal or a check. 

To contribute to GRRI-NJ via check:
Please mail your check or money order, payable to GRRI-NJ,  to:

P.O. Box 74
Pleasantville, NY  10570-0074
Attn: Susie Medical Fund

To contribute to GRRI-NJ via credit card in increments of $10:

Thank you to Dr. Joseph Zuckerman for reviewing this article.

GRRI does not endorse any of the companies referenced in this article