How I Spent The Worst 36 Hours Of My Life

In Loving Memory
"Danny" August 2000-June 2013
My dear readers, I apologize if my post title comes off as a bit melodramatic. But truly, I don't know if I've ever had a day as horrid as today's was. And I've had some bad days. But I will start at the beginning, because that is where all stories must start. It was Sunday...

Around noon the Bug was in the living room, we have it blocked off with baby gates, when the Imp let Danny in from outside. I had seen Danny become standoff-ish recently with the children, even going so far as to snarl and snap at them but had never made contact. I knew I didn't want to leave the old man in there alone with the kids, it wasn't fair to the kids or the dog, so I reached to pick him up. And he bit me. Hard. I was pretty shocked-he'd never done that before. In the 13 years of his life he had never bit me or any one. Sure, he'd peed on people, barked, and chewed up tissues and diapers, but he'd never bitten any one. And certainly never enough to draw blood.

I put him down and stared at my hand in shock. There it was: a small puncture wound that welled with blood on my left thumb. I also had several indentations and bruises where his back teeth had clamped down. He bit me. I can't believe he bit me. But then it really sunk in: he has no idea who I am now. He didn't know me, doesn't recognize the kids, probably has no idea who Hubby was. He would get lost going from the hallway to the bedroom at night.

His tumor hadn't gotten bigger, but I could tell it had spread internally. He was dying and this was the sign that it was time for me to let him go. I contacted my vet, the one I work for, and we talked back and forth for a bit. She was at a family event and would call me later.

At 7:00pm I took off the bandage I had put on my thumb and my heart dropped. I saw the streaks, the spreading redness and swelling, and the intense pain and I knew I was in trouble. I had to go to the ER to get treatment for cellulitis. I knew while I was there they would have to report the bite. I should have said a stray bit me. I should have said I didn't know the dog. I should have said he had already been euthanized. But I didn't because I didn't even think about it. I told them my dog, who was 13 and had dementia and was dying from an inoperable cancer, bit me in his confusion. And, per law, they filed the report that night. I was sent home with antibiotics.

6:45am, Monday morning, we get a phone call from the city. My husband answers the phone and has this conversation:
Hubby: Hello?
Animal Control: Yes, this is Animal Control Officer "C" with the city. I have a report of a dog bite?
H: Yes?
AC: When did the bite happen?
H: Yesterday afternoon.
AC: Did it break the skin?
H: *pauses for a beat* Yes, but just barely. It was only a scratch.
AC: I see. Was she treated for it?
H: Yes. But we only went to the ER because of her immune disorder. He barely broke the skin.
AC: Okay. What was the treatment they did?
H: They sent home antibiotics.
AC: Okay. Do you still have the animal?
H: Yes...
AC: How long will you be home today?
H: Not long, my wife is taking him with her to the vet to have him euthanized.
AC: No, he has to be quarantined for 10 days.
H: Sir, this dog is 13 years old and has inoperable cancer. He has dementia and is in pain. He didn't know who my wife was or what was going on when he bit her. We were planning on euthanizing him today anyway because of his poor health. He's never bitten any one before.
AC: I understand sir, but city code requires that any dog bite receiving medical attention must be quarantined for 10 days.

At this point my husband is seething and about ready to chew the officer's head off. I took the phone from him.

Kate: Sir? This is Kate, I was the one who received the bite yesterday. I work at *REDACTED* and I am going to take Danny into the clinic today to have him euthanized. I don't want his last 10 days on earth to be stuck in a cage where no one can touch him or love him. He has never bitten any one ever before. He's just old. I'm willing to send his remains off to be tested for rabies so long as I can have whatever is left to be cremated.
AC: I'd have to speak to my supervisor about this, Ma'am. It's city ordinance to quarantine an animal for biting a human.
K: I understand that, but the dog will be dead. There is no point in quarantining a dead dog.
AC: Well, I'll have to talk to my supervisor to get the okay to do this. You do understand that your vet would have to cut off the dog's head to have it sent to the lab for rabies testing?
K: I work in a veterinary clinic. I know the protocol.
AC: Okay, well let me check with my supervisor real quick.
*placed on hold*
AC: Ma'am?
K: Yes? I'm here.
AC: Okay, my supervisor said we could probably do that, but I'd like to meet you up at the clinic to sign some paperwork and look at the dog. 
K: Thank you so much! Yes, I'll meet you there. 

I give him the address and meet him at the clinic around 9am. Monday mornings at vet clinics, like most medical offices, are nuts. Every one is coming in who couldn't make it in to see the vet before the practice closed over the weekend. We also have a lot of re-checks from the local emergency clinics. It's chaotic and nerve wracking. This is when I get to fill out legal documents and speak with the officer who's been assigned my case.

AC: Okay, so the boss said this would be okay. But we do need to collect a $55 payment for the shipment and testing. I also need to see current rabies information.
K: Not a problem. I'll pull up his file and read you off the tag information. *hand him a check, show him the proof of vaccines*
K: I just want to make sure, before we do this, that when you guys are done I'll get whatever remains back so I can have him cremated. 
AC: Sure. We'll call you when we're done and you can come by the shelter this afternoon to get his remains.

I was told I'd get him back. I didn't want to have to pick up my dog's headless body, but I was willing to do that so I could have him cremated and place next to Cooper. He belongs at home with me, not in a landfill. 

With this promise Danny was euthanized at 9:43am on June 3, 2013.

I cried for close to 30 minutes straight, but I put my game face on and went back to work. I answered phones, put in patient notes, filled prescriptions, and kept the tears at bay. Then I get a phone call from the city at around 10:30am...

AC: Hi, Kate, it's C. Listen, I know we said we could release his remains to you but my department head just got back from lunch and she said we can't. 
My world shifted for the second time that day.
K: I don't understand. I just want the remains taken to a private crematory and then have the ashes returned to me.
AC: I know, but with any animal that may have rabies we can't release the remains. It's against city code.
K: Look, I was just going along with the testing because I knew it was a bunch of bureaucratic bullshit. Danny has been current on rabies vaccines forever. You saw the records yourself! There is no way he had rabies. I was told I would get to have his remains back for cremation. I am beyond livid at this point. 
AC: I know, but the department head said we can't because he could have rabies...
K: What's this person's name?
K: Okay, I just want to know who I should direct the reporters to because I'm going to start calling news stations. This is ridiculous.

At this point he starts hemming and hawing and "I'm so sorry my hands are tied". I get off the phone with him and I do something I haven't done in a long time...I bummed a cigarette and smoked. While I was outside having a much needed smoke break I glanced at my hand and saw the streaks hadn't receded but had crept along to my wrist now. 


I called my husband, told him what was going on and to start calling news stations. I called my doctor to schedule an appointment to check my hand again. I called my mother to pick up my kids from school, as I obviously would not be able to. I finished my cigarette and as I'm walking back into the building my husband calls back: the city councilman for our district has joined our fight. I go back to work feeling worn and mentally beaten. I was ready for the day to be over. 

I made my appointment with my doctor and he told me to continue my medication and if I didn't see any improvement by Wednesday to change to a different antibiotic. We'll see what happens. By this time I have been notified that the cremation service has tried, unsuccessfully, to pick up Danny's remains twice. They will not release him. But, there is a light at the end of this tunnel: they will release his body after the results from the rabies test comes back negative. So, I will get him back. It just may take a while.

The Hubby is still kind of shaken. Danny was the first dog he ever really bonded with. He was in the room for the procedure and has vowed to never witness it again. It was too painful for him and too hard to not tell the vet to stop. 

The kids are confused. The Imp asked me if Danny was okay and I had to explain to her that he died today and he wasn't going to come back. She made pictures of him as an angel and wrote him a goodbye letter. I can't tell of the Bug has noticed or not. I'm sure it'll hit him eventually. Meg seems a bit lost, but that was to be expected. The cat couldn't care less.

I'm...wandering. I'm tired and just want to sleep. I'm hungry but I don't want to eat (nothing sounds good). Sometimes I'm numb, sometimes I'm angry, and sometimes I just cry. But I know that's normal, it's all a part of the grieving process. Tomorrow I'll by a balloon for the kids to send to Danny. It's a sort of ritual we have to say goodbye to a pet: we release a balloon into the sky to send it to them with God. I miss him...I miss both my boys. They were good boys. But I know they've found each other and are playing again like when they were young and whole; before disease took their bodies and age stole their minds. And I know I'll see them again. I know I prance with Danny like a nut and run my fingers through Cooper's oh-so-soft fur and sing with him. I know I will...but knowing it doesn't stop the hurt now. The knowing will give me comfort someday. 

Today, however, I have two dog shaped holes in my heart.
2000 - 2010

August 2000 - June 2013

For my boys...


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss and all you had to go through at an already difficult time. I have a sweet beagle we adopted almost 2 years ago - Mia- and she's our little angel so I'd be heart broken if we lost her. Hugs.
    Natalie Jewell


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