Friday, November 25, 2011

Sad story of little girl with cancer and her dog

 This sad and moving story is a re-print from The Winnipeg Free Press

Little girl loves her dog
This is the story of a little girl and her dog, which sounds all so warm and fuzzy.

It's not.

Because the little girl, who's 10, has inoperable cancer and her dog got hit by a car.

You're welcome to stop reading now, because, frankly, I've been dreading telling this story. But in the end I needed to, because it suggests something is missing at the Winnipeg Humane Society.

Something you'd think you'd find in great abundance.

The timeline goes like this:

On Sept. 26, the father took the dog out for a walk on what he called her "invisible leash." The dog saw a cat and... the next day the father drove the dog to the Winnipeg Humane Society where he explained the family's circumstances -- that the youngest of his five children has cancer and he's out of work after undergoing surgery. So he couldn't afford to pay for the dog's care right then, which is why he brought it to the humane society.

If he wanted the dog looked after, he was told, he would have to surrender the care and control of the dog they've had since his little girl was seven, plus pay a $100 fee on a time-payment plan.

Over the course of the next week, the father would call the shelter and leave a message for the veterinarian. On Oct. 5, the organization's director of animal health, veterinarian Erika Anseeuw, called back.

By then, the father had been informed his little girl's dog had fractures to its pelvis and was having trouble bearing weight on its left leg. She would be given kennel rest to see how she responded. Anseeuw would tell the father something else.

The dog would not be returning. Essentially, the reason came down to this; the family was too poor. It couldn't pay for any ongoing veterinarian bills.

"Cancer's not fair," the father recalled Anseeuw telling him. "But it's not fair to the dog and our main concern is the dog right now." The father got that message from Anseeuw while he was at the hospital where his daughter was having another treatment. She cried when he told her.

That same day, I received an email from the father's sister explaining why they were concerned about not having the dog returned. "This dog has been very good for my niece when she is going through what she has to right now, and will be for a number of months yet. They can't take her dog from her at this time. Can you suggest something that we can do to get her back?"

The following day, Oct. 6, the dog was placed with a foster family. A month later, it was returned to the shelter.

And the next day it was euthanized.

It would be four days, on the late afternoon of Nov. 8, before the father learned his little girl's dog had been put down. But it wasn't the humane society who told him. It was me.

Humane society CEO Bill McDonald told me after I called looking for information about the family pet. On Wednesday, I finally spoke with Anseeuw. "I was quite moved because of the child's circumstance," she said."It was not an easy decision to make. But we decided we couldn't send the  dog back given the extent of her injuries."

But you fostered the dog out, I reminded her. "Yes," she said.

So, I asked why she couldn't have given it back to the little girl and her family to keep.
She had provided ongoing vet care during that month the foster family didn't have to pay for, so why couldn't she have sent the dog home?

"No," she said. "That's not how things work." She said they don't foster animals out to their previous owners. Later, though, she conceded there's no policy that says that. But she said her responsibility as a veterinarian is to the animal.

"And I could not -- regardless of how sad the situation is at home and how that child felt -- I could not send that dog back home."

I think she not only could have, she should have. If Erika Anseeuw had really thought about it, she might have seen that giving an injured dog back to the sick little girl who loved her would have been best for both of them.

But she didn't.

She also could have, and should have, called the family and told them what ultimately she had to do with their pet. But she never did that, either.

In fact, she never even called to say she was sorry they couldn't save her.
So now you know what's missing at the Winnipeg Humane Society.

Some humanity.

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