by Bill Keeler / WIBX

I've never understood how people could become so emotional over the loss of a pet. I've suffered through enough human tragedy over the years to the point that I guess, I just don't understand. With that said, what my family went through this past week with our pets was pretty tough to deal with.

(Photo by Alison Keeler)

First, we lost my wife's cat to cancer. While that was somewhat expected (cancer had been building for more than a year) it's what happened afterwards, that has become very difficult to understand. I guess it's best if I start from the beginning.

We had two pets, a dog and a cat.  The cat, Simon, was my wife's and my kids claimed ownership of our Chocolate Lab, Bella. We've had the cat for over 15 years and the dog for almost five years.

I was never a fan of Simon the cat and to be honest, I really thought the vet's diagnosis of terminal cancer was a total mistake. The veterinarian discovered the disease more than a year ago and said he probably wouldn't live longer than a few months. The cat seemed healthy and defiant; probably, because my wife made the decision that as long as he wasn't in any pain, she was going to nurse him back to health. And that's exactly what she did. He remained active and healthy right up until last week.  The inevitable happened very quickly and he never seemed to be in pain.  He had no appetite one night and by the next morning, he was gone. My wife informed me of the news during my radio show and she asked me to take him to the vet for cremation.

(Photo by Alison Keeler / WIBX)

I have to say seeing my wife and daughter so upset was tough. It also dawned on me that for some odd reason, this cat was attracted to me; on the couch...in a chair...at the foot of our bed. They say cats are attracted to those who don't necessarily like them; no matter the reason, when it was all said and done, it was very sad. Yes, that's me saying I was truly saddened over the passing of this cat that I thought I never liked.

The week became even more difficult a few days later when our 5 year-old-dog Bella seemed ill.  She didn't eat on Tuesday and she was docile.  The next morning, her condition was worse.  She had a very difficult time walking and we immediately took her back over to the German Flats Veterinarian Clinic in Ilion (the same clinic we went to days earlier because of the cat). What we discovered was devastating.  Our dog had been poisoned.

We immediately suspected that someone had done this on purpose.  Our yard is fenced in and the dog has a large area which in the winter, she seldom uses, except to go out for obvious reasons a half dozen times a day. The yard was perfect for this very rambunctious pet and this was the first time there was ever an issue.  Unfortunately, what we were about to learn would prove to be horrible. It turns out, the tragedy wasn't suspicious at all; the poisoning was an awful mistake and it was increasingly looking like it was my fault.

We have a building we use near our pool which is winterized for the cold weather months and outdoor furniture is stored there.  It seems that this unbelievably curious dog somehow while crawling in the open-air portion of the building, was able to move two

(Photo by Alison Keeler)

Adirondack chairs that were propped up against a door. She then pushed the doors open that led to a changing room and bathroom. That's where we discovered that three packets of mouse poison had been torn open and seemingly consumed by Bella. I never thought this dog would have been able to move these chairs and to be honest, I never even thought she would even have an interest in the packets. They were unopened in a closed room which I thought was pet-proof.  Clearly, I mis-judged the situation.

By afternoon, the veterinarian felt that Bella was responding to treatment; but, still gave us a 50-50 prognosis.  Three hours later, we received another call that she had taken a bad turn and we immediately rushed to the clinic.  When we arrived, the dog had begun losing blood and her kidneys had shut down. She was barely alive. Now, just days after my wife and daughter lost the cat they loved so much, they were going through another terrible tragedy and I had every reason to blame myself.  It was my lack of knowledge about a) how much dogs are attracted to the scent of this poison and b) how much I underestimated the determination of this very curious dog, that caused the death.

With my wife and daughter crying and petting our near lifeless pet, this dog was now clearly in pain and beyond recovery.  We had no choice but to stand there while the doctor took the humane action of euthanizing her. The experience was terrible.

(Photo by Bill Keeler / WIBX)

Over the years, I've found myself not understanding how people can become so emotional over the loss of a pet. In 1986, I lost my brother to a motorcycle accident and since then, I find it hard to feel emotion after such a human devastation. My brother was 18 and the

I was sad and it didn't help that I felt responsible for Bella's premature demise.

accident never should have happened.  Now, here I am with the loss of two pets within one week, my wife and kids are distraught and I'm standing there feeling terrible. In other words, I'm feeling emotional over the loss of our pets.

My sadness could very well be empathy for my wife and kids; but, there's also an element of grief over these two pets. Think about it; I dealt with both of them day in and day out. Clearly, I was sad and it didn't help that I felt responsible for Bella's premature demise.  Unfortunately, there's no reversal or re-do for us; yet, maybe there's something to be learned that will prevent others from having to go through what we (and our dog) painfully experienced.

Here's what we learned: 

It turns out that pet injuries due to the consumption of mouse and rat poison are unfortunately somewhat common and veterinarians say the new mixes of the pesticide are extremely potent and when consumed by house pets, are often times fatal. The quicker you are able to get the animal to a vet, the better the chance of survival. If you suspect a poisoning, bring the poison label with you to the clinic. It's important that the veterinarian knows the ingredients in order to take the proper action for effective treatment.

If Rodents are attracted to the smell of these poisons...

Our Chocolate Lab was a very difficult dog that got into everything. No matter how much we trained her, she went after every type of food that her keen sense of smell discovered

(Photo by Bill Keeler / WIBX)

as she would chew and eat whatever she could get her paws on. Chocolate Labs, like so many other breeds of dogs, are extremely smart and persistent. However, the poisons are meant to trick rodents into thinking the food source is safe and the sad truth is, cats and dogs will fall for the same trick.

It's a terrible feeling to know that if I had it to do over again, there would be so many things I would do differently.

Note: Our family would like to thank the veterinarian and her technician at the German Flats Veterinary Clinic for working so hard to save our pets and for treating us so well. We'll never forget the kindness and understanding they showed. 

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