New Mexico's Pet Resource WINTER 2002


CANINE CORNER

A TRUE ANTIFREEZE POISONING STORY

By Judith Adamson

Last year on Friday, October 13, I was walking my dog in the arroyo near my house as I had done for years. Here I could let her off the leash, and it was fun to meet up with other people and their dogs and watch all the sniffing and wagging. On this lovely Indian summer evening, I watched Lily as she veered up the bank, as she often did.When she didn't come back immediately, I went to find her. She was eating something out of a plastic dish near the garbage cans in someone's back yard. I smelled what was left in the dish. It smelled of chicken soup but had a greenish blue tinge to it. I immediately knew it had been laced with antifreeze.

I grabbed the container and rushed Lily to the emergency vet. The doctor took one look at the stuff and immediately gave her an injection to make her vomit. I held her as she heaved up lots of chicken bones and liquid goop. Then he forced a tube down her throat into her stomach and poured pint after pint of charcoal down to absorb anything that might have gotten into her intestines. He drew blood and 45 minutes later, after she had vomited all the charcoal, he came out holding two vials. One showed the color of a lethal dose of antifreeze; the other was hers, which was much, much darker, showing she had far more than a lethal dose in her blood. They put her on an I.V. with an antifreeze antidote and said if she made it through the night, she might have a chance. I stayed with her until they said I had to go. I'll never forget the moment I had to walk away, leaving her in a cage, feeling her eyes watching me and not knowing if I'd ever see my beloved dog again.

When I got home, I didn't know what to do with my grief. All I knew was I didn't want anyone else to go through this. I made signs saying there was a poisoner in the arroyo and put my phone number on them so people could call for more information. That night, I walked into the dark arroyo putting up signs.

I called as soon as the ER opened in the morning. She had made it! And they said she had a good chance of full recovery. It was truly a miracle.

I called the police on Saturday and gave them the address of the person who had put the antifreeze out. They said they'd go check it out but there was little they could do because I had my dog off the leash and was therefore trespassing! Meanwhile, I got a call from a devastated, angry neighbor whose dog had died of antifreeze poisoning a few days earlier. Then I got another call and another. Over the next week, nine people called about poisoned dogs and two about cats. Each had a horrific story about their helplessness once their animal started convulsing and vomiting. I wondered about all the other critters who might have gotten poisonedóbirds, squirrels, coyotes, foxes, perhaps bears.


Deacon, beloved dog of Donn Carpenter
Died from antifreeze poisoning October 2000

(Photo by Donn Carpenter)

On Monday morning I brought Lily home. I still had the remains of the goop she had drunk, which the two appalled emergency vets had seen. I took it to Animal Control, who said it looked like rainwater. (What does rainwater look like, I asked?) They just kept harping on how I was in the wrong because I had my dog off the leash. I left the container with them. I did not think to ask that it be tested since I had shown it to the vets and to Animal Control and my dog had tested for extreme antifreeze toxicity.

Finally on Wednesday, Animal Control said someone had gone to talk to the man, who said he had been changing his antifreeze and put it in with the chicken bones from the previous night's dinner until he could dispose of it. He walked all over the guy's back yard and saw a tin near the garbage cans but it was empty. I said it was probably empty because some animal already ate what was in it! The head of Animal Control said there was nothing more he could do since I had removed the evidence.

We gathered statements from everyone in the neighborhood who had lost an animal in the last two years and took our report to the police. They passed it on to the District Attorney, who indicated there was sufficient evidence to pursue a felony cruelty to animals case. Now, nearly a full year later, the case has been dropped. The antifreeze and chicken soup, the evidence in this case, had been disposed of and the case had to be dismissed. But it was dismissed "with prejudice," meaning if another poisoning should occur in our neighborhood the case can be reopened and the man who allegedly poisoned Lily and so many others would be interrogated as a suspect.

The only way to prosecute someone for this cowardly crime is to actually find the poison on their property, get the police and have them seize it.

(See Pet Poisons, Part One for more on common household hazards.)

Judith Adamson is one of the editors of Petroglyphs and Editor of Guestlife New Mexico.

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. -Mahatma Gandhi


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