An Unconventional Farewell

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The phone jarred around 7AM, never a good thing.  A short while later Michael says, “It’s Jodi, Melissa has him back at the emergency vet.  They’re saying he needs surgery; it will cost about $4000.  She doesn’t have that money; we don’t have that much money to lend her.  It’s either surgery or she will have to put him down.  He can’t move his back legs.  She says she can’t do it alone and wants to know if we’ll come.  They’ll wait ’til we get there.”

“Of course we’ll be there.”  Out the door, into the car, neighbor called to make sure they can cover our dogs since it will most likely be hours until we get back home.  We set off to drive the 50+ miles to be with Melissa and Jodi.  How does one woman, our girl, handle having to make a decision like that again?  And again.  First with Dash, then with Connor and now Jodi.  Jodi is only two years old.  Her funny Frenchie….4000…who has that sort of money for a surgery?  And how does one deal with the sense of failure that you just can’t afford to do everything that can be done?  Of course we’ll be there.

It took longer than we would have hoped; traffic around Pittsburgh, well never mind.  We got there and were directed to a room, opened the door to find Melissa laying on a blanket next to Jodi, her face swollen from hours of sobbing over her dog.

And then we sat while she tormented and we hugged her.  I Reiki’d Jodi.  My hands warmed; he felt so vital and yet along his back I could feel his tension and the discomfort.  They had examined him when first arriving, given him pain meds through a cath in his front leg.  And, so we waited while she finally came to the terrible decision that he would have to be put down.  We stayed with Jodi, while she walked out to tell the front desk she needed the consent forms and they said they would send someone straight back to her.

We waited a long while again.  She texted her boyfriend who is the one person Melissa would have wanted there with her, but sadly Pete started his new job that same day.  Sad timing.  Frequent messages flying between fingers was the best he could do to support her when he couldn’t be there.  And we waited some more.  Jodi becoming more sore and a bit confused as to what was going on as his meds wore off.

Melissa went out to the desk a second time.  We waited again.  When we had been with her for an hour and a half, Michael asked if she wanted him to go out to chat with the people.  Melissa declined the offer.  I asked her a short while later if she would like me to go out to talk with them.  She agreed.

I have found in really tense, difficult situations, that the more quiet I am when I am discussing the situation with people who are failing to care to help me,  the more lethal I must sound.  I find that it gets much more action than standing there and blasting them with anger or shrieking at the top of my voice.  That sort of behavior gives them false permission to ignore me because of bad behavior on my part.  So, that’s how I handled them.  They stared at me with wide eyes and swore the vet would be back to us in a few minutes.

Almost immediately, a tech appeared saying she needed to take Jodi back to be examined again.  And, then the vet appeared.  She is the sort who spends all her time in an emergency situation.  Not very warm, terse, specific in her communication and clinical in delivering her message.  “Here’s the situation.  He needs surgery.  You have the estimate for it.  If you don’t have the money which we understand is a very large amount, we can offer care credit which would allow you to pay it back over six months.”  We all confirmed that it wouldn’t be possible to meet the obligation.  And then the bombshell:

“There is another option.  We can do the surgery today.  He will be healthy and able to get around.  You would relinquish him to us.”  What is going on?!

Melissa sobs, “I was a vet tech, I know how this works, who here wants my dog?!”  The vet stood still.  She said, “You know I can’t tell you that.  It’s confidential.  But Jodi is a very viable two year old French Bulldog.  He can have an MRI today and we will know exactly which disc needs to be repaired.  He will be healthy and have a good life.  Of course, if it is your desire to put him down, we will agree with your wishes.”  What went unsaid, but could clearly be heard from her body language was, “and I hope you’ll do the right thing and give this dog a chance!”  What she said when Melissa stared to cry is, “I’ll step out and give you some time to think it over.”

I asked, “Doctor, can I talk with you a few minutes and give my husband and Melissa some time together?”  She agreed immediately.  While she and I talked in the hall, I could hear the muffled sobs and angry sounds from Melissa and the quiet, but specific, sounds coming from Michael.

“I’m confused about this relinquishment option,” I said to the vet, “What Melissa said she was told was that Jodi needed surgery which would cost, X, and that you all couldn’t guarantee the outcome.  Now she’s being told that someone here will absorb the cost and take over the dog.  Why would anyone want to pay that amount of money for a dog whose outcome can’t be guaranteed?”

She replied, “I don’t know how she has come away with the idea of the surgery couldn’t be guaranteed, he’s an excellent candidate.  Jodi has feeling to his back legs.  This is a congenital issue that happens a lot with French Bulldogs, it’s correctable.  It wasn’t caused by a trauma.  When it happens due to trauma, it completely changes the case, so we can’t always know how things will turn out.  In a case like this, we use the MRI to show exactly which disc needs to be repaired.  When we alleviate the pressure, the spine can function normally.  With correct after care, Jodi will be fine. We can help him today.”

To think that Jodi could live and have a good quality of life?!  This was happy news I never thought I’d hear.  But the horrible part is that Melissa had to sign him away never to see him again.  She continued, “I’ve worked here seven years.  I can tell you that relinquishment is not an option we offer many times; I think in my time here I’ve only offered it three times.  No one here is attempting to steal a person’s loved pet from them.  But there are times when it can be offered for an animal who has a great chance at life.  Still, I know how hard it is for the owner to consider it.”

I asked, “What will you tell me about the person who wants to absorb this cost on Jodi’s behalf?”  She responded, “She is a very good person.  She likes small dogs.  She has met Jodi and simply says she’ll pay his bill so she can give him a good life.  We have to be very careful about these situations.  It’s highly emotionally charged. So Melissa can’t meet her.”  I understood.

I went back in, Michael had stepped out to return a work call.  Melissa was on the phone with Pete.  Clearly this choice was filling her with tons of emotions, not the least of which was anger feeling as though people were attempting to steal her dog from her.  When Michael came back in, he simply and specifically said, “You have to make a decision. You are being offered the chance to save Jodi’s life.  I hope you will take it.  Especially since relinquishment is how you got Dublin, your cat, when her original owner couldn’t afford it. But, he’s your dog and your decision.  I’ll wait outside.”  He walked out, quietly closing the door.

The emotionally charged silence was deafening. I asked if I could do anything or get her anything.  She told me she wanted us to go.  There was nothing more I could add, so I told her I loved her. “Melissa, one way or the other, you would be leaving this place without Jodi today.  But now, he’s being given a chance at continuing to live and live well.”  And with a last look at Jodi, I left as she requested.  We didn’t hear any more from her for the rest of the day. But, with the weird way we get information in this age of FB and instant messaging, we later read on her page that a friend had gone to the hospital to collect Melissa who had signed over Jodi to have the surgery and continue life with his new owner.

I am so happy for Jodi, and simultaneously so miserable for Melissa.  I’ve never felt anything so emotionally conflicting.  I know how awfully I would be handling a situation like this.  I know the gamut of emotions I would be feeling.  I know how angry I would be; how cheated I would feel.  How wronged.  How absolutely assaulted.  And, somewhere, I hope I would be feeling the small kernel of comfort that I had loved my pet enough to give it shot at a life even if it meant without me as part of it.  But, it would be small comfort.

I know that Melissa is angry but more than that she’s just overwhelmingly miserable over having to make a decision like this.  I know she wanted to do what was best for her but even more, do what was best for Jodi and knowing these two wishes couldn’t be reconciled.  Real love can be difficult.  It sometimes asks everything of us.  Asks more than we think we’re capable of giving.  And it can seem harsh, unforgiving, and simply more than we can bear, at times.

Our daughter is really wounded over this and we had no way of making it better.  But, for that little dog’s sake, the Frenchie who made us laugh we, most particularly Melissa, had to do all we could to give him a fighting chance to have a life.  And she did it.

I do know that while I’ll never get to see Jodi again, we did the right thing by championing him.  And we are very grateful that someone who was able came forward to pay his expenses and give him a new life in a new home.

We will miss you Jodi, and that will fade with time.  But, we love you, Melissa and that will never fade.  For facing the decision, for loving Jodi so much, you’ve proved once again how you are a champion for every animal with whom you have shared your life or come into contact.  For you faced a farewell of a different sort, and for that Jodi will always be grateful.

79 thoughts on “An Unconventional Farewell”

  1. Debbie DiFrancesco · Top Commenter · Lawrence High School
    wonderful story and so true…People say why have a dog if u can’t afford it! Because what they give to us is inmeasureable.. The bond between man and dog, time or money can not erase…No matter what decisions we need to make in our lives for our companion and best friend, we will do with unconditional love in hope that it is true to heart and make there journey a little easier ♥.

    • “People say why have a dog if u can’t afford it!” — Really? I mean, I know of course this is true in most everyday cases, but really? We’re talking about FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS here.

      That’s an exorbitant amount of money. And quite a bold statement to make regarding the sensitivity of this issue… unless of course you’re, oh I don’t know… the rich benefactor…

      • Four thousand dollars is HALF the price of a purebred Frenchie. It is also the standard price of back surgery, which is a COMMON necessity in breeds that have IVDD issues (much like corgis and dachshunds.) This is not a fluke, rare occurrence–it SHOULD be something you know when laying down the grand+ to purchase one. This isn’t a “my dog was hit by a stray bullet two weeks before payday and needs a freak magic surgery.” This is something that should come as no suprise to someone who purchased the most expensive. breed. of dog to own. on the planet.

        • If $4,000 really IS half the price of a purebred Frenchie…

          ….then that “benefactor” sure got one heck of a deal… hmmmm

          (sounds kinda fishy if you ask me.)

          Whoever agreed to pay for this adorable dog at the vet’s office took advantage of this poor family in their time of heartache, knowing full well they’d get a heck of a monetary discount (if Frenchies truly do cost more than $4k).

          That. Is. One. Horrible. Person.

          • I said 4 grand is half the price of a Frenchie. Which means the benefactor paid TWICE what the dog was worth. Which makes them the opposite of a horrible person.

        • This article really made my blood boil. If finances are so short that you can’t afford to pay a not altogether unexpected vet bill (who takes on a dog without expecting vet bills?), then why wasn’t the dog insured? Could you really not have come up with $4000 between you as a family? Taken on another job? Sold something? Had a fund-raising event? If it was your child, I’m sure you’d have come up with the money somehow. You were even given the option of paying over several months.
          Sorry to be so harsh, but your idea of a bond with a dog isn’t the same as mine. Tears and brow beating and writing heart-rending articles didn’t help Jodi. Going out and doing something practial would have done.

        • To Hannah,
          Simple mathematics:
          You said “$4000 is half the price of a purebred Frenchie” this equals to 4,000×2 = $8000 or 8000/2= $4,000. Either way, we can see that you are saying this breed is worth $8,000.
          Holly, on the other hand, said “$4000 is 2x what someone would pay for one in this part of the world”. Just so you know, 2x means 2 times as much, which equals to 4000/2 = $2,000 or 2000×2 = $4,000. As you can see the answer is $2,000.
          As you can see by my explanation, your pricing estimate for a Frenchie is $8,000 while Holly’s estimated is $2,000. Therefore, Holly is not “conforming that the pricing is correct” as $8,000 is not the same as $4,000. Maybe you can use a calculator next time, or perhaps you should look at the definitions of “half” and “twice” in the dictionary.
          And yes, you shouldn’t have a pet or kids if you cannot afford them. It’s irresponsible, and just because you can, it doesn’t mean that you should. And if this person can’t afford treatments now, chances are if won’t be able to do so in the future. It is better that someone with the means and/or willingness to do so takes over the dog, rather than have an unwanted dog in the pound.

  2. So where was the ‘breeder’ of this dog? No health guarantee? If it is a genetic defect then this should be tracked and the parent dogs no longer bred, but then there are so many so-called breeders who don’t care after they get your money. It is worth the time to track down a truly responsible breeder who will have a contract and health guarantee if you are set on a particular breed or go through a rescue group. Unfortunately for French Bulldogs, they are popular right now and so the less than scrupulous ‘breeders’ are out there.

    Insurance is also an option when you have a young dog and I would advise purchasing it if you don’t have the means to cover such emergencies.

    People sometimes forget how expensive it can be to save a dog or cat when they have a serious medical issue. It’s important to take all the possible expenses into account when getting a pet. If you don’t feel you can feed the dog or cat the best food and cover an emergency and pay the expenses for 10 to 20 years including end of life veterinary care, then think again before bringing a dog or cat into your life.

    I am glad this dog found an angel to pay for the necessary surgery. Any ‘anger’ should be directed at the folks who breed these dogs without regard to their future health.

    • I agree, and was also thinking as I read this that insurance would have been a tremendous help in this case.

      Melissa did the right thing, even though it is painful right now, she will see that eventually. Jodi is very lucky a generous person was willing and able to foot the bill, and give her a 2nd chance.

      It is cold comfort. But untold thousands of dogs are euthanized in shelters literally every day – so many of them deemed ‘unadoptable’ for nothing more serious than URI/kennel cough. Perhaps, in time, Melissa can consider saving one of those lives in turn.

    • Pati, I totally agree with the insurance comment. I have greyhounds, who are notorious for breed-specific maladies that can cost in the thousands as well. I think I would rather euthanize myself than go through what Melissa and her family were forced to experience. I am also fortunate, however, to have a vet that I feel would never put in me in a situation like this. I am also involved with a rescue group that if I did need to raise funds outside of my insurance plan, they would help me.

      With respect to the disk injury, one of my previous greys, God rest her crazy soul, had a back injury that we could not diagnose via my regular vet and some pretty heavy duty digital x-rays. I ended up taking to her a veterinary chiropractor. As a human sufferer of back injuries, I am a firm believer of chiropractic care. I also knew that there was such a thing as a veterinary chiropractor. I don’t know if such an individual would have been able to help sweet Jodi, although it is moot at this point. Perhaps this comment may help someone else down the line… Mary Lou, my grey, was dragging a foot horribly with no attempts at “righting” herself. After several treatments from the chiro, she was back on all fours again with no further issues. There was no surgery and a much less than $1000 price tag.

      As Anna has also said, whether or not Melissa is comforted by her obviously correct choice in this matter, I am sure she is in a lot of heartfelt pain right now. I cannot imagine willingly surrendering my pups for any reason. I sincerely hope she is able to go back to her “roots” and beginning saving lives once again.

      • I don’t know why everyone keeps saying Melissa obviously made the right choice. The right choice would have been to pay the bill, one way or another, and take the dog back home.
        I’m not a wealthy person, but if the options were euthanize my dog, give it up to an unseen stranger, or pay the bill, come hell or high water I would have paid that bill.

        • Well, then clearly, there’s no other way. Liz has got it all figured out in her bubble of self-righteousness.

  3. I have been the poorest of the poor with my own medical conditions took me 15 years to pay the medical bills off and in the meantime I picked up at least 3 other substantial bills for my dogs, put it on a credit card and I paid over 5 years also you actually have to suffer (a lot)..:)…she did the right thing by the dog if she couldn’t but where there’s a will to sacrifice there is usually a way. Anyone else survive on 11.00 a week for food for 4 years? Yup that’s possible. 🙂

  4. I am so glad that I have never had to make such a difficult decision. I think the mother gave her the best advice she could, that one way or another she would be leaving without her dog. Put in those terms, the daughter made the best decision for the welfare of the dog. But the heartache!!!

    • The best decision would be if the parents put in for the medical bill, or gave the daughter a loan with no interest. Also insurance is always an good option if your breed of dog has genetic problems. Her boyfriend and her parents where full of hot air but no real help. That is how it looks to me. She is lucky the 3rd party stepped in, but at least give Melissa visiting rights? People are just purely mean…..

  5. I don’t understand why the new owner wouldn’t allow her to keep her dog. I understand this person was paying for the dog’s surgery, but why do they need to keep the dog?

    • Sooo, someone else should just pay $4k out of pocket and go home empty handed? It would be an extraordinary gesture, but not very realistic.

  6. Tales the dog to do what with it? If this woman was relinquishing her dog to someone, why couldn’t she meet them? How did this mysterious benefactor just *happen* to know about this? Why wouldn’t the vet work out a payment plan? The whole thing sounds shadey to me. This dog could have ended up in a puppy mill or backyard breeding situation.

    Even with the best of intent, this was a cruel choice to force on someone, a very scant shade this side of blackmail: Give me your dog or she dies. If the person was acting out of true charity, they would have paid for the surgery and let the dog return to their loving family. Not demand the dog just because they had the money.

    If the surgery even cost that much. I bet this “benefactor” did not have to pay $4000.

    I would have gotten a second opinion. I certainly would never go to this vet again.


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