To adopt Zayka with her medical history and limping was a conscious choice for me. I was told, by the shelter where Zayka came from, that she had been hit by a car then had an operation and now she is recovering. In order to speed up her rehabilitation she needed to go for frequent walks, to have massages and lots of love. Understandably, the shelter could not give her so much attention with limited human resources. According to the shelter’s founder, Marina Bolokhovets Zayka had no chance to be adopted due to her crookedness. Apparently, to get adopted a dog has to be healthy, smallish and fluffy. I fell in love with Zayka, with her gentle eyes. I also knew that I could give her love and care to help her recovery. Little did I know about her real situation.
The day after I had published the happy post about Zayka’s fast adjustment to her new life, we took her to the vet. I wanted to get a professional opinion on how her healing was progressing, get some dietary advice and other recommendations. But as soon as we entered the room and veterinarian looked at Zayka I saw a deep concern in her eyes. My heart sank. After a thorough manual examination, the vet concluded: “Your dog is in EXCRUCIATING PAIN!!”
WHAT!? Why didn’t she whine? Why did she wag her tail!? Thousands of hectic thoughts sprang through my head at that one moment. The vet explained that dogs don’t express pain like humans, especially if they come from the street. The reason is that they learn very early to hide their pain, no matter how bad, to avoid to be labeled ‘weak’ by their pack and being attacked by other dogs.
Immediately they gave her a painkiller injection and sent her for X-ray.
This is what we got:
I am not a veterinarian but it doesn’t look good.
They sat with us and talked us through the X-ray pictures: BOTH Zayka’s back legs were broken and had been for months!
Left leg: the bone material started to built around the comminuted fracture to try to repair itself which caused the inflammation and hard swelling.
Right leg: had splinters and bits of bone around the fracture. The fracture happened to occur exactly where the growth zone is which caused the leg to stop growing and resulted in it being considerably smaller than the other one. Zayka avoided using this leg also because her hip muscle became totally detached from the bone after the accident.
The veterinarian said that they have never seen such a bad case.
I have seen bills for her treatment in Ukraine, they are truly extensive with money charged for every bandage and pin. Two things struck me. First: In those bills, there are rows and rows of medicines the “vet” used on Zayka. Second: I couldn’t find any painkillers, the one that she supposed to get to relieve her from the pain after the surgical intrusion. The memory of my life in Ukraine and how things work there bubbled up and I started to see a clear picture: The charlatan vet has not treated the actual problem – the fractures and splinters. Instead, he sewed her up and kept charging the Friend shelter huge amounts of money to keep medicating her, performing recurring treatment of the inflammation and all the dreadful things that Zayka had because of her bones were still broken. Why!? Because this is how they get a returning patient who keeps paying.
What monster would do this to a living and breathing creature? What an unprofessional and ignorant freak?
After discussing the X-ray with several colleagues the veterinarian came back to us with her decision and said that, unfortunately, they cannot help us. There is no alternative to euthanization…euthanization…euthanization.
Wtf!? Those are just legs, she is young and healthy otherwise. We searched for a second opinion, and we got the same answer. We contacted one of the leading orthopedic animal clinics in West Sweden. Third and fourth opinions were no different: the damage is so severe and neglected that even if they would try to attempt to repair her, doing three operations over the period of a year which would be very tough for her, the chances are very slim that the result would provide her with a normal, pain-free life. They would have considered amputation of one back leg, but this is only possible if the other back leg is strong enough to carry the dog. I asked about a double amputation and I received the same answer from all specialists: “In Sweden, we don’t amputate two legs, it is not ethical, the dog cannot have a normal life.” (here is a link to the Swedish Jordbruksverket’s official PDF on the subject. It’s in Swedish.) Now, when we reached the “ethical vs no ethical” question I knew this was a dead-end.
We, humans, trying to guess what is in the best interest of a dog based on years research and observation. The tragedy of this is that we cannot ask a dog what he/she really wants: Would a dog choose to live even if they have agonizing pain every time they step on a paw? Would it rather choose to get rid of the pain because it is so debilitating even if it meant dying? Would the dog rather live with two paws and be in a wheelchair or would this only please us, humans, making us think that we are doing a good deed to save a life? I honestly don’t know! I am not Zayka, who went on broken legs for three months and cannot go up or down the steps. I am not Zayka who finally felt safe and loved, at home with people whom she can trust. How I wish I could just ask her: Zayka what should we do??!!
- “Guys, you kidding?! Of course, I would like to live with you, it so much fun, even though my legs are constantly in pain!!”
- “Sorry, but this is too much, I cannot stand more operations, more pain. Always having my legs stopping me from really experiencing the world. You are lovely and I appreciate it, but I am tired of being in pain.”
So here is the dilemma and the misfortune of poor Zayka. She had a rough start in life, she received her injuries on both back legs, one of the injuries was in the growth area, the “vet” that had a real chance to help her happened to be a charlatan. Now, after suffering and going on two broken legs for several months even real specialists who actually are veterinarians with genuine love for dogs cannot help her.
Oh and Zayka is not timid as I have described her in the previous post, her real character shined through when she received her painkillers (one during the day and one at night). She became the playful, energetic and brave puppy that she always should have been. She probably thought she became healthy again, how wonderful it must have been to not feel the pain. Suddenly, it was us who suffered watching her running and jumping because we knew that she is NOT well, that she probably was hurting herself more by using her damaged legs more vigorously.
During the last two days of her life, she was free from the pain. She jumped in the garden, played, pull her toy and explored. We walked with her in the big beautiful forest where she walked on soft spongy moss and climbed up the hills. Before we drew to the clinic we took her to the forest, we wanted to give her a long and enjoyable walk, her last walk. Amazingly we saw a real moose, the first time in Zayka’s life and the first time in my life. We allowed her to do anything she wanted, eat her favorite food, misbehave and even nibble on cat poop. All we did was cuddling, stroking and loving her.
It was by far the saddest and devastating day of my life. But not even once I regretted adopting her and I would do it again. I know she was happy, well-fed, well-loved these last days of her life. I just wish her life had not been so short.
We don’t want Zayka’s life or pain to have been in vain, we want her life to have more meaning and help others to avoid suffering. That’s why I contacted the shelter to tell them what has happened and to warn them that the “veterinarian” that they use simply mutilates their dogs. His name is Zayarko Andrey Alexandrovich from Clinic Zoocentrum in Dnepropetrovsk (Заярко Андрея Александровича из Клиники Зооветцентр). Unfortunately, it was not the first time they have received complaints about him. I begged them not to give them any dogs… never… ever. They said that now it was ‘the last drop’ and they will not use him again. But why on Earth had Zayka had to be that ‘last drop’?!
The Friend shelter tries to help poor animals in a country where the stray dog problem has been regulated with shooting until recently. The system is new, the dogs in need of urgent help are numbered in their thousands and education is inadequate. I said it more than once that I admire what the founder of Friend, Marina Bolokhovets does together with all her volunteers. It takes guts to do this job while seeing so much suffering. However, it is time for her and her personnel to raise the level of education to that of the basic veterinary so that they can:
- Evaluate their dogs adequately and avoid charlatan vets who just keep charging them.
- Understand about the pain of animals. Dogs feel pain exactly as people do and to let them suffer without doing something about it is not really “helping”.
I am writing this article not to discourage to adopt dogs from abroad but rather to encourage to do it wisely. There are truly beautiful dogs waiting to be adopted. They are smart and eager to find their ‘forever’ home. But please, make sure you get the dogs veterinary journal beforehand and all other material. Ask your local veterinarian to look at the journal and possible X-rays, medical bills etc. to get as full a picture of the situation as you can.
My hope is that Zayka’s short life and her history could “shake up” how things work in the Friend shelter and hopefully save some poor dogs from charlatan veterinarians. This just didn’t have to happen!