Pictured above are my daughter Jess with her two Golden Retrievers, Heidi and Lauren. While most dog owners will tell you how important their dogs are to them; Lauren and Heidi were truly special animals. They helped my daughter through a tough divorce and they were very therapeutic for her in her personal life as she works as a social worker specializing in investigating the worst of the worst child abuse cases. The cases she works on are frequently in the headlines; the details of which would turn your stomach and make the toughest man cry. Lauren and Heidi provided an outlet for her and were the reason she took up running. They were frequently found at various running events with the Pasadena Pacers and everyone that interacted with the three of them seemed to always be positively impacted by the experience. As annoying as it sounds at times, these dogs were her children; they played an important role in her sanity. You may have noticed that I keep talking about Lauren and Heidi in the past tense.
On Monday, June 9 I received a frantic telephone call from my daughter; she had come home early from work to discover Lauren lying on the floor of the bathroom soaked in her own urine, breathing heavily and bleeding from her mouth. It was clear she had experienced a seizure. She was limp, listless and unable to lift her own head even with assistance. Jess got help from a neighbor to get Lauren in the car so she could be transported to her veterinarian a couple blocks away from her home. Lauren was immediately put on oxygen, given plasma and Vitamin K via an IV as her blood would not clot. After about a half hour of working on Lauren, Jess was sent home to get Heidi to have her checked out. By the time she got home, Heidi could not get up off the ground and had to be carried even a few steps to the car and into the vet where an IV was started and she was given oxygen.
The story started taking a terrible turn at this point and to be honest, you probably do not want to read it any more than I want to write it. Suffice it to say, both dogs began deteriorating rapidly. The initial vet suggested that the dogs could have ingested rat poison, but they had no access to it as far as we knew. A friend with a truck helped transport both animals to Animal Specialty Group, an emergency pet hospital. During the drive Lauren suffered seizures the entire way and neither dog was very responsive. The critical care team was able to control the seizures but both dogs had the same major issue of their blood being unable to clot. It was suggested that the dogs had either suffered heat stroke or had been poisoned. By 1:15 AM on Tuesday morning Lauren had died; a few hours later we were informed that Heidi was not going to make it so we drove back out to the hospital to say good-bye and to be there when she was helped out of her suffering.
As my daughter grieved we talked about what may have caused this tragedy and what could have been done to avoid it. The idea that both dogs suffered heat stroke from a cool and overcast early morning hike was preposterous so we eliminated that as a possibility. When I heard that she had taken her dogs to a local dog park on Saturday I became suspicious that someone was putting out tainted treats for dogs visiting the park. I even suggested that the city should be notified so they could have someone check it out; it was important that Lauren and Heidi did not die in vain. Since running toxin tests on dead dogs does nothing other than confirm if a toxin was involved or not, and it is pretty expensive, Jess decided to donate both animals to Animal Specialty Group since it is also a teaching hospital in hopes that something might be learned to help future cases like this.
It has been two weeks since this happened and even though there are still moments of great sadness as Jess recalls her time with Lauren and Heidi, and I deal with the memories of watching my daughter go through this most painful time of her relatively young life; time does help a little. Tuesday evening the wounds were reopened by a report my daughter found on NBCLosAngeles.com.
In a nutshell, the City of Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department is using an anticoagulant rodenticide, or rat poison, which kills rodents by causing them to bleed from the inside out to control rodents at various public parks and hiking trails throughout Los Angeles. As a nice touch, this poison tastes like peanut butter, which rats, dogs and kids all enjoy. To be fair, I do not know if it is the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles or both that are doing this. You may have read about the Griffith Park mountain lion designated P-22 who was also discovered as being poisoned back in March. At the time a representative of the National Park Service suggested, “Local residents may be putting out rat poison, trying to kill a rat, the rat eats the poison. Then say a coyote comes along, and the coyote eats the rat. And then maybe a mountain lion decides you know, there’s not any deer around right now, I’m just gonna go ahead and eat this coyote.” I guess she was not too far off except that she was pointing her finger at the wrong suspect.
Now, in case you think I am being over dramatic about this please be aware that the City of Los Angeles is already aware of the problem and the State of California has banned the sale of these second generation rodenticides to the general public although cities and professional pest control companies can still purchase and use it. What I do not understand is why the heck would you kill rodents in an area covered with predatory wildlife? Someone with the city must have a family member involved in pest control.
Since I am a dog owner and we walk our dogs twice every day around Torrance, I was a little concerned with what Torrance was doing, if anything, about the tree rat and gopher problem we have here so I called the Torrance Parks and Recreation Department. I was informed that Torrance does nothing to fight rats and as far as gophers are concerned they use Fumatoxin, a pellet that emits toxic gas after it is applied into the ground. I know that the City of Torrance has been fighting gophers at Columbia Park (for AYSO) and the field has been closed more often than it has been open over the last year. One thing I found interesting was something that apparently is found on the label:
When this product is used in athletic fields or parks, the applicator must post a sign at entrances to the treated site containing the signal word DANGER/PELIGRO, skull and crossbones, the words: DO NOT ENTER/NO ENTRE, FIELD NOT FOR USE, the name and EPA registration number of the fumigant, and a 24-hour emergency response number. Signs may be removed two days after the final treatment.
While the park is frequently closed to the public, I do not recall ever seeing any skull and crossbones warnings. I suspect that would scare too many residents; I will have to see if I have any photos of the signs.
In the meantime, dog and cat owners be careful; especially if you take your dogs on any hiking trails that are maintained by the city or county of Los Angeles. My daughter has been contacted by NBC for an interview and I will update you with any further developments.
UPDATE: Some friends of Jessica’s set up a fundraising page to help with her considerable expenses which could end up in the five figure range. People interested in donating can do so at https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/vmv4/jessica-s-fund-for-lauren-and-heidi-s-medical-expenses/updates/80068 – If more is raised than is needed to cover expenses the balance will be donated to an animal charity. Thank you for the wide support my daughter has received over the past couple of weeks.