Case Study – Shea

shea.jpgEach time an expected animal transport arrives at Pets Alive, our hearts melt as the doors are swung open and we witness the fear and confusion of our new charges who have not yet realized that they are indeed finally safe. We SLOWLY and carefully remove each life knowing that it may take some time before they learn that we are here to help them, not hurt them. They are then moved to an isolation area, where we keep them for a quarantine period. During this time we get their medical needs sorted, enter them into our database, do a prophylactic deworming, and get them ready for adoption.

As part of their routine intake, we make sure each pet is altered, vaccinated, microchipped, and heartworm tested. We also test for e-canis, anaplasma and lyme disease at the same time. If a particular animal is not fairing well in the kennel environment, we do our absolute best to set them up in some other part of our building. For those of you who have visited our facility, you’ll witness dogs living in every crevice of ‘human’ space. Nothing is off limits…offices, kitchens, laundry rooms, EVEN bathrooms (only spacious ones of course). It’s difficult but we truly attempt to triage each case based on potential illness or those with severe behavioral set backs. Sometimes the kennel is just not the optimal environment for a dog that is terrified and we find putting them in rooms where there is less noise and confusion, but some human traffic helps them get over this faster than leaving them in an environment where they are so frightened.

Shea was a dog that came into our hearts by fate. It was a Sunday in June and we were anticipating a transport of dogs to arrive from a high kill facility in Tennessee. Shea just so happened to be on the transport although she was not one of the dogs we were expecting. But seeing this young, beautiful, sweet yellow lab mix greet us at the side of the vehicle, we knew that we could not send her back to an unknown fate. So we gladly brought her inside and while trying to track down her medical history, we set her up inside a separate room where she would not be around the other dogs at our facility. The transporter bringing her had no idea who she was or where she had come from, she had pretty much just found her in a situation where the owner had died and all the dogs the person had been caring for had just been “set free”. We had no records and no history and Shea was so sweet. Going back to the town she came from would have meant certain death as the kill rates in that shelter were well over 96%.

Unfortunately within the first two days of her quarantine period we became concerned that Shea was not feeling well. She did not have a good appetite and she was pretty quiet, although we could not be certain if this was typical behavior for her, or indeed she was ill. So for the week of her quarantine we continued to keep her separated, and could coax her to eat some food. We tested her for heartworm, lyme disease, anaplasmosis and erhliciosis. We drew blood for a normal CBC/chemistry panel. While awaiting the results, a family happened to come by looking for a dog. Immediately you could tell that this was not just some typical family. They were one of those families that are so devoted to their animals that you’d consider giving them one of your own!

While Shea was being taken out for a walk, the family made her acquaintance and instantaneously became smitten by Shea’s charm. They knew Shea was meant to go home with them. When we explained the situation of Shea not feeling perfectly well, they stressed the fact that she would be an only dog, and they were fortunate enough to be home full time (and thus could care for her around the clock). We explained that at this point bloodwork was out but we were still unsure what was wrong and warned it could be something serious. They advised that their vet was a close family friend, they contacted her, and she was already willing to see their new pet first thing in the morning. Since we were still awaiting the results of our blood panel to arrive from the weekend, we promised to have them immediately faxed directly to their vet that next day.


After the first week in her new home, Shea took a turn for the worse. Within a matter of days, she became neurologic. Her vet was perplexed by the new set of symptoms. We kept in touch with her vet (and family) to stay abreast of her condition. It came as a complete shock when we learned that Shea’s condition had progressed to the point that she needed to be euthanized. Due to the fact that vaccines are not completely protective especially if they were not administered in a proper fashion (such as the timing of boosters), the vet performed a necropsy in order to try to ascertain some answers for this baffling case. It took several weeks to determine that Shea had indeed fallen victim to the deadly disease canine distemper. The most disturbing fact is that this could have been prevented if Shea had received normal inoculation series, especially as a puppy.

As I look back, I am beyond grateful Shea found her forever home with this incredible family. They loved her from the moment they saw her, to the moment they made the selfless and humbling decision to end any suffering. It weighs heavy on all our hearts, but in the end, we realize that not only could Shea have died a painful, tortuous death on a cold cement floor, but she could have lost the only chance (no matter how short it was) to appreciate that she was undeniably loved! And as much as we will never forget this beautiful soul who was never even destined to arrive at our facility, Shea will never forget the selfless sacrifice her family made for her. I have no doubt Shea will be waiting for the day that they will be together again as the family they were destined to become.

(Written By Janet)

Filed in Case Studies by kerry on Dec 12, 2008.  There are 2 Comments

2 Responses to “Case Study – Shea”

  1. heath Says:

    Good for Pets Alive and the family which adopted her in her last days! No life lasts forever. Comfort, safety and love make the lives we live worthwhile as long as we’re in them. This goes for dogs and other living beings, as well as humans. Hooray for Pets Alive and its values — and for the leaders, staffers and volunteers who believe in and act on those values!

  2. Dorothy Says:

    Such a sad story but this poor dog died with people who loved her. She and they are better off for that. The family obviously knew there were risks when they took her. They decided to take the chance.

    You guys are awesome!

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