On January 23, 2012 I lost my dear Pug Chooie, she was only six-years-old and like a child to me. Chooie died after having her teeth cleaned at a Veterinarian who has been in business for thirty years, Dr. Stan Heyman of Northside Veterinary Clinic in Santa Fe.
That morning my Mother and I brought our combined three pugs Bull, Bella, and Chooie to Stan Heyman, D.V.M at Northside Veterinary Clinic in Santa Fe, New Mexico for vaccinations and a general check-up. This was our first time bring our Pugs to Northside; we were fairly new to the area. Dr. Heyman had been recommended by a local and had multiple positive reviews online, along with a thirty year history of practicing Veterinary medicine in New Mexico. We had no reason not to trust him.
Dr. Heyman saw all three Pugs, one after the other and all was well. He commented that Chooie's teeth had a lot of plaque build up and showed me that her gums were swollen and recommended they be cleaned. As we were leaving he offered to do it on the spot, that I could come back and pick her up in about an hour and a half. He would be going away for a week in the coming days and said we might as well do it since we were there already. I had an interview to go to shortly and figured I could pick her up right after, it seemed to make sense to just get it over and done with while he was here and available. I hesitated when he mentioned that Chooie would be put under Anesthesia however as the last time she was put under she suffered from a seizure. I told Dr. Heyman that anesthesia made me nervous for this reason and he told me that he would use a fully reversible anesthesia and that it would be fine. I saw this as a solution to reduce/eliminate risk as Pugs are well known for having problems with anesthesia, now I see it may have just been him brushing me off. I kissed her goodbye and let the Vet take her, there was no paperwork to be signed, no warning speeches or anything so I went to take the other Pugs home so I could go to my interview. They said they would call soon to tell me when I could pick her up.
The Veterinarian's office called twice while I was at the interview, about 10 min apart. I didn't see the calls til after as I had failed to put phone on vibrate instead of silent. I called them back as I got in my car. The phone was busy for a while, when I finally got through I asked if I could come pick her up, the response I got was that something had gone terribly wrong and that she was deceased. Things are a bit blurry at this point. In a mess of hysterical emotion I somehow managed to drive back to the Vets office where my Mother met me. We were told that after the cleaning, Chooie had been awake, happy, and wagging her tail.. in fact the first phone call was them telling me to come pick her up. Then she suddenly starting coughing, then she stopped breathing and became unconscious. They checked her airway and it was clear, they performed CPR but her lungs weren't working, then her heart stopped beating and even with a shot of Epinephrine all efforts to resuscitate failed. I asked about the anesthesia issue, he said it wasn't that since she had been awake after. He had no answers and said an autopsy wouldn't tell us anything. I was too upset to be rational and argue. He said they could arrange cremation for us so we wouldn't have to do anything, that they would take care of everything. Turns out taking care of everything didn't include payment, they still charged for the initial visit, vaccination, cremation, and even the cement pawprint impression I later requested at the suggestion of a friend. While the Veterinary assistants and even the Doctor's wife were quite kind and apologetic, Dr. Heyman himself was all business with a general "I'm sorry", I got the feeling he just wanted us to leave. I went and said goodbye to my Chooie girl, I cried and told her I was sorry over and over while resting my forehead on her little body... she was still warm.
The days that have followed have been more than hard and filled with questions. The only contact we have had with the Vet was when I called requesting the pawprint, and when they called to say her remains were ready to be picked up. When my Mother went to pick them up she received a very cold reception from the assistants and Dr. Heyman wasn't there. Upon telling Chooie's story to others I have been horrified to find out that the issue with Anesthesia and Pugs is worse than I realized and that Chooie should have never had the procedure in the first place. A quick search on the internet pulls up thousands of results on the subject. I called a local Veterinary office looking for a new Vet and a girl who answered the phone knew about Pugs and the risks of being put under. A friend of mine has a Pug with bad teeth, when she asked about a cleaning her Vet told her straight out she would never make it through the procedure. I'm left wondering if I went to the only Vet who didn't know the risks. Dr. Heyman said it couldn't have been the anesthesia that caused her death because she was awake after the procedure but I have learned that is not the case, very commonly they wake up a little hyper and then suddenly take a turn for the worse as Chooie did. I have many regrets of course, I wish I had pushed the anesthesia issue before the procedure but he is supposed to be the expert, not me and I hadn't wanted to seem overbearing. I vow from now on I will always be an advocate for my pets regardless of how annoying I may be.
I am one of those people that is overly into her pets and treats them as children, the loss of one has been devastating. My remaining Pug Bull and I are heartbroken, she was his best friend and mother...he isn't the same without her, nor am I. Not having any recourse, knowing that Chooie most likely died because or Dr. Heyman's poor judgement and there's nothing I can do about it is very frustrating; dogs aren't supposed to die from having their teeth cleaned. I filed a complaint the the New Mexico Board of Veterinary Medicine but from what I've seen that will lead to little, if any beneficial conclusion.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel and her name is Frankie. I have found a rescue Pug named Frankie that should be with us soon, I am very excited for Bull to have a pal again and am looking forward to spoiling the heck out of her. I couldn't save my Chooie girl, but maybe I can save another sweet Pug who deserves better.
My fellow dog lovers I implore you to not make the same mistake I did. Follow your instinct and be an advocate for your pet, don't assume that a Vet knows more than you. Veterinarians are not regulated the same as regular Doctors are, do your research before admitting your Pug for any procedure especially if it involves anesthesia. I'm no expert but I'm finding that the high risks associated with anesthesia seem to apply to any brachycephalic (flat faced) breeds so do your homework and find a Vet who is experienced with your breed to reduce the risk of something like this happening to you.
Hug your pet for me. R.I.P my Chooie girl, I will miss you forever.