A Mama’s Heartache

Two weeks ago today I dropped Sampson off for ACL surgery with a veterinarian I’d only met once.  I’d been preparing myself for the day for two weeks, ever since the moment I knew he’d totally torn his ACL.  I had met with the surgeon eleven days prior and I really liked him.  He came highly recommend both by my vet and a dear friend.  I even called the vet hospital the day before with a list of questions and didn’t hang up until I was satisfied.

They can fix it?   Really?  I can't wait to feel better.

They can fix it? Really? I can’t wait to feel better.


I’d prepared a room for Sampson to recover in, converting my office into a post-surgery haven by adding carpeting to the floor,  a gate to the door, blocking the windows and removing the Futon from the room, leaving only a mattress on the floor.  I’d even begun sleeping in the room with Sampson, helping him become comfortable in the room he’d be spending a lot of time in.

I prepared how I’d handle the morning of the surgery.  How Hubby would pick up the water bowl before Sampson and I got up that morning, how my mom would feed Delilah,  what time Sampson and I would leave.  And how when I got home that night, I’d grab Delilah and head to our woods for a nice, mind clearing walk.

After talking with the Vet staff and my friend whose dog had ACL surgery, I prepared myself for how Sampson would look when I picked him up.  How we’d get him in and out of the house, how the first two weeks post-surgery would be hell.

I prepared myself not to cry the morning of surgery as I drove him to the hospital, and warned myself not to project my fear on to him by letting him see how really worried I was. I told him over and over again, “We’re going to get you fixed, it’s all going to be alright.”  Trying to convince myself in the process.

My anxiety was building as I drove him to the hospital that morning.   I hadn’t prepared myself for the rush hour traffic and I was getting nervous that I’d miss my drop off time, but we made it with five minutes to spare.

Sampson was a real trooper, one of the staff came and took him from me and I watched as he walked purposefully in to the back room.  No backward glances, it was as if he knew, this is it, I’m going to feel better after this.  I busied myself with the pre-surgery consent forms, clarifying what type of surgery he was having.

I prepared myself for everything I could think of, except nothing can prepare you for the moment the vet staff comes back and hands you an empty collar and leash.  It was almost my undoing, I choked back the tears, finished the paperwork and quickly left the lobby for the safety of my car, where I could let the tears flow.

I shared this moment with some of my blogging friends and Amy from Go Pet Friendly said, “If they only paid a moment’s attention they’d see the pain they’re causing their clients because they can’t find a way to keep from losing collars and leashes!”

It seems like a simple enough process to me.  Hospitals do it with patient’s personal belongings.  How hard would it be to hand you a Ziploc Baggie and a Sharpie while they’re asking you to fill out paperwork.  You can put your pet’s name, your name and your phone number on the bag.  It goes in back with your pet and when they take the collar and leash off, they put them in the baggie.  Then it goes in a plastic bin, in alphabetical order.  How hard is that?  And how much heartache would it save the person dropping their pet off?

We were told we could bring something with our scent on it to stay with Sampson in the kennel, which is something they’d need to keep track of.  If they can keep track of Sampson’s pillow,  why not his leash and collar to save a Mama’s heart ache?

Have you ever dropped your pet off and been handed back their empty collar and leash?  Or does your vet keep it with your pet? How do you feel about that?  Is it kinder to hold onto your pet’s personal things and return them with your pet, or do you prefer to have them with you?

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  1. Vlad & Barkly's Dee says

    The very few times we’ve had to have some kind of surgery, they’ve always had us walk the dog back, and they trade leashes with our collar and leash in front of us. They don’t do that until our vet’s staff has talked to us back there. They verbally go over everything with us again with me pointing out areas that they log on a chart, and then we go out front and once again go over everything with the paperwork and after-surgery orders. It’s triple checked–I guess to make sure that people that ARE upset get everything in their heads before leaving. I’ve always been nervous, but never really upset. I trust our vet just that much. Picking up is much the same way, but in reverse.

    The only times we’ve ever traded leashes in the front waiting area was when they were going for some kind of grooming. (Also rare with us, usually when I’ve gotten over my head with a bunch of things going on in our lives around holidays.) I think I like our vet’s way of doing things better than what I’ve heard about from some others like yours–a LOT better.

  2. says

    Gosh. For a moment I thought you meant something went wrong in surgery. You scared me!

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind having to hold onto the collar. If I didn’t know it was coming though I would have crapped my pants and thought they were going to tell me something went wrong.

  3. says

    I can’t believe that they don’t hold on to the leads and collars!! Never in all my time of taking my two to the vets have I had their stuff given back to me. It stays with them until they come home. In fact (subtle hint to read my amazing early post http://25castleson25clouds.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/judgement/) I wrote about it here when I felt judged by putting BD’s muzzle onto him after the vet tech said that she hadn’t needed it all day when he had been with her. I have to agree they should be able to do something – I totally get why you fell apart!!

  4. says

    We agree our stuff always stays with us till we go home. Leaving a pet at the vet is such a hard thing to do for whatever the reason. We are always on edge when we have to do that. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  5. says

    My vet switches from the regular leash and collar to the “hospital” one right there. So I am watching it happen. It’s no easier. I usually spend the whole ride over reminding my dog, “When they tell you to wake up, WAKE UP. Don’t be stubborn and naughty.” Ugh!

  6. says

    Good Morning, Jodi. I think Callie’s surgeon led her to the prep area with her collar and leash on and then kept them somewhere right near Callie’s kennel until she was ready to come home. But that was last year. I’m lucky I remember yesterday half the time. I could be just remembering it the way I want to. In any case, I completely agree with you — there is no reason why they can’t devise a system like you mentioned. I mean, really, how much would it cost them to buy ziplock bags in bulk?! Maybe we should start a “movement” to get vets to do it! I know our regular vet has some sort of system. But he’s a “doggie daddy” like we are dog moms, so he understands how we feel about our furry kids. In fact, he used to have a small picture of a dog’s bone hanging up in one of the exam rooms and written on the bone was “Dogs Are Children Who Eat On The Floor”. I haven’t seen it lately; but he did tell me once that his older daughter hated that sign, so maybe he took it down.

  7. says

    There was one vet tech at our regular vet’s who used to do that. But she’d take off his collar and leash right in front of me and put on a slip leash. She is no longer there, and no one else does that now. I didn’t like it, because sometimes I might drop the dog off and have my hubby pick them up on his way home from work (he goes right by there). I agree that I don’t see why they can’t keep track of them (especially in a small practice like theirs), I think this practice was something she might have learned at another place she worked.
    This brings to mind when we took Moses for his surgery for cancer that he never came out of. They had kept his collar & leash then, and this same woman actually stopped at our house (she lives near us) and dropped off both afterwards (after calling to ask if we wanted her to)…..I can tell you how awful it felt being handed that bag, so I know exactly why you felt that way when they did it there. I think if they had done it in front of you, you wouldn’t have felt so bad.

  8. says

    You know, I think Silas’s vet kept his when I dropped him off for neutering. I don’t *remember* getting them back. Maybe it’s because that’s a more in and out procedure. Or, it might be a young-vet thing. Nobody in the practice we use, except the founder, is over 40.

    I do know that they kept his leash and harness when I dropped him off for a bath, and they either had *no* idea how to get his harness back on or he wouldn’t let them do it.

  9. says

    YOU SCARED ME! Oh my! I thought something went wrong when you said they handed you back an empty collar and leash! ((phew)) *wipes brow* My vet has always kept my dogs things with them. I am not sure why they wouldn’t? Doesn’t make sense to me! It is their collar and leash, so why can’t they keep it there with the pup? Strange! No more scares please!!!!!! BOL!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  10. says

    Oh! How heart breaking! My mom’s vet (they also board) swap off the collar and leash for their own before leaving the room. It’s the most humane for mom. I’m so sorry you had to go through that.

  11. says

    Usually we keep our collar and Mom takes the leash. Even at day care where there are over fifty dogs coming and going all day, they keep even Bailie’s leash. I guess it would be best for the vet to ask if you want them to keep the collar and leash or not and they should be able to keep track of it. That is really bizarre that they can’t!

  12. says

    Seriously?! That is stunning. I doubt I could have waited to get to my car. In all my years, I have never even heard of this before. All of our vets (in the very many places we’ve lived) have hung on to the collars and leashes when our pets were in for treatment or surgery. These folks need a heads up and some awareness training. Even our current vet who really does not have a good “bedside” manner, has more empathy and sensitivity! I’m shocked.

  13. says

    We’ve been going to the same vet for nearly 30 years – she has never given us back our leash and collar. The first time that happened to me – when Sam went for an ultrasound last year – I looked at it and I think I said something marvelous like “Why the hell did you take his collar off?” I think I shocked them. I told them I didn’t want him in the middle of Phoenix, without me, and without his identification. They were clearly surprised- no one had ever questioned them before – and yes, I was rude about it. They weren’t working anywhere near his head, there was no reason to take it off. They left me his leash and took his collar back to him. …and yes, it was a horrifying moment for me. I seriously think if they refused to put it back on him I would have marched back there and took him home with me. Despite having a hectic clinic, surgeries every day, emergencies, boarding, appointments, etc – our regular vet has never lost any of our collars or leashes. I just didn’t understand it. I know the feeling of leaving your baby for a day – sending you hugs and love.

    Monty and Harlow (…and their rather surly Mom…)

  14. says

    We have never had that experience even though we have had several surgeries. Our clinic must keep the collars and leashes because we always get them back with the dog at the end. But I can see how upsetting this must be. I hope you say something to the clinic because this is not the way to reassure people who are already stressed to the maximum.

  15. says

    That part didn’t bother me when Abby had her amputation. We had to walk her back and then they switched out her leash/collar to a little slip lead. I was just worried about her getting through it and what she would look/be like after. In the fictionalized version in “Rescue Me, Maybe,” Jane drops off Maybe and doesn’t pick her up until the next day, by which time Maybe hops out under her own power. In real life, we had to go pick her up a few hours after her surgery and they helped us put her in the car so we could transport her to a 24 hr care place a couple miles away. It was very distressing to see her so out of it after surgery. Her wound was huge and terrible looking and she was panting like crazy from the meds. They had to help us carry her out on a “hammock” of old towels to the car. We could have taken her home, but there was no way we were ready for that – and I don’t think she was either. We wanted her to be somewhere where she’d have constant drip pain meds for the first night. It was like night and day the next morning when we picked her up and she hopped out so happy to see us.

    Sorry for the novella. Not great memories. Prefer to remember her post-recovery, when she was awesome and amazing and an inspiration.

  16. says

    When Nelly had part of her femur and hip removed, they switched leashes with me. I was worried I would forget to bring the collar and leash with me when I came to pick her up. It does seem like a better method would be to store it at the vet’s office, especially if someone else might pick up the pet.

  17. says

    Our vet always switches out our leads for their own in-hospital ones – even when just taking the dog back for an x-ray when the dog will be going home with me the same day.

    It’s been so long since I left someone with a collar on (I tend to use one piece lead/collar for vet visits) I don’t remember if they took off the collar.
    Devil’s advocate – there are rare dogs who can hurt themselves when left in a kennel with a collar. Our vets typically use a slip on one piece when working with the dog, and leave nothing around their neck when they’re in the kennel.

  18. says

    Great post on your experience. We keep all collar and leashes and if people bring stuffies or blankets we take them and put them in the cage with them. I never gave back a leash and collar seems weird and never thought what people would think of it. Thank you for pointing that out I will be more aware of it now.

  19. says

    Holy crap – I thought something bad had happened too cause I haven’t had a chance to catch up on all the posts yet!

    I don’t ever remember them doing that at my vet’s for surgeries. It’s sad enough walking back to the car and driving home without your fuzzy buddy than to have them hand you the leash and collar like that! And I always get a sick feeling in my stomach when I initial next to the sentence on the form that indicates I’d like them to resuscitate if necessary.

  20. says

    It’s a horrible feeling for sure Jodi, and between surgeries and tests, I’ve experienced it more times than I can count. I think that’s a great idea of yours, having them keep the collars there.

    Sadly, it reminds me of one of the worst experiences of my life. When the boarding kennel took our dog Harley’s collar off and handed it back to us…and he died while being boarded….probably wondering if we had abandoned him there. After all, we took away his ID, his identity, before we left him. I know it sounds silly, but that’s how I always felt about it.

    Great, now you’ve got me weepy eyed too. :-(

  21. says

    You scared me too!!! I had read an update and I was so confused, I was like WHAT???!!! Omg my heart nearly came out of my throat. They give us Dakota’s collar and leash when we take him to be groomed. Your question is a good one. I have no clue why they do what they do.

  22. says

    Many times when I have dropped off they have brought their own slip lead and put it on the dog and I took my collar off right then. My vet has also kept my leash sometimes too. I can’t remember them taking the dog and then giving the leash and collar back to me.

  23. Monica says

    My vet has never brought me my dog’s collar and leash when I have dropped him off for surgery and they’ve never lost anything – I just can’t imagine how painful that would be. And when I have to say goodbye I remove the collar……

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