One man’s personal story of the loss of his beloved dog Sarge, poisoned by a treat

S. Raymond Parker, a man whose love for his friend and devoted companion, a dog named Sarge, gave him the courage to transcend his grief to help other pet parents by writing this cautionary tale.  This is his story.

Chronology of a Tragedy

In 2003 we bought a German Shepherd and decided he needed a playmate. The Shepherd was a good watchdog and we were happy with him.  Then the idea came up that maybe we should get another. I wasn’t fully into that but we went shelter shopping.  That was when  I first met this little fellow, January 29, 2005.dog poisoned by waggin train chicken jerky treats china nestle purina sarge parker

A small, shy puppy
We looked at nearly all the dogs in the Young-Williams Animal Shelter that day, big ones, little ones, white ones, black ones, etc. Nearly through, we looked at some puppies, and saw a small (20 pounds) red puppy that didn’t look like any breed I knew. We asked and were told it was a Lab/Corgi mix and would be about 50 pounds when grown. It seemed a little shy but was OK when we asked that it be taken from the penned in area where he was kept.

Ralph, #17986
Questions were asked, and we learned that he and a sister were picked up as strays 5 days earlier. The sister was adopted a few days earlier, and he was in a strange place with strangers, knowing no one. That was when we met Ralph 17986. The shelter does not name dogs, but give them a temporary tag for identity. They thought he was about six months old, as he had baby teeth yet. We agreed to adopt, neuter, and I.D. Chip him.

Getting used to home
We picked him up after work to find that he was the last surgery of the day, and was a little nauseous from the anesthesia. He had thrown up, but was cleaned up and brought home. Still groggy from surgery, he would not eat. Once more in a strange place, with strange people, and another dog five times his size. He began to eat the next day and started to get used to “home”. He did not look like a “Ralph” and was then named “Sarge”. The name was perfect for him.

Overcoming fear
He settled in very well, except for noises. A rolled up newspaper of magazine, empty paper towel roll, or snapping a garbage bag sent him running to hide, and hang his head like he had done something wrong. I went to pet him then, and found that he was trembling. I guessed that he had been beaten before being thrown out on the street with his sister. We became more careful of noises or anything rolled up. It took several months before he got over those fears, but he did. He began to fill out, his ribs were showing when we adopted him, but he was not searching for food anymore.

Waggin Treats poisoned and killed Sarge Parker with chicken jerky treats from China made by Nestle Purina

Family members with fur
I may be a little late stating this, but in our home we do not own dogs, we do not “have “pets. Neither of our animals suddenly appeared at the door asking if they could live here. We made a direct effort to invite these guys into our home, without asking their opinion. They were family members with fur as soon as they were brought here to live.

The protector of the family
Sarge was inoculated, checked out by a vet. We do not leave anything out that they need. The Shepherd, King, our guard dog was given a rest. Sarge took over. We also learned that he was Chow/Corgi, not Lab. He was first at every noise or sound. He never missed one. The Shepherd started sleeping until Sarge changed his bark, then he was there for backup. No one came close to the house, yard, or door without him warning us. If Sarge knew the visitors, we knew when they arrived; he was waiting at the door, tail wagging furiously. Sarge had found a home where all loved him here. He was determined to protect it, and well he did. If you arrive as a stranger, you get barked at, if we let you in, you must be OK, so pet me. Then pet me more. Don’t stop now; I’ll let you know. Those were his rules.

Waiting by the window
For nearly seven years Sarge ran the place. We placed a bench looking out our front window where he watched for hours. If we left, we were met at the door as if we were gone for weeks, even if it was a few minutes. He seldom left that bench if one of us was out, he waited until our return.

Waggin Treats poisoned and killed Sarge Parker with chicken jerky treats from China made by Nestle Purina

Like none other
We have both had dogs before, and loved them. Sarge had his very own personality; it was unique, like no other we had before. Sarge was high-speed, always. He was short-legged (Welsh Corgi) but was extremely fast. His attitude was Chow, no person or dog too big. Only once I watched as he went from Corgi, when provoked, to Chow, in less than a second. Dobies, Rotties, no matter. When growled at, they would be legs up with a ferocious animal on them. He never harmed another, but would quickly let them know that wouldn’t work. Sarge was 56 pounds of pure friendly muscle and energy. He never walked to meet anyone, it had to be full speed ahead, and walking would be wasting valuable petting time.

Irreplaceable you
The Postman at our groomer spent his lunch hour with him one day, pleading with them to call us to see if we would sell him. He was told no, we would not, no need to call. He returned later that day, once again begging them to call us, saying no matter what the cost, he wanted that dog. The groomer finally called, mostly to keep him from begging him. He was told no, there was not enough money to buy Sarge. There was not! The love, companionship that little fellow brought into this house could not be replaced, it still cannot be. Not with money, not with another dog, not at all.

Healthy as a bull
We put him on a diet a few months ago. Our Shepherd has arthritis, and they both went on a diet in case Sarge got it later on. He went to about fifty pounds, still as healthy as a bull, and just as strong. That was early November 2011.

One small treat
Then, tragedy. Friday, November 18,2011, my wife was shopping with the grandchildren and picking up treats for our dogs. We normally don’t change anything for them, but this one time Walmart didn’t have their usual treats. A small bag of Chicken Jerky treats was bought.

waggin train victim

Friday, November 18, 2011
Sarge was given ONE SMALL treat at around 10:00 P.M. He woke my wife up at 3:00 A.M. to go outside and vomit, and again at 6:00 A.M..

Saturday, November 19, 2011
We fed him a small amount of food around noon, since he had been sick. Very soon after, vomiting again. Around 5:00 P.M. normal feeding time, same result, more vomiting.

Sunday, November 20, 2011
We gave him boiled chicken breast with rice in chicken broth, vet recommended and one of his favorite foods. Immediate vomiting followed.

Monday, November 21, 2011
Sarge was taken to our vet the next day, where he was given IV fluids and meds for his stomach. He still would not eat. We offered steak, chicken, turkey, all his favorites, he would walk away.

At that point we took him to the emergency animal clinic where my niece works as a vet tech. More IV fluids, more stomach meds, and brought meds home, antibiotics, IVs, stomach meds. My niece came by everyday to give his meds. I had to dissolve most meds and use a syringe to make sure he got them, he would not swallow anything. He did eat 1.5 tablespoons of turkey breast on the eighth day he was sick. Blood work showed liver enzymes were too high to read, as were his pancreatic enzymes. Fibrin was high and so were his white blood count. Infection!

Monday, November 28, 2011
We took him for a sonogram to check the internal organs. Fluid was discovered in his abdomen and drawn off. Analysis told us nothing. He was left in Critical Care.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011
We returned to discuss true cut biopsies, as the fluid would contaminate the needle biopsies. When we arrived, the surgeon told us that he probably could not survive the surgery, and that he had improved overnight. They recommended an infusion of albumen to stop the leak into his abdomen. Expensive, but I agreed. We were told that he improved very slightly after the infusion.

Sarge Parker on the Rainbow Bridge

Thursday, December 1st, 2011
At 9:00 A.M. I received a call from a doctor at the clinic. They had nowhere else to go except the biopsies. We drove there. Sarge’s vitals had worsened overnight. He had gained four pounds of fluid overnight, all in his abdomen. The albumen infusion and the IV fluids for hydration leaked from his organs into the abdomen. I was given three choices: The surgery, during which he would probably die, do nothing and he would die a slow, possibly painful death, or end it. I would have rather shot myself than make that decision. We have never had his and hers dogs, but my name was on his adoption papers, it had to be me.

Sarge was brought in to an exam room so we could see him, he was so weak he needed assistance to walk. A quilted pad was placed on the exam table, it was Formica. For the first time in seven years, Sarge walked to see us, and just barely. He had never walked to see anyone was walking now. The furious tail was down and barely wagging. They placed Sarge on the padded table so we could reach him better, we both have disabilities. He was glad to see us, but was too weak to be excited. I petted him, and hugged him, and felt his front legs, they were trembling from weakness. Even in a sitting position, he was not strong enough to support himself. My wife put him in a lying position, and he was trying to hold up his head. This usual ball of friendly energy had no strength at all. I could not punish Sarge any more.

I nodded to the doctor and she gave him Propofol so he would be asleep. Our hands never left him. His final thoughts were happy, we were with him and that was all he ever really wanted, someone to love him. The final nod to the Doctor, it was soon finished. I can still feel Sarge’s fur, his skin as life left him. This has been difficult to type, hard to see through tears. Sarge was a medium size dog, but he sure left a super size empty in this house, in our lives, and mostly in our hearts.

The brand of treats is Waggin Train by Nestle Purina. They have asked for the bag back, but I will not give away my evidence. My friend cannot be replaced, but if I can stop one animal from suffering this tragedy, or one owner, I must.

S. Raymond Parker

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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, the author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and consumer advisor. Help support her work by making a donation today.

Comments (23) Write a comment

  1. Please contact. Me asap where my dog got sick extremely sick due to chicken jerky dog treats too.

    Reply

  2. Thank you to all for your kind hearted posts. Sarge was a tragedy, and stopping this from happening to others has become an obsession. I will not/ cannot stop until this is over.

    Reply

  3. Dear Ray,

    Sarge’s story touched me deeply. He was quite handsome. His black mask and dark rimmed eyes were such a stark contrast to his deep auburn color. And, I imagine his “on duty” personality went perfectly with the funny, little strut of his Corgi structure. Your excellent description brought Sarge’s unique and attentive personality to life for me.

    Thank you for pointing me to Sarge’s story. I enjoyed imaging his triumphant development, from the fearful little guy you adopted at the shelter to the ever-diligent guardian he grew to be, I can tell that he was a very special boy.

    Please believe I share your sorrow over the loss of Sarge. Thank you for keeping his memory alive through your effort of making others aware of the danger the China-sourced treats hold. I am sure you are responsible for saving countless families from the heartbreak that ended your little friend’s life.

    Reply

  4. My heart breaks for your loss. I cried from beginning to end. This could have been us. We too have struggled since feeding our dogs Waggin Train Chik’n Biscuits. 4 days after my first purchase of these treats my 3 year old toy rat terrier Bandit collapsed. He had been vomiting and had bloody diarrhea. By the time I got him to the vet he was in organ failure. We struggled for days whether to keep on treating him or letting him go. Thank God for giving us the wisdom to stay strong for Bandit. After a month of medical treatments costing well over $4,000 he is finally healing. Both Bandit and our other 8 year old rat terrier Kali suffered from liver damage due to being fed these treats. Bandit will require medical care for the rest of his life. I too have struggled with the guilt that it was I who purchased these treats and fed them to my beloved pets. It’s something that will haunt me for the rest of their lives. I wish the FDA would do something about these treats and I wish that stores would stop selling these products to unknowing pet owners. I have bone cancer so my memory is bad and I don’t remember ever hearing about the dangerous chicken jerky coming from China. How many other pet parents have to suffer the loss of their beloved pets before something is done. I am so sorry for your loss. Please don’t blame yourself.. blame the companies that purchase chicken jerky from China and use it in their products and hide that fact on the packaging. Blame the companies that sell it on the store shelves and most of all the FDA who is supposed to be there to protect us…God Bless

    Reply

  5. Pingback: With over 400 new reports of tainted treats, Senator Brown urges the FDA to speed it up…again « Poisoned Pets

  6. Dear Mr. Parker, I am so sorry for your loss. How tragic. I know what it’s like to lose a true friend and that they can never ever be replaced. I lost my most beloved ever pet a few months ago when a vet made a mistake. I don’t have Lily anymore but at this point I am just glad she was mine. Sincerely, Carole

    Reply

  7. I’m so sorry this happen I know you will miss him it is so hard to lose one of your babies please keep me posted love both you guys

    Reply

  8. I am so sorry. My dog received an immediate infusion and meds which may have saved her. It took a whole month on vet prescription food before I could put her back on her regular food.
    I did send a detailed letter to our TV news station and it took months for a brief story to be aired.
    I know dogs. I had dogs for over 60 years. If young dogs are getting sick and dying IMMEDIATELY after eating dried chicken treats from China, then the treats are responsible.
    We must all do our best to ask every Vet office to hang up a sign saying: “Do not feed your dog dried chicken treats from China. Look above the UPC code for the small print “Made in China”. Purina, Nestle, Wagon Train and Cannon Creek are some brands being used to distribute the dried chicken at Wall Mart, Sam’s Club, Pet Smart, etc.”.
    I hope our Vets will allow us all to post these signs in their offices for all to read! Also, alert your Congress persons and Senators.

    Reply

    • We are working hard on this too. Thanks for your efforts we need all the help we can get. But, stay tuned and watch the news tomorrow – you may see something you like! I’ll post it here as soon as it goes online.

      Reply

    • You are not alone, when I read the letter to my Mom I was crying and then she started – Oh, it was so bad I couldn’t read it aloud without choking on my sobs. So sad…

      Reply

  9. I cried while reading this story. We had to have Buddy put down on New Years Eve 2011. He ate chicken jerky I had given him for Xmas, quit eating, started vomiting and drinking massive amounts of water. The Vet did blood work and said he was in kidney failure. Three days of treatment and no improvement – getting worse. Buddy was only 2.5 years old and he was the light of my husbands life. To make matters worse, my husband’s 3 children were killed on Jan 1, 1988 in a car accident, so New Years is a bad time aound our house anyway – and to have to watch the best little dog in the world suffer and die – well it is proving too much to bear. Don’t let anyone else go through this. Stop the slaughter.

    Reply

  10. Pingback: Is There Anything “Pure” About Purina? « Annabellesvoice

  11. Mr. Parker I am so sorry you had to face the death of a perfect friend. especially since it was preventable. I also lost a 14 year old friend last August, Buster, because the food we feed him was most likely contaminated with poision. We battled for 6 weeks before the liver damage was overwhelming.
    The evilness of the pet food companies and manufactures is horrifying. To think the people who work in this field, who know the truth and are continuing to kill pets do so because the dollar is their master. They have lost all ethics. I hope they cannot sleep at night and when alone cannot face themself in a mirror. I am so tired of their lies. Yes lies, all you have to do is read the complaints from people all over the country about the same illness and death. Just like you I had no hesitation to buy what I thought was the best food for them. I have made a commitment to my Buster, that I will make his death and all the other angels matter by warning everyone I know or see buying pet food. I talk to groomers and any one who is in contact with our earth angels. I have had many pets who have passed, but this is especially hard when you know someone could have stopped it. In criminal law those who are involved in the pet food industry and know the facts could be prosecuted for knowingly and willfully aiding in a death of pets by the poisioned food. I hope a person in the know will feel bad enough to come forward to the FDA. I know you are out there!
    The sadness does not go away. We have changed the way we feed our new pup and Busters surviveing playmate. We make our own food as their main nutrition. I now read the ingrediants of every treat that I buy and would not ever buy from the brands who are participating in this coverup. If I see an itch or a treat they don’t want, it goes in the garbage. I cringe when I walk down the pet food isle.
    Mr. Parker do what you can to inform people. With the new social media it is possible to contact millions in a matter of minutes. I hope those able to do so will help the fight.
    Mr. Parker there are so many of use who feel the terrible pain, but it will motivate us to make the changes in the pet food industry that should have happened in 2008.

    Reply

    • I wept when I read the story he sent me. I didn’t change a word of it, didn’t need to.

      Sarge, you should be pretty proud of your Daddy. He’s fighting to save other dogs from being poisoned too, even though his heart is still so full of grief. It must get the strength from the tremendous love he had for you. I know your up in Heaven rooting for Papa and so am I. As are the many other people who miss their babies too. Keep them company and give them some sloppy kisses for me. We love you sweet Sarge, Mollie

      Reply

  12. Very sad story, and my heart goes out to this family. People need to know that the Purina company manufactures very unwholesome pet foods and pet treats. I don’t care how many accolades their false advertising campaigns win them in the eyes of the general public.It is a matter of record that Purina and some of their products were named in the class action lawsuit of 2007 stemming from the pet food recall of dangerous pet foods which killed many pets. See these links:

    http://www.fflegal.com/petfood/3rd%20Amended%20Complaint%20%5BDE%20333%5D.pdf

    http://miamiherald.typepad.com/crazy_for_critters/2008/07/class-action-la.html

    Formerly, I fed my cats and my dog Purina One dry foods, before I learned the truth. However, I learned the lesson too late, as my older cat develped a rapid onset of diabetes after receiving a healthy report from a comprehensive wellness exam (with complete bloodwork) only 2 months before she died in October 2010. She got violently ill one evening, spent that night in the Emergency vet hospital and thenext 4 days hospitalized at our (then) regular veterinarian’s clinic, but was finally euthanized as all her vital organs shut down. She was in great pain. She declined so rapidy, I couldn’t even bring her home and administer daily I.V. insulin as was the recommended treatment. Once her organs began to rapidly die, she didn’t have a chance of recovery. I believe that years of eating a diet of Purina One dry food and other common commercial brands of cat food ultimately brought about her agonizing illness and death. After that experience, I took all my remaining pets off Purina products and began the quest to find healthier foods for them that would prolong and protect their lives, not cut them short.

    However, if one is influenced by the advertising campaigns of big pet food companies and the advice of mainstream veterinarians, expect pets to continue suffering needless, devastating illnesses and unjust deaths. Many manufacturers of commercial pet foods don’t care about our pets, they just want our money. And most mainstream veterinarians are receiving kick-backs and formal education from these big pet food manufacturers, which is why most vets recommend these brands. In my opinion, most mainstream vets are either in denial, apathetic or just downright ignorant about pet foods. The sicker our pets are, the better the income for the vets, and there is a malicious collaboration between mainstream vets and pet food companies. But neither side will admit this and they certainly don’t want their covert alliances publicized.

    Reply

    • Heartbreaking isn’t it. I cried like a baby when I read Raymond’s letter. He is a brave man to have been able to do this. I asked for help and he was gracious enough to share his personal heartbreak with the public. I hope, as does he, that his story will reach even just a single pet parent and save the precious life of a beloved family member with fur from these horrible treats.

      Bless you Raymond.

      Reply

      • Bless you indeed Raymond. And Mollie for posting.
        I read this last week on reddit & it has had a profound impact on me. I usually buy dogswell chicken jerky treats for my baby (although, i have bought waggin train as well). I went home the night I read this, threw away all of the dog treats that said “made in china” & started figuring out how to make my own treats.
        I can’t believe how far this has gone, and how many dogs and families these treats have tortured. it’s truly heartbreaking.
        I’ve discovered that it’s really simple to make your own treats – and you get to see exactly whats going into them. I’ve always made my own raw food for her. I can’t believe it took me reading this to make her treats at home too. Thanks for posting. My heart goes out to all the families who are going through this madness.

        Reply

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