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.