The Truth About Bear Dog

In September 2013 I saw an American Bulldog named Bear Dog for not eating, losing weight and vomiting.

We did blood work (great results) and x-rays (no abnormal findings).

Bear Dog’s owner was told several times that if he continued to have clinical signs, he needed to return.

He called every week or so to say Bear Dog was doing just okay. Or better. Or eating some. Or seeming picky about eating.

After mid-October, he did not call again.

Mid-January, he brought him back. Bear Dog was dead. He had lost 46 pounds since we had seen him.

Necropsy showed a collar that  went through his entire GI system.

I wish I had diagnosed the partial gastrointestinal obstruction that killed Bear Dog right out of the gate. Could things have turned out differently if we knew from day one that he had a surgical foreign body – when it still seemed we were a team? Looking back over everything, I still cannot definatively diagnose Bear Dog with the information I had from that single visit. A barium study – which was discussed and declined more than once – would have most likely given us a diagnosis. If we had stayed a team…if we had continued to work together, not giving up until we had answers…We never talked again after that last phone call in October.

Letting Bear Dog eat a collar was not wrong. Things happen. It was not even eaten on his owner’s watch.

Not knowing that it was a collar in his intestinal system that was slowly killing his dog was not wrong. With everything that COULD make a dog sick, knowing that detail was connected to this detail is never as straightforward as it seems in hindsight.

Watching a pet waste away from a fat, stable dog to a vomiting, lethargic, inappetent dog with absolutely no fat or muscle stores left over three and a half months with no followup veterinary care is wrong, criminal even.

So even though we liked the owner, and even though we were heartbroken he had lost his pet, we had to, legally and in good conscious, let the authorities know what had happened.

So we did. He was arrested. He was tried. And he was let go.

Here is his side as told to WOWT news.

Here is my husband’s email in response to WOWT news:

Dear Mr. Nicely and Channel Six team,

I watched the story this morning on the animal abuse case.  I am very disappointed. The story contains factual discrepancies and misrepresents the nature of the case and the decision of the court. I watched the trial in its entirety, and as you can guess from my last name, have personal knowledge of the situation.  

Your story stated that Bear Dog went to the vet several times, when in reality,  as court testimony demonstrated, he went just once. Furthermore, the owner’s absence when the dog ingested the collar was neither relevant to the decision, nor a significant part of the case, other than that he testified that he knew the dog chewed his collar in September.  The decision was not based on that, but on the judge’s opinion that the case did not fit an exact statute under which he was tried.  His opinion that none of the witnesses  thought there was abuse is his opinion. 

I assure you that the witnesses for the prosecution (two veterinarians and the staff of NHS animal control officers) were of a different opinion. Good reporting on the case would have shown that. The body of the case was that over the course of four months, the fat, happy dog you showed in the video lost almost 50% of his body weight as he slowly starved to death and became septic from pieces of collar in his digestive tract. The owner was accused of not bringing his dog in for follow up tests or treatment that could have saved Bear.  The pictures of Bear at the time of death* would tell a completely different story than the one your news piece did. Interviewing anyone from the prosecution would have told a different story.   

The case is over, He has been acquitted, and I am not looking for any further coverage of this case, but I think you should address this issue with your court reporter and perhaps make sure that what you air is more accurate and balanced.

R. Finch

We are waiting for a response. We are waiting for the email to be accepted as a comment on the news story.

I have this blog, so really, we do not have to wait. I prefer to save this blog – and all of my online communications – for lighter, happier pet stuff.

But this one cut deep. I went to court – well because I was ordered to testify, but I went to court with the hope of learning why. Why did he not bring Bear Dog back? To us for further care or even – in the late stages of his illness – for euthanasia? To another hospital? To the humane society? How could such a seemingly pleasant and kind person allow his dog to waste completely away? I have no conclusion because I am stuck here.

I promise – *NO after pictures. You will never get them out of your head. And I promise back to lighthearted next post.

You sure were a sweet dog. I am sorry that I did not save you, and I am sorry that the case ended how it did. I am glad you are no longer suffering.

8 Responses to “The Truth About Bear Dog”

  1. bob nelson says:

    The world is better for your strong values and caring attitude. When the world is unfair, it hurts. This is a sad story. Why or how a pet owner could do this has not come out in the legal process nor in any comments made thus far by the owner. Time is the healer in this story and your courage is needed to change the world and deal with the sadness when you can’t. We are immensely proud of you and all you stand for. Love, dad

  2. Other Mom says:

    I agree with everything your dad said so well! I understand how painful that was for you. Proud of Russ too, for his email. I wonder how much the judge was influenced by the breed of Bear Dog. You did everything you could and hopefully some good will come out of it sometime! Love you!

    • Thank you Mom-Karen! Yeah, Russ put into words well what I could not articulate from the middle of being so sad and angry. I don’t think Bear Dog’s breed was a factor, but honestly I do not know why the judge ruled as he did. If I find out more, I will let you know! Love you so much.

  3. Becky christ says:

    Dr. Finch, your staff that dealt with the case along side of you are do greatful for u telling the Real story, knowing how bear looked at the time of his passing is not only a memory but is embedded in my mind! We know we did the right thing in our heads and hearts. From the first moment we met Beat dog we knew this wax something serious and that is why we were in continuos communication with his owner, hoping he would understand the urgency of his health situation! U did what we could legally do to help bear, we a wished we could have done more. We are who we are because we love animals and want them to be cared for properly. I just wish everyone else shared our feelings and understood the importance of medical care, love you doc and am proud to be a member of our team!

  4. Karen Osborn says:

    A group of us from Hands, Hearts & Paws were in the courtroom that day, awaiting a different animal cruelty case, but we all sat through Bear Dog’s case. The outcome was very disappointing to all of us, and the comment that sticks in my mind is that his owner said he didn’t notice him losing weight. I don’t know how any caring dog owner can have a 105 pound dog that goes down to 57 pounds, and they don’t notice. There is no excuse for him not seeking more medical attention!

    • Karen, I have to tell you having you all there – though it took me all day to put the story together that your case was as heartbreaking as ours – having you all there was such a comfort. God bless you and all of your efforts to save animals. <3 AGREED on all counts about poor Bear Dog.

Leave a Reply