12th Oct 2021 @ 9:52 am

Lanzarote vet jane burke talks about the distressing criminal acts that she and her dogs have suffered this summer.

This summer is not the first time my dogs have been poisoned.

Less than six months after we arrived, in 1996, four of our five dogs died a dreadful death when the goat farmer close to where we lived seeded the land with strychnine hidden in scraps of meat.

I had never heard of, let alone experienced, this inhumane practice before, but it was a common nightmare in those days, and over the following decade I saw cases every week. (Before one condemns the locals for such practices, I would remind you that most ex-pats here contribute knowingly and willingly to the massive cruelty of the meat and dairy industry. God bless the internet and TV that pets are now mostly treated as well, if not better, by the Spanish than by us immigrants.)

Most of the poisoned dogs died an excruciating death, and a significant number of those that could be saved required euthanasia because of irreparable brain or heart damage. More recently, awareness has increased that poisoning is not just the act of sick cowards; it is also a serious crime punishable by prison. These days, thank heavens, cases are rare.

This summer, however, someone has been throwing some sort of decayed flesh into my dogs’ yard, causing clostridial food poisoning in whichever dog found it first or ate the largest share. So my greedy old basset Leah ( in end[1]stage heart failure) suffered the most frequent and most serious episodes, whilst my fastidious and non-food-orientated pointer escaped altogether.

Clostridial poisoning isn’t pretty. It commences some 2 to 12 hours after ingestion with the pain of excruciating abdominal distention, followed by profuse painful bloody diarrhoea lasting 12 to 36 hours. Fortunately, a very close friend was staying with us here in our home. She is an experienced retired nurse who has assisted me for years and I can never thank her enough for helping me to nurse my dogs and clean up the carnage throughout those dreadful days and endless nights. She saved my life.

At first, we thought it was my greedy old dog eating some mouldering rubbish she had found dropped by a bird or out on a walk. But later Nancy, my tiny podenco, started with the same heart-wrenching pain and dreadful diarrhoea. So we halted all off-leash exercise. Then my tiny Lhaso apso nearly died, and Leah had a second bout. Endless on-line research and consultation with other local vets and sample analysis got us nowhere.

All walks stop when Leah begins to suffer for the third time. It’s much worse this time, and she very nearly dies, in so much pain throughout the endless night. As dawn appears I fill the syringe to ease her out of her suffering for ever, and curl up with her for maybe our last cuddle. She falls asleep in my arms and when she wakes later, she is soaked and smelly but definitely feeling a little better. Sadly, Nancy is just starting with her second bout.

Finally, we come to the conclusion that whoever is repeatedly hurling wine glasses to smash in my forecourt is also chucking something into my yard, and all loo breaks are now escorted with one or other of us on the lead. We then notice that the dogs always race each other to one place by the wall, but we find nothing there.

Nearly a week later I get distracted as I am letting the little Lhaso out, but when I rush after her she seems fine, so I didn’t worry. We get up the next morning to a lounge that looks like a slaughterhouse. My whimpering little dog is unable to walk. This time the samples are conclusive.

Find the criminal

I reach despair when the glass-throwing leads to a shard in Leah’s pad that requires general anaesthesia (not to mention several tyre punctures). So I go public on Facebook. I discuss the security camera footage with the authorities and spend even more money on improving the quality of photographic evidence.

I thank all those who offered help for your kindness and concern. I thank the few that phoned me with anonymous material, but I need more! Someone knows who is doing this and I can only hope they find the courage to come forward! Clearly, whoever is responsible is seriously deranged and, next time, it could be your pet or your child that is affected. Please, if you have any information at all, please tell someone.

The only good thing to come out of all this is that my dogs have lost their Covid weight gain. Sadly, I myself eat when stressed and have a close friend who is a brilliant pastry & cake cook, not to mention a certain special couple that work so hard to help feral cats and still find the time to gift me vegan chocolate. With the result that I have actually doubled my lockdown love handles!

For those of my clients, especially out-of-hours consults this summer, who may have wondered at my even higher levels of scruffy chic and, possibly, my even less organised paperwork than normal, I apologise.

To those who have contacted me with kind words and offers of support, I would like you to know how much your support is appreciated.

To those who have kept my spirits up with their kindness, company and endless generosity and vegan food, I can only say thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Let’s give all our furry family fresh water in clean bowls and raise a non-shattered glass ourselves to the end of all animal suffering for any human purpose, and to the hope that we wake up in time to give this planet a chance.

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