Dedicated to Millie - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-11-2008, 11:04 AM Thread Starter
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Dedicated to Millie

The whole reason I thought this topic would be of benefit was due to what happened with MatsiRed's Millie. There have been many other discussions that have made me think that I wish I had known that information, but Millie's story is more than a "WTF is happening" but a wake up call to ensure that we, as guardians of our dog's lives, do not just rely on the professionals to be professional but be aware enough to ensure that proper care is taken especially at this very difficult time.

I encourage every one to read Millie's thread as it celebrates the life of a senior dog with the fortune to be part of Donna's pack but it also contains a lot of information that is relevant when we help our canine companions to make that journey away from us. I have copied a part of Donna's post on that thread but I do feel other parts are relevent and I hope that these will be added to this thread.

Originally Posted By: matsired
Hi all,

Again, I'd like to thank all of you for your support and input into this situation with Millie. I'm still healing and I've learned a lot through this experience.

Last week, our president, Karen M and our Foster Home Coordinator, Milou G, and I met with the hospital administrator, the chief of veterinary services, and the vet who gave the initial injection. So there were six of us in the room.

After the introductions, the hospital administrator asked me to speak first, about why I was there. I had prepared a letter the night before and told them I wanted to read it to them, which I did, and have included that letter below if interested. It was four pages long, and the three of them listened intently and added as the meeting went along. The administrator responded first, expressing their sorrow and regret and said they would get to explaining the changes they plan to make in their protocol as a result of what happened to Millie. He then asked the chief to explain, medically, how it could happen that the injection did not stop Millie's heart on the first try. Dr. xxx sat quietly through most of the meeting, but she was noticeably affected by how the whole experience had hurt us. She expressed her apologies and said she has learned from this and will always go back to check the animal a second time, and with other checks besides a heart beat. Karen mentioned later she had tears in her eyes more than once, including when she talked about having gone to the website to look at Millie's story. I reassured her that I did not blame her and believe she's a good and caring vet who probably made an error in judgement. I went on to explain that my only goal was to come out of there with peace of mind that no other pet or owner would find themselves in my shoes. Between Karen, Milou, and myself, we made it clear, I think, that GSRNE has high standards and we were there not just for Millie, but for all defenseless animals and their caretakers.

The meeting lasted a good hour. They told me how they tried to accomodate me during lunch hour, a bad time to try to handle a euthanasia, and that would be avoided in the future. Part of the delay between injections was that the initial vet injected and then left the building for her lunch, so they had to track down another vet. The other problem was that the drugs were kept locked up and had to track down ?keys. And in terms of how we were treated, most of the people we saw at the desk were new and in training. These were their explanations, they said, but not excuses.

In terms of why the first injection didn't work, they really didn't have a definitive answer, only theories about how maybe the IV was partially infiltrated and Millie didn't get the entire dosage. The chief did say that this does happen, that pets have been euthanized and found alive in rooms all over, and brought up how many facilities around the country only have one vet on staff and often that vet leaves after the injection. It did NOT appear that he accepted this as matter of fact at THIS particular facility, but he did seem to speak about it as something that 'just happens', and heart injection usually follows. I emphasized how consumers are getting smarter and more demanding and maybe it was time to raise the bar, and how about starting HERE. I kept bringing up my own experiences as a nurse, as that was my only reference point. They asked for my input on how I would handle things differently. I suggested they start with a plan B, as they didn't seem to have one. I reminded him that in medicine, things are bound to go wrong, and when things go wrong at my own patients bedsides, I can open a door to my collegues and have my patient back under control within a matter of minutes. And if there is a family that is struggling, we have a staff that is trained to watch for that, and there is always someone to support and comfort and keep the communication open with them, and I felt that was lacking with their own staff. In fact, I emphasized that people seemed to be looking past us, as if Chris and I weren't even there.

Millie's story is posted on three different forums, and without using names, except for Chris's, I copied and read some of the posts, so many of you were also represented there, especially Chris who was stuck at work up in Maine. They seemed very interested. The chief asked me to let people know that euthanizing your pets is one of the best gifts you can give to them. He was concerned people would lose faith in their vets now and no longer want to euthanize their pets. I reassured him that it wasn't that people would no longer euthanize their pets, but many may no longer simply 'drop them off'. Many may now instead remain with their pets, especially knowing what (or what not) to expect. He seemed relieved. He also said he wanted to visit our website to meet Millie, as he hadn't done that yet. He also clarified for me that checking pupil reflexes after a lethal injection does not equal death, as conscious sedation 'may' also interfere with pupil reactions. He also told me there was not a standard policy by the veterinary board for euthanasia, which shocked me, actually. We went on to talk a lot about these sorts of things, comparing human and veterinary medicine practices. Some of our discussion was educational, and some of it, a therapeutic purging of emotions toward the people we felt hurt us, although I felt very much in control and shed no tears.

I also told him that this incident has done one great thing for pet owners, as it has opened up many conversations about euthanasia and people are now talking about something that is very hard for most people to talk about or even to think about. I told them I planned to sieze the moment, in Millie's honor, and I had hoped they would, too.

The vet that gave the first injection didn't talk too much. She's a fairly new vet, and she was very apologetic and remorseful, not defensive at all, and said she had learned a lot through this. She thanked me for having mercy on her (?) and said she will pray for my nightmares to go away. I liked her (also had checked her out before the meeting), and I told her as much I didn't want to see her hurt, I felt it would be irresponsible of me to keep silent. All agreed that it was best to address it and deal with it openly, that quality of care was important to all of them at this facility, and they wanted to take the appropriate steps to make positive changes. And at this point, from what I've learned along the way, I know people who bring their pets there, and I wouldn't discourage them from doing so.

In the end, I'm satisfied. Many people encouraged me to get legal representation. I disagree. I feel our society is way out of control with lawsuits, especially for the helping professions. I also think lawsuits do more harm than good, in the end, for our society as a whole. I feel this particular situation involved reasonable people, and warranted a round table discussion, to shake things up enough to bring positive changes. We all shook hands at the end, and the vet and I hugged each other, with a clearer understanding of who we both are and what we stand for.

The administrator told me that he would call me/GSRNE in a few weeks to let us know what changes they made. My gut tells me, for various reasons, they will do the right thing. BUT, in the worse case scenario, if I learn about another incident, I will come forward again, only this time you can bet I won't be so nice.



GSD - Quynne, born 29 sept 2004
MalteseXPoodle - Buddy, adopted Jan 2004 - RIP 14 May, 2009 9-11yo
Galah - Birdie-girl - adopted in 1999 when she was approx 12yo
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-11-2008, 11:05 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Dedicated to Millie

Donna's letter

Dear xxxx;

I am writing this letter today to explain my point of view in terms of the euthanasia incident that occurred with Millie on June 20, 2008.

This is NOT about blame. I know the medical people at xxx are high caliber.....So I’m not here to attack anyone, just to help you understand why it is so important that I feel we all be here today.

Over the past 18 months, through our website and several others, Millie had touched many hearts, many who either wrote or called our rescue to let us know how she impacted them. For instance, one person from the midwest adopted a senior from her local shelter and named her Millie. Another from California called GSRNE to thank us for all we did for her. Another from Virginia has a dog with DM and writes that she has been encouraged by Millie's story. One drove up from Connecticut just to meet her. Being able to show a pictorial diary of an old debilitated dog living a full happy and comfortable life, being treated with dignity and respect, has had a ripple effect out there in the world, and many more people will laugh and cry, and then perhaps, foster or adopt, their own seniors, and that will be part of Millie's legacy.

I decided to euthanize Millie that Friday morning because when I came home from work, I found her in her bed unable to steady herself in a sitting position. I was warned that the DM can move fairly quickly in the later stages, and so there it was. She looked mentally frustrated, gave me an unusual LOOK I had been told would happen, and I knew I couldn’t allow her to go on another day. I had been up all night working and awake almost 24 hours by then. Chris Harriman, one of GSRNE’s board members, had stayed overnight with her to help with her while I was at work, and thankfully she was ready to support us both down that path to dog heaven.

.... I felt that anyone anywhere could handle the job, as long as I could be with her. But then I was asked to hold a few minutes, and then I was told there was a vet who could handle it, to bring her right in, which we did.

Once at the hospital, we walked into the room and I placed Millie on top of her bed on the table. The vet tech handled all the paperwork and payment up front with Chris, and then xxx walked in, syringe and needle in her hand. I stayed with Millie at her head, stroking her and loving her up. The vet had a hard time getting the iv in, and Millie struggled. But I was actually glad that she fought, told her how proud I was of her, and told her to come back to me as an earth angel to help me watch over other homeless seniors, that she would make a good protector of them because Millie was a warrior. I knew things would be over quickly, seconds to minutes.

Millie's body quickly became limp, Dr. xxx listened to her heart, and told both Chris and I that she was gone. She and the tech left the room, told us to take our time, and then Chris and I sobbed like babies. I kissed her all over, making jokes about how I loved every part of her body but I wasn't about to kiss her stinky butt, and made Chris stay down at that end, as we were laughing and crying and making jokes with our 'dead' Millie. At one point, Chris noticed that Millie's eyes still looked like 'she has a spark in them'.

I had brought a blanket that her sponsor, Nancy, had sent to her over the winter. I brought it to send it with Millie to heaven, and covered Millie with it as she 'slept'. But when Chris mentioned the sparkle in her eye, we both thought the same thing, 'let's make sure'.

There was no stethescope in the room. So I put my hand under the blanket and felt her chest, and thought I felt her heart beating, really fast. I whipped off the blanket only to find her chest expanding and contracting. I put my hand to her nose, and there were normal warm breaths of air on my palm. Chris confirmed everything very quickly and then I lost it. Looking back at the times on the digital photos since then, we were about 15 minutes into her supposed 'death', and I couldn't put thoughts together. I became inconsolable, because as a nurse, I knew there was little chance of getting another IV into her, and horrible visions of botching my precious dog’s body started to creep in.

Chris remembers me opening the door and yelling, 'My dog is NOT dead, she's not dead, come back'. We felt we were being ignored. I had heard someone say earlier that this was the time that everyone goes to lunch, and wondered if that's where they all were.

Finally, a tech came in with a stethescope and she calmly said, "you're right. I'm sorry. I'll be right back."

Nobody came back right away, and we couldn't figure out why not. Chris was steaming in a corner, and we took turns pacing. I kept my hand at Millie's nose, feeling her warm breathing, and the other hand on her chest, feeling a heart beat that was NOT slowing down. It was all so confusing. At this point, I had gotten control of my sobbing because I thought I better not upset Millie, but inside, total panic.

I opened up the door for a second time, and looked toward the desk. Again, nobody came, and everyone at the desk seemed to look away. So I yelled out something along the lines of, "My dog was euthanized here. Do you understand she is STILL ALIVE? The drug your vet gave did NOT work. We are STILL WAITING for someone to come back and finish the job."

Not long afterwards, a second unknown vet came with a tech, syringe in hand. She listened and confirmed she was still alive, and reassured me that she was in no pain. She then proceeded to tell me that it was now going to be even more difficult to get an iv in because she probably had a low blood pressure. And she was right. It seemed to take forever, as she poked and poked her chest area with a huge needle. I stayed at Millie’s head and tried to talk us through it, asking her who she forgot to say goodbye to. I went through the list of all her dog friends. I took her down memory lane. I kissed her head and neck all over again, and thanked her for giving me some bonus time with her...

Finally, a final injection, she listened, and said she was gone. She handed me the stethescope. I asked why I was still hearing heart beats. She listened again and mumbled some technical term I can't remember. Then the next listen, there was nothing. I watched her chest fall for the last time with one final breath on my palm, and then it was over.

Nobody had an explanation for us. A fluke. On no sleep and under terrible diuress, unable to put a single thought together at that moment, I accepted it. In fact, I actually felt bad for Dr. xxxx, thinking how traumatic this must be for her, too, and consoled her too, when she made her final entrance with an apology. Chris, on the other hand, turned to her and said, "she is a lot more forgiving than I am, and I'm very angry." I had no room for anger, on top of confusion, shock, and immense grief over not being able to protect my dog as she made her way to heaven.

I trimmed Millie's fur off at the very end, and through my tears, I inadvertently cut a large chunk of tissue on her neck. I noticed that she did not bleed, and said THANK GOD it was after the final injection that I did this, and now I continue to have the 'what if' nightmares that don't seem to let up yet.

I still have horrible insomnia, with visions of all the chaos in that room. During my worse moments, the needle is not a needle. It is a sword, piercing Millie’s heart, over and over again. And although a big part of me believes that Millie didn't have awareness of pain, the chaos in the room, the way we were ignored during and after, and the awful medical procedure is a lot for me to bear. Millie and I were enmeshed with each other through my nursing care of her, and I had worked extremely hard to make sure she was kept safe and comfortable, with a peaceful ending for both of us. I realize it was not intentional, but that peaceful ending was snatched away from all of us.

And it's not that I can't handle horrible medical procedures. [Removed at the request of Donna] But none of my past experiences helped prepare me for what happened in that room with Millie, because our bond was very tight. My best peace of mind is that she is now dead and free of pain.

I looked at her photos recently. I see her awake and alert, engaging with Chris and I. She even drank a bowl of water before her injection. She seemed calm. Chris and I were calm enough to take some final photos of her with each other, and I wanted to take after photos to remember how peaceful she would look, sleeping peacefully on her comfy bed with her blanket ready to cross the bridge. But now I look at them as a time reference from the time recorded on the digital photos, beginning to end. There was approximately half an hour between the first injection, and her final breath, and it surely felt it.

Quoted from Millie's chart:

"6/20/08. Dog here for PTS. Not doing well. Very emaciated; recumbent. Elective euthanasia. Butterfly catheter IV RF. Euthasol 5.5cc IV slowly. HR with RR still present. Euthasol 4cc intra-cardiac."


GSRNE has many missions. One, the most obvious one, is about rescuing homeless animals. Millie was dumped on the streets probably because she was old. GSRNE took her in because nobody else wanted her. And ironically, she has helped us accomplish some of our other missions. We like to think we set the tone for how dogs should be treated as family members, no matter how old or how sick they are, they deserve respect and dignity, all the way to heaven. Hopefully, her photo journal has helped get this message out to the public. The other part of that is education, and ironically, here we are, dealing with something nobody likes to talk about with their dogs. Well, I’ve been talking about it, on three different websites. This incident hurt Millie, me, Chris, and all of German Shepherd Rescue of New England. It has also hurt hundreds and possibly thousands of people who have followed her from as far away as Australia and Canada. One of those websites has had a documented 7,829 views. Another, has 700 members, with those members having many friends and family members talking about euthanasia now. And I’m not going to put this to rest, and so I ask you today, what are your plans to help insure no other dogs or loved ones will travel down this path of **** that I found myself on with Millie? And I encourage you, as veterinarians who are given the God given priveledge of mercy killing, to not only find ways to educate your patrons about euthanasia, but to also do some sensitivity training and euthanasia education with all of your support people at xxxx Hospital, as when some are understandably too busy, they can play a key role in terms of communication and support during times of chaos and emotional turmoil.

Help me turn this negative incident into something positive so that we, as a society, can benefit from what we’ve learned from it.


Donna Joseph and Millie and GSRNE and friends


GSD - Quynne, born 29 sept 2004
MalteseXPoodle - Buddy, adopted Jan 2004 - RIP 14 May, 2009 9-11yo
Galah - Birdie-girl - adopted in 1999 when she was approx 12yo
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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-11-2008, 11:07 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Dedicated to Millie

Millie's thread

RIP Millie


GSD - Quynne, born 29 sept 2004
MalteseXPoodle - Buddy, adopted Jan 2004 - RIP 14 May, 2009 9-11yo
Galah - Birdie-girl - adopted in 1999 when she was approx 12yo
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-12-2008, 05:50 AM
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Re: Dedicated to Millie

thanks Qyn and Donna, Millie and to all the others that have shared stories, advice ect on this topic on this board

I am sure this will be of great help to many


Allie, gotcha 7/2007

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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-15-2008, 05:08 PM
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Re: Dedicated to Millie

Donna's letter left me in tears all over again. Dear Millie...... what sweet heart of a dog.


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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-22-2008, 12:01 AM
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Re: Dedicated to Millie

I'm still at a loss for words over here, even at this point. I know that the administrators of this forum don't do anything without some serious thought and consideration of how it will benefit the members and the dogs. I think devoting an entire section to mercy killing is a brilliant move, irregardless of how we got to this point.

BUT, to know that it's been dedicated to Millie, well, I can tell you that Millie, as noble as she was, would be extremely proud, and proud OF you. So both Millie and I would like to THANK THE ADMINISTRATION FOR THIS HONOR!

Thank-you also to Alison who made the suggestion, and to all those who supported it, and the moderators who will be volunteering their time to monitor this section. I see that there are already quite a few resources, and I've already started to digest some of it. Even before Millie's demise, this was an area of interest for me, so I hope to be able to add to the discussion, and continue to learn and grow from it.


Here lies a most beautiful lady,
Light of step and heart was she:
I think she was the most beautiful lady
That ever was in the West Country.
But beauty vanishes; beauty passes;
However rare, rare it be;
And when I crumble who shall remember
This lady of the West Country?

Walter de la Mare

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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-23-2008, 09:45 PM
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Re: Dedicated to Millie

My God, Donna - I had no idea what you've been through with laying Millie to rest. I am so, so sorry.
Thank you for sharing all of the very painful details - it has taught me things I never would have thought of.

Joyce (NY)

Sheena 12/10/03

Forever in our hearts.....

Nikko GSD 7/17/04 - 1/4/11
Schatzi GSD 5/12/90 - 3/12/04
Sheena GSD 10/22/86 - 5/7/90
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-20-2009, 09:53 PM
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Re: Dedicated to Millie

This topic is the reason I joined this message board. I had been doing some basic research on my pup and just happened to come across this group and this topic in specific. Believe it or not I sat down and read all 16 pages of comments on Millie's thread. I am not the type of person to cry. As a matter of fact I can't remember the last time I did cry. But I am not ashamed to say that I cried like a baby. I haven't had anything move me or touch me as much as Millie's story has in my entire life. And it wasn't just Millie's story that did it. It was the outpouring of love and support from everyone who had responded that got to me as well. I have shared this story with my wife, who just recently lost her dog of almost 15 yrs. Bear was a shepherd/chow mix. Needless to say she was bawling too, which in turn got me going again. She said she is going to come read her story as well.

But after reading all of this, I feel like I know some of you like we have known each other for years. I have cried, laughed, rejoiced and cried some more right along with you.

MatsiRed- I thank you for sharing this story with us. It has truly touched me. I don't pretend to comprehend the pain that you had to deal with, but I can understand how much joy Millie brought to you. I wish you all the best and please know that Millie has reached out and touched one more heart.

Thank you again,

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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-21-2009, 05:49 AM
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Re: Dedicated to Millie

I don't know how I missed this thread last July. I had followed Millie's thread as I have a soft spot for seniors and knew she had gone to the bridge.

I feel sick to my stomach that this happened to Millie. Donna, I'm so sorry.


Kryska's Ironwill Steel Train SD (Siberian Husky)
Mila (GSD) Adopted from BDBH.

Waiting at the bridge:
Lady Jane Cobb (GSD - age 15)
Sasha (Siberian Husky - age 13)
Niko (Siberian Husky - age 14)
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-21-2009, 06:39 AM
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Re: Dedicated to Millie

I am, very very sorry. speechless.

"You can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals" -french proverb
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