Service dog in veterinary ICU following PetSmart stay, owner says

 thestar.com  7/13/2018 11:42:12 PM 

By Jenna MoonStaff Reporter

Fri., July 13, 2018

A Toronto man is speaking out after his service dog became severely ill after boarding her with PetSmart’s PetsHotel boarding service.

Corey Dixon, 23, says that he boarded his dog, Aspen, at an Etobicoke PetSmart location for a week while he took a trip to a cottage in Muskoka with his family.

Aspen, 4, is a service dog who is trained to wait for help if her owner Corey Dixon suffers a medical issue stemming from his heart problem.
Aspen, 4, is a service dog who is trained to wait for help if her owner Corey Dixon suffers a medical issue stemming from his heart problem.  (Corey Dixon)

Dixon says he was concerned about exposing his dog to ticks and other wildlife while travelling, so chose to board her with the pet supply chain for the duration of his trip.

When he arrived to pick her up, staff brought Aspen out to meet him. She was covered in her own vomit, shaking and unable to stand on her own.

“She kind of hobbled over to me and collapsed in my arms,” Dixon said. “From there we brought her outside onto the lawn, gave her some water, and then we took her right away to the emergency vet.” Aspen remains in the vet’s ICU, where they are working to stabilize her.

In an emailed statement to the Star, PetSmart said an internal investigation is underway, but that initial findings indicate its employees “followed all policies and procedures.

“Additionally, we have asked the pet parent to provide veterinary records so we can better understand the root cause of Aspen’s illness.”

Aspen appears to have eaten the bed in her cage, Dixon said. “Instead of taking the bed out of the cage, they left it … she kept eating it,” he said. Dixon alleges that while employees noticed Aspen vomiting for two days, they did not call their on-call vet.

Dixon said he paid extra for a premium package that should have provided on-call vet care if Aspen experienced any issues.

The vet found that Aspen had dropped to 69 lbs in the course of a week, losing 14 lbs since he saw her last, Dixon said.

The four-year-old dog is Dixon’s service animal, specially trained to wait for help if her owner suffers a complication stemming from his heart condition. If Dixon has a medical incident, Aspen, who wears a bright yellow vest, will lie with him until assistance comes. “My dog’s basically saved my life three times now,” Dixon said.

This is the first time Dixon has ever decided to board an animal, he said, but not the first time he has left without her. “I usually take her out (with me) when I’m alone,” he said. When he’s with family or friends that are aware of his medical condition, he’s able to leave her at home.

“Every time we called (PetSmart) to check on her, they said she was entirely fine and nothing was wrong,” Dixon said.

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