Westminster Dog Poisoned?
Owner and handler of Cruz, a three-year old Samoyed, suspect foul playPublished February 28, 2013
A huge mystery surrounds the untimely death of a magnificent three-year old Samoyed dog named Cruz, a competitor at the recent Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. According to an item in today’s New York Times, the cause of his death remains unclear, however symptoms are pointing in the direction that Cruz possibly ingested rat poison. One of his owners, Lynette Blue is confident that her dog ingested poison; a necropsy was not performed.
On the evening before the competition, Robert Chaffin, the dog's longtime handler, and Cruz shared a steak and retired for the night at a midtown Manhattan hotel. Cruz died less than a week later when he was competing in another show in Lakewood, Colorado. And while the Samoyed didn’t win top prizes at the Westminster show, Chaffin said that he had a promising career ahead.
Foul play has not been ruled out by Chaffin and Blue. Intentional poisonings of show dogs are extremely rare according to experts, although in 1895 eight dogs were poisoned the morning prior to the competition. At the time, the headline on the front page of the New York Times read, "Jealousy Believed the Motive."
After Cruz began vomiting blood, Chaffin rushed him to Animal Critical Care and Emergency Services in Lakewood. Cruz was treated with oxygen and an I.V. infusion, but in spite of treatment the Samoyed died within a few hours. Some experts speculated that Cruz may have had an undiagnosed rare genetic disorder, similar to hemophilia; however Blue said that there were no blood disorders in his bloodline, nor did he have a history of trauma.
Veterinarians commented that dogs who have consumed rat and mouse poisons have similar symptoms to those Cruz exhibited. Additionally, it can take between three to five days for symptoms in a dog who has swallowed rat poison to appear. This means that Cruz most probably ingested poison while in New York.
The veterinarian who treated Cruz, Dr. Molly Comiskey said, “Dogs are dogs. It’s not anyone’s fault. They eat stuff; they get into things; they make bad decisions. ” However, Chaffin said that it would have been difficult for Cruz to have accidently ingested poison. He specifically checked for rat poison in every corner of the hotel room they shared, and the room and all the hotel accommodations appeared to be safe overall for dogs. The hotel manager added that the hotel uses no harmful pesticides.
While Chaffin claims that no evidence exists that Cruz was deliberately poisoned, he recalled that he encountered a stranger at the Westminster show who glared at him and made a disapproving remark about Cruz’ vocal cords being removed to quiet him. Chaffin added that it would have been really easy for someone to throw something toxic into his cage.
Dog show exhibitors and animal rights groups’ philosophies often clash. Ingrid Newkirk, the founder and president of The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said they have sent representatives to the Westminster Show in an effort to disrupt show rings and distribute their material on site. But she claims that PETA had nothing at all to do with Cruz’s death. She said, “PETA does not sanction that. It’s so scurrilous; it’s so low to even suggest it.”
While folks have been sending condolence messages to Cruz’s connections, Blue keeps wondering what really happened to her beloved dog. She said, ““It’s devastating. We keep thinking of the various scenarios, and it’s starting to feel like something we may never know.”
While this is, indeed, a terrible tragedy, and my heart goes out to Cruz’s connections, I cannot help but wonder why his owners chose not to have a necropsy performed. The results of the procedure may have helped to solve a mystery that now will remain elusive.
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