When Port Alberni resident Ryan Frechette's sixyear-old dog Bella chewed out stomach staples from a recent surgery, he had no choice but to take her to Nanaimo, where the canine was euthanized after an hour of blood loss during the trip.
Because it was 7:45 p.m. on a weekday, no afterhours veterinary care was available in Port Alberni, and Frechette had to wrap the dog - which he says was more of a family member than a pet - in towels and make a dangerous drive to the closest of two 24-hour veterinary hospitals on the Island: Nanaimo's Central Island Veterinary Emergency Hospital.
The story isn't unusual for residents in areas surrounding Nanaimo, who rush their pets to CIVEH for most serious injuries after regular vet hours, even if a vet is on call.
After going through the horrific experience in early Sept, Frechette's family has started a petition for after-hours care, as well as a Facebook group called "Save My Pet 24hr vets," which already has nearly 400 members.
Frechette said the vets in Port Alberni have been great with his pets during regular hours, but he sees a systematic problem and doesn't want anyone to go through what he and his family did.
"(Bella) was bleeding, there was blood all over my kitchen floor," he said.
"We had to wrap her in three towels and a blanket and my friend had to sit on her to keep her down. There was absolutely nothing I could do for her."
By the time Frechette, along with his fiance and a friend, raced to Nanaimo, a doctor at CIVEH told them the dog could be taken into surgery, but only had a five to ten per cent chance of making it out alive.
"All it did was prolong her suffering for an hour before we got her there and realized there was nothing we could do," said Frechette, who admitted the normally hour-plus drive took only 45 minutes that day because of his panic.
"I just don't want other people to have to drive that highway the way we did in that condition and then have to make the drive back like that."
Sharon Poulson, another Port Alberni resident, had a similar experience when
her one-year-old dog Sawyer was hit by a car on a Sunday afternoon.
She had to rush the bleeding canine to CIVEH on icy winter roads - with her daughter in the back seat.
"He was dragging his leg and we assumed he had a broken leg and he was bleeding," she said.
"I, of course, was panicking and I had him in the back seat with my daughter. I was too stressed, I should not have been driving. That was what worried me too."
Poulson said her dog survived with no complications, but the thought of others making the same dangerous trip this winter worries her.
Dr. Alana Symington of Manzini Animal Hospital in Port Alberni said her clinic is the only one in the city that offers afterhours care, but because of a lack of resources, it can only offer it a couple days a week.
She said most of the time, she, and other on-call vets in the area, will still direct people to Nanaimo because CIVEH vets can watch the animals overnight.
"Two days in the five days of the week Manizini will be on call and two weekends a month," she said.
"We often talk to clients (over the phone) and recommend they go to Nanaimo. We have clients who opt to see us first then we recommend they go to Nanaimo but then they have to pay two sets of fees."
Symington said any animal which needs hospitalization is generally sent to the Harbour City, as on-call vets can't supervise pets overnight.
"I do know people that work in Courtenay that send animals to Nanaimo. I know some Campbell River people that send them on to Nanaimo.
"That's, again, because none of us are here, we have to work during the day," she said.
"Before the emergency hospital, we had no choice. Clients knew when there was a situation where their animal was left alone in the cage.
"There were animals that could potentially pull their IV out, have a seizure (etc)."
CMcKenna @nanamodailynews.com 250-729-4230
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