This is a sad story. 3 out of 4 originally healthy and happy pups in our O-litter are crippled for life during the dewclaw removal process due to a veterinary mistake. The veterinarian, who performed this procedure, is Iris Aamisepp (kennel Revalrose). The vet denies all responsibility for this mistake, although the same mistake has happened with her twice - once in kennel Tiigira (where one pup needed to be euthanized due to too severe damage, and another one is crippled for life) and the second time in our kennel Fortuneia (3 out of 4 pups are crippled, they need continuous veterinary treatment and have undergone surgeries).
So what happened?
It was Eve's very first litter at her home, so she did not have any experience with raising a litter. A couple of days after the birth of the puppies, Eve turned to a veterinarian Iris Aamisepp, who herself is a Bernese breeder and who makes housecalls, regarding removal of the dewclaws.
The veterinarian agreed to help, arrived, did the cutting off part and then wrapped all the feet with elastic bandages, saying that the bandages may be removed not earlier than in 24 hours, to avoid mother's licking and wound contamination.
But as a result, the little feet got badly swollen, blood and lymph circulation partially stopped, and some toes became permamently damaged on 3 puppies out of 4.
Eve has put a tremendous amount of care, sleepless nights, tears, love and hope into raising those little ones and providing them with the best possible care under numerous veterinarians (and human doctors too). Cleaning, massaging and salving of the legs in every 2 hours, day and night, 2 months in a row wasn't easy. People, who know this story, have been very supporting and helpful. Also, the veterinarian herself was there for the puppies during their first weeks, she came over often and helped with massaging and medical care until a month. Thank you all! At times like that, we see how many great supporting people there are around us, and we couldn't be more grateful.
However, there are always people who represent the bad sides in life.
Initially, we sold one puppy to Finland, to Sysmäläinen family in Loviisa. They found the litter in our kennel website and contacted us. We informed them about the leg problem by more than one e-mail, and also sent photos and a video; we repeatedly said that when you see the puppy for the first time, take a good look at the leg and if you don't like what you see, don't take the puppy - and there will be no costs for you, we will take care of transport all the way.
But they kept sending e-mails saying "it is ok, we don't want a show dog anyway". It seems now that all they saw was the fact that they could get a "cheap" puppy (we gave discount of 700 euros from total price, to cover possible medical costs in future; the reasons for the discount were also clearly stated in our sales contract). So they took the puppy.
But after a week they started to blackmail us by e-mail - the puppy was limping, and they wanted to get back the sum they paid for puppy PLUS us to cover all the medical costs PLUS they wanted to keep the puppy for themselves. And if we didn't agree to their terms (free puppy plus all medical costs), they threatened to make complaints to Finnish and Estonian Kennel Unions and also newspapers.
We told them that OF COURSE they will get their money back immediately, no question about it, and also we pay all the costs they have had, but we will take the puppy back (as veterinarians in Finland had recommended to euthanize the puppy). So we went to Finland, paid them everything they asked for, but took the puppy back to us. However, as they wanted (actually DEMANDED with a written reclamation) a free puppy plus all costs, they were not too happy to give the puppy back to us.
As we didn't listen to their blackmailing and didn't leave the puppy there, their next step was - as they had threatened previously - to make an official complaint to our kennel union, containing lines like "the breeder did not say anyting about the leg", and "we don't believe the breeder's explanation of how the trauma was caused" - whereas in fact, we sent more than one e-mail with photos (+video) and thorough descriptions of the situation, and we also offered them not to take the puppy, suggesting thorough examination when they'll first meet him. We did not sign any contracts beforehand - we were 100% open and clear on the fact that the pup is not perfect and they should make their final decision only AFTER they meet with the puppy. No strings attached.
Here is one of our e-mails, sent way prior to actually delivering the puppy (but the same topic was discussed in other e-mails as well):
"I am sorry, but I don't think that the toes will heal and become normal again. The bone is ok, and I think that the puppy's movement will be ok too, but the foot itself - the soft tissue - is "messed up". One rear foot is completely ok, therefore I hope that the puppy will move ok and have a healthy life, but the other rear foot is deformed and is esthetically not beautiful. Please see the photos which I send to you, on some photos you can see that one leg is different. It will stay different... I am sorry that I wrote to you earlier, that it would be healing soon - this was the initial information given to us by our veterinarian, but it seems to me now that I gave you wrong information...
After you see the photos yourself, what do you think, will Blue Moon still be your "baby"?
But if you think that it can be a problem for you, please let us know by e-mail, and we will not send the puppy to Finland.
Please think about it. If you still decide that Blue Moon is "your baby", and you want him, he will arrive to with Helen on Saturday at around 13 o'clock or so. Helen will send you SMS with the exact time. Blue Moon will have a baby package with his toys and food, and we will also send you a big bag of Royal Canin puppy food, as Eve wrote to you about. And you can make your final decision then - when you finally meet.
The family responded that they are ready to take the puppy and they don't mind taking care of him. So the puppy went to Finland. Upon delivery, they were offered another chance not to take the puppy, but they still did. We were happy and thankful to seem to have found people with such a kind, loving, emphathic heart, who could see past the visible defect and offer a good loving home to that little boy!
However, after a week the family's story changed, and they wrote to Eve:
"you pay all cost what came, and bädis price and then i must take call to
i hope you think this very well, because thing is, that you didnt told us what is real situation was! you didnt send me none picture of it, that we would see real paw. and i ask you and riina meny times that is this defect of toe take harm to bädi, and you said that it is ok, and no harm, just little defect.
i know that i have some right here. and i hope you think bädis health more than money!
like i said i can try to fix it with my money, if you pay back the price 500 and this vet bills, about 350 eur or less.
i had meny friends in here who says that i must go to layer, but i do not think that yet. so?
please think, what is best to bädi. it is not good to he, that we give it back to you if our vet opinioin is that bädi can not health. and it is now proved that you can not take there enough good care from estonian veterian.
if you not agree that , i must say that then i must do actioins, because you have some resbonsibilitys of famous estonian preeder.
recards nina" and finnish kennelliitto and tell the story to them. And i think newspaper is intrested allso...
At first, we didn't even understand, where did this come from, since up to that day, all seemed to be well and we seemed to have agreed and understood each other. It was like... out of the blue - haven't we had enough sadness and worries already within the past 2 months? Why add even more negativity and sadness to this story? Is it going to help the puppy in any way? Does it make the puppy's leg better? Can complaining to the kennel union "undo" the damage to the foot? The family got all their money back from us immediately and without any objections, the puppy is now in good hands and being deeply loved the way he is, without the euthanasia threats. Therefore, considering all the heartache, tears and endless caretaking which we had already endured over the past 2 months, we were not even going to add more fuel to this fire - instead we would accept the accusations, move on, and focus on giving the best care to this brave, kind and joyful little puppy.
After the pup returned to us, we went to an orthopedist (again!). As it came out during our visit to dr Pihkva, the reason why the puppy didn't want to use his one rear leg was the fact that he had a small wound under the paw, and there was some inflammation and dirt inside the wound. We don't know, if the wound appeared before going to new home when he was still here in his birth-home, or did it happen in Finland - but to euthanize a puppy because of a wound (which actually healed with proper care, salving and antibiotics) is not the concept we could accept.
Below is also a video, sent to us by the Sysmäläinens a few days after the puppy settled in to his new home in Finland:
To be honest, we don't see him limping or in visible pain in that video. We don't see a reason for euthanasia either. Do you? Of course we understand that we might be seeing those puppies "with the little hearts and pink bubbles in our eyes", but still - we don't see "a troubled puppy who is in terrible pain and should be put down" - we see a rather happy puppy, ready to explore the world and to overwhelm his family with puppy-love and positive emotions; and the fact that his one rear leg is aesthetically different, should not define his whole existence.
As of today, Blue Moon is living in Estonia, under the care of a loving family. Needless to say, we gave him to his new home for free. He has needed occasional treatment, as the leg sometimes gets inflammed due to thinness of the messed-up tissue under the paw, but wearing a dog-shoe on one leg has helped him in everyday life.
Here are all the 3 puppies (at 7 weeks of age) who suffered from the damage (the 4th one got lucky, as his bandages came off way before 24 hours, and he is healthy, spending his days with Sandie and her other dogs in the USA).
Today they are big, self-confident, kindhearted and playful dogs with strong bones and nice breed type. It is very sad that their start in life wasn't the best, and for that, we take the full responsibility. As of today, none of the 3 are noticeably limping any longer, but 2 of them are still occasionally wearing a shoe, to provide protection to the soft tissue. They are all living close to Eve near Tallinn and we will always keep a close eye on them.
For all three, healing has been slow. They are missing side toes in the injured legs. They have undergone surgeries - one of them to remove a part of the toe-bone, which was growing out of the skin in the deformed leg, and the other one had some phalanges removed in toetips, as they were in wrong position, therefore hindering the flexibility in the paw.
But as time goes by, they are getting better; the limping is almost gone by now and hopefully will never return. The bones seem to be developing properly; but the soft tissue which suffered most from the pressure of the elastic bandage, has been deformed and will stay that way. They need to continue their frequent orthopedist appointments but otherwise we believe that they are having a good life. Now that they are young adults, beautiful boys with the best character - we are happy we didn't give up hope on them and didn't choose euthanasia instead of treatment. Although their lives are a bit difficult, considering the matter of possible leg-related problems, and they need clinic visits more than an average Berner would, they are bringing much joy to their families. We thank orthopedist Martti Lasn for figuring out the treatment schemes and also for well-performed surgeries. It must not have been easy for him to come up with those solutions, as injuries like that are not seen often, and there is not enough experience available in the veterinary world, what exactly should be done in cases like that and what to predict for the future. But his help has considerably improved the life-quality and movement of the boys - even so much so that one of them is now a junior champion and a champion of more than one country. Per aspera ad astra!
Wishing you all to NEVER have to go through anything like that,
Eve & Riina
PS. Please learn from our mistakes - DO NOT ALLOW YOUR VET TO WRAP ANYTHING AROUND YOUR PUPPIES' FEET AFTER DEWCLAW REMOVAL! NEVER EVER! No matter how "gently" they think they do the wrapping, it can be fatal. As we wrote in the beginning, another kennel had the same experience a few years ago but it was kept quiet; in that kennel (Tiigira, litter of Ola Odelsgutt av Hiselfoss x Private-Stefal Danny), one puppy had to be euthanized, as one of its legs was already rotten, when the bandage was removed the next day. Yet, sadly, the vet never learned from this previous incident nor shared it with Eve. And since Eve didn't know better, it made it all possible to happen.
What we find a bit strange is that the vet refuses to accept any responsibility whatsoever. Zero. She has not paid even the smallest amount of compensation (although in the beginning she agreed to compensate the price difference, for which amount Eve lowered the sales price of the recovering puppies). Today, she tells people that she has never told Eve to keep the elastic bandage on for 24 hours, and everything is Eve's imagination. The vet is insisting on her hypothesis that Eve removed the bandages and re-wrapped them much more tightly. It was not true. That change in storyline doesn't come as a surprise to us, as dr Aamisepp told exactly the same thing about Tiigira's breeder, when denying that she might have done anything wrong with those pups also. We have never said that the responsibility is 100% on vet's shoulders - no, not at all, mostly we ourselves are to blame for our lack of knowledge about do's and dont's of taking care of dewclaw removal wounds. But shouldn't there be at least a fraction of the responsibility shared?
Also - obviously - Iris Aamisepp is not happy with us for making this case public. However, if we wouldn't make it public, then it is likely that she would continue her practice of using the elastic wrapping after dewclaw removal. She didn't learn from Tiigira's case - who says she would learn from our case? At least breeders can protect their puppies, if they have information that something like that can happen.
Had exactly the same story been made public a couple of years earlier, perhaps everybody would have already known better in our case. And perhaps us making it public will save other upcoming litters from similar pain, which we and our 3 puppies had to endure. We, the humans, will eventually get over it, but the affected dogs are going to have a disability for life, they will never heal completely.
And in the end... to think of it - maybe that vet is right about accepting 0% responsibility? From a theoretical point of view, if the vet had told us to place the puppy in the pot of boiling water "to avoid mother's licking and wound contamination", we obviously wouldn't have done that. Yet, for some reason, when she told Eve to keep the elastic bandages on for 24 hours, she trusted her and followed this suggestion. The vet never informed Eve about her previous experience in Tiigira kennel, never said to be careful with the bandages - she just said that those should be in place until her recommended time, otherwise there would be a risk of contamination of the wound. Was Eve right not to question this? No, she was wrong. But who knew...
So, to leave the mixed emotions aside, the bottom line is - who else is there to protect the puppies from any harm, if not the breeders themselves - no matter how stupid recommendations they get from outside? And, sadly, we were not up to task in this situation. Please, protect your puppies, learn from our mistake.
"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." - Henry Ford
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