One day, I returned home from a horrible day at our veterinarian’s office, where we were forced to end the life of our 13-year-old dog, Sophie. After four days of subtle but worsening gastrointestinal symptoms, she succumbed to what we now believe was poisoning from ingestion of rat poison. We aren’t sure whether she ate the poison directly or a dead animal who had ingested the poison. All we know is that she could not possibly have come across it in or around our home, as we never use poisonous substances of any kind here. Our family had no idea where she could possibly have come into contact with this dangerous and deadly substance until we started reconstructing the last few days of her life.

We had taken our sweet Sophie out on a long walk around our local watershed. She was an older gal who enjoyed leisurely strolls and sniffing. Occasionally, as much as we tried to prevent this, she would eat things she shouldn’t when we weren’t paying close enough attention. We assume that this is what happened that day. That evening, she was stiff and much less energetic than usual. We chalked it up to her age and an especially long hike.


The next day, the stiffness was worse, so we gave her an anti-inflammatory medication that we occasionally used to ease her aching joints. When she didn’t really improve, we weren’t too concerned and planned to let her take it easy for a few days. By Sunday morning, however, she was refusing her food and not wanting to go out for her walks. We debated taking her to the emergency vet, but since we know dogs occasionally have indigestion, we opted to wait it out and hoped it would pass. But by Monday morning, she was lethargic and throwing up.

We rushed her to our veterinarian’s office, where staff members asked if there were any possibility that Sophie had ingested rat poison. They were perplexed when we answered, “No, not that we can think of,” but quickly proceeded to explore other possible causes. She underwent a series of X-rays, blood work, and an ultrasound while her condition deteriorated despite treatment with IV fluids and anti-nausea and pain medication. When she started displaying neurological symptoms, it became clear that she was not going to survive and we made the heart-wrenching decision to end her suffering. We said goodbye to our sweet little girl whose life was stolen by someone who carelessly put out poison. Our family was and still is devastated.

Sophie was a very special part of our family, and we miss her desperately. Her untimely death is made all the more distressing by the fact that we had the privilege of her presence for only about eight months. We adopted her from a senior-dog rescue that had pulled her from a Los Angeles–area shelter where she had been left by the people she had lived with her whole life. She came to us depressed and neglected. She wouldn’t wag her tail, take a treat from our hand, or even sniff the grass when she was out on a walk. She flinched whenever we reached to pet her and rolled over on her back in submission whenever we approached. She obviously had been kept confined, punished for the slightest infraction, and left alone a lot. It was an honor to help her find peace and safety, and she blossomed in our care. It didn’t take long for her to find happiness and joy in the smallest things in life. She came to us after we had lost our previous dogs to old age, and she helped us heal while healing herself in the process. We wish we could have had more time to show her what life should have been like all along. She deserved much more than she got.

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Many people do not know that rodenticides (poisons targeting rats and mice) are dangerous and harmful to anyone who comes into contact with them either directly or indirectly. They typically contain slow-acting anticoagulants that cause their victims—who include “nontarget” wildlife and companion animals like our beloved Sophie—severe internal hemorrhaging and a prolonged, agonizing death.

Please help prevent this tragedy from playing out in another family’s life by not using these deadly substances and supporting legislation to ban them. If you live in California, please contact your state representative right away and ask him or her to always support Assembly Bill 2596, which bans anticoagulant rodenticides.

Written by Deb Claassen

Nine years ago, Deb Claassen became a PETA member after PETA introduced her to a cruelty-free lifestyle. She has since become a frequent participant and organizer at animal rights demonstrations throughout the Bay Area and has even done a few “racy” PETA-style demos as well. Deb loves running and cooking fabulous vegan food and is the guardian to several rescued bunnies. She has a soft spot for senior dogs.