Daily Prompt: Breaking the Law

Today’s daily prompt

Think about the last time you broke a rule (a big one, not just ripping the tags off your pillows). Were you burned, or did things turn out for the best?

I’ve never been one to break the law and I try hard to abide by rules.  My parents raised me to be honest and to always obey rules and I’ve pretty much done just that.  I’ve been called a goody-goody by more than one person, but that’s o.k.  I can think of worse things to be called.

As far as breaking the law, I’ve had a couple of speeding tickets.  For both, I was doing around 42 mph in a 35 mph speed zone (oh the shame)!  I also got pulled over for running a red light which I did not deny to the police officer.  It was one of those situations where the light turned yellow when I was approaching, but I felt I would have had to have slammed on my breaks and so I chose to push the accelerator and the light turned red just as I was going through it.  I saw the blue lights and pulled over.  I confessed my guilt and the very nice police officer let me go without a ticket.

There was one time I can recall when I knowingly broke a rule.  I was a senior in veterinary school and doing my clinical rotations in the small animal medicine clinics.  At the time, I acquired a patient who I became very attached to.  He was a great white beauty– a big white German Shepherd named Tellico.  He had a draining fistulous tract on the right side of his neck (cause unknown).  His owners had forfeited ownership of him and donated him to the veterinary college.  I suspect financial problems were the reason for them handing him over, but I never really knew for sure.  Poor Tellico had undergone multiple surgeries by some of the best veterinary surgeons in the country and the cause of his fistulous tract could not be determined, nor could it be “fixed.”  I was told he would always have this draining tract and there was nothing anyone could do.  The owner of the veterinary clinic I had worked at while at home had a big white German Shepherd named Buster who guarded the veterinary clinic at night.  Tellico reminded me so much of Buster.  Both dogs were smart, but only when they wanted to be.  They were both big lovable old goofballs when it came right down to it.

The first day I met Tellico, I did not know that he had a reputation for “having a bit of an attitude.”  Tellico had somewhat of a dominant personality and he could be a tad aggressive.  This little tidbit of information had not been told to me and there were no warning notes on his run saying so.  I was on a very busy rotation and had about 8 patients under my care and I had to have each and every one of those patients SOAPed by 8 am.  SOAP is an acronym for subjective, objective, assessment, and plan.  It is a method of documentation used by health care providers to record written notes in a patient’s medical chart.  It is a good method but very time-consuming.

I got to the veterinary school that morning at 5 am so I could SOAP all my patients, do my charting, and be on time for 8 am rounds. This particular week had not gone well.  I had not had much sleep and I was beyond tired.  Among other things, I had broken I don’t know how many mercury thermometers that week and spent more money than I could afford replacing those thermometers.  I walked into the dog run where Tellico was, introduced myself to him, petted him, told him how beautiful he was, etc., and proceeded to get his TPR (temperature, pulse, and respiration).  He let me know pretty quickly that he wasn’t having any glass thermometer inserted into his body cavity and twirled around and growled at me as soon as I lifted his tail to insert the lubed-up thermometer into his rectum.  When he whirled around, the thermometer went flying across the run shattering in about 5 pieces.  He was my first patient of the day and now I was without a thermometer for the umpteenth time that week and still had 7 other animals to SOAP.  I let him know real quick that I would not tolerate this behavior, nor was I in the mood for it.  Knowing I was risking getting bit by him, I bent over him and pointed my finger at his muzzle and told him I would not put up with that kind of behavior.  I meant business and he knew it.  From that point on, we had an “understanding” and we became the best of friends.  I bonded with that dog like I had never bonded with another animal.  Eventually, I had to rotate to another rotation and Tellico became another student’s patient.  Whenever that other student or doctor couldn’t handle Tellico or get him in the bathtub, someone would say, “Go get Gail– she can handle him.”  And I could.  I’ll admit, he could be intimidating.  He was huge.  We became best buds and I loved this dog more than I could ever describe.

Then a fellow student informed me that they “had heard” that Tellico was going to be used for research.  Transmissible Venereal Tumor (TVT) research to be exact.  Transmissible venereal tumors are tumors that can be transmitted among infected dogs during mating.  In male dogs, these tumors affect the genitals– the penis and prepuce, and rarely the mouth and nose.  These venereal tumors can grow quite large and can block the urethra and cause urinary retention.  Nasal TVTs cause discharge, nosebleeds, facial swellings, lymph node swellings and oronasal fistulas.  They are horrible tumors (if you don’t believe me google image Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumors).  The researchers would infect him by injection with the TVT and then his tumors would be studied.  I was devastated and horrified and frightened for my boy, and decided to do everything in my power to save this dog.  I owed it to him.  He was my friend and I loved him.

I went to the head surgeon who had overseen Tellico’s surgeries and care.  I told him I wanted this dog and asked if I could have him.  Other students had taken on donated animals as pets and I knew this for fact.  He was hesitant and pondered my proposition for a while.  Then he informed me that Tellico’s veterinary bills were a little over $1,000 and if I could pay off his bills, the dog was mine.  This was insane from my viewpoint.  I was a poor veterinary student going to school on student loans and basically living off of $20 a week that my parents sent me (hey this was 1985).  I told him I could not afford that.  I wanted the dog anyway.  I begged and I pleaded.  If necessary, I would have gotten down on my knees (fortunately it didn’t come to that).  He finally gave in.  Tellico was mine and he would NOT be getting injected with any transmissible venereal tumor.

The problem?  I lived in graduate/married student housing.  They had a strict NO pets allowed rule.  I knew of others breaking the rules and the people below me, beside me and across from me all had cats.  I willingly knew I was breaking the rules but I felt desperate and I took Tellico home to my apartment.  Now, hiding a 7-10 lb. cat in an apartment is easy.  Hiding a 125 lb. white German Shepherd?  Not so easy.   I walked Tellico every morning before I went to the vet school.  I came home at lunch every day and walked him and then again first thing when I got home in the late afternoon.  I got more and more attached to this dog.  He thrived in my care, gained weight, and got a healthier hair coat.  I took care of his draining fistulous tract.  I purchased clippers and shaved around the tract opening, scrubbed it with betadine soap and flushed it with betadine solution weekly.  He grew very accustomed to me doing this and didn’t mind it a bit.

One night I had gone out to run a few errands.  I took Tellico with me.  When we returned to my apartment, I let him out of the car.  He ran around the building to the nearest tree to empty his bladder.  I was getting grocery bags out of my trunk.  I was walking up the sidewalk and there sat some men I didn’t recognize by some bushes.  I heard one of them say, “Grab her purse!”  I froze.  From nowhere, Tellico, somehow sensing there was danger, came bounding around the corner, his hair on his back standing up, and a fierce growl coming from deep inside his throat.  I heard one of the guys say, “Damn, she has a bodyguard!”  And they took off.  I shudder to think what would have happened had Tellico not been there to protect me that night.

Several weeks later, I found a note on my apartment door.  It was a note from the apartment manager saying they were aware that I was harboring a dog and I was threatened with eviction if I did not get rid of said dog within one week.  It seems the tenants across from me had been caught with a cat, and so they in turn snitched on me, saying it wasn’t fair that the girl across from them was keeping a huge German Shepherd in her apartment.  I wrote the apartment manager and told him my Tellico story.  I begged and pleaded.  They told me if they let me keep a dog, they would have to let everyone have a pet.  That was true.  Rules were rules and I had broken them.  My dog had to go.  Tellico stayed at the veterinary college a couple of weeks and then my parents at home agreed to keep him until I graduated.

I kept Tellico well into his old age. He was a part of my life when I got married and a part of our family when we brought our firstborn home from the hospital.   He became our son’s guardian and protector. He was a part of our family and we loved him.  I can’t tell you how blessed I was from the love this dog gave to me over the years.  When he developed health problems, my husband and I had to make the agonizing decision to euthanize him. I couldn’t do it, so the veterinarian I was working for at the time, my boss, agreed to take care of it.   I held Tellico’s head in my arms and he took his final breaths as I cried, my husband cried, and the veterinarian performing the euthanasia cried.  My heart broke in two that day.  We buried Tellico at a pet cemetery where I had several other childhood pets buried and have buried some since.   I miss him to this day.


Tellico and the horrid Harvest gold kitchen floor from the eighties

Tellico and Patches (Patches was a stray puppy who joined our family about 2 years after I adopted Tellico)

Tellico and Patches (Patches was a stray puppy who joined our family about 2 years after I adopted Tellico)

So that’s my story.  Did I knowingly break a rule? Yes I did. Do I regret doing it? No, I don’t.  At the time, I felt desperate to save an animal’s life– an animal who was a friend and who deserved a better life than the fate he was being dealt.


About Gail

I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, veterinarian, and wanna be writer. I love nature and animals of all kinds, music, cooking, and spending time with my family.
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9 Responses to Daily Prompt: Breaking the Law

  1. What a lovely story Gail. You had such a history and bond with your dog…you broke the rule for a good reason and I applaud you for that.

    • Gail says:

      Thanks for reading this. I never like breaking rules, not even then, but at the time, I couldn’t come up with an alternative and I felt desperate. I don’t have any regrets over it.

  2. enitsirk24 says:

    Very touching story. RIP Tellico.

    • Gail says:

      Thank you. Somewhere I have a picture of Tellico’s grave and headstone at the pet cemetery. I had wanted to include a pic of that for this post but couldn’t put my hands on it.

  3. determined34 says:

    Love this story, thank you for breaking rules for the greater good. Humanity and rules are often poles apart, you had the strength to challenge – 🙂 D34.

    • Gail says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I knew when I brought him to my apartment that it was just a matter of time before I got caught. I was actually shocked at how long I was able to keep him there before they blew the whistle on me.

  4. Pingback: Daily Prompt, Breaking the Law | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice

  5. Gail says:

    Reblogged this on Moonlight Reflections and commented:

    The prompt word today is “infect” and all that came to mind was this post I wrote several years ago. So here’s a reblog. It’s from my veterinary school days and it’s about a dog (who was a patient of mine) and who I fell head over heels in love with, despite our rocky start. So feel free to educate yourself on Transmissible Venereal tumor in dogs.

  6. Julie says:

    Bless you for saving him. It makes me sick that dogs are used for that kind of research. Just sick.

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