Tugger is No Longer With Us

Please read the whole post before reacting: we need some privacy on the happenings of the last couple of weeks, and don’t want to deal with the topic of our Savannah cat on Facebook.

This is probably going to be the toughest post I have ever had to write, but I have to do it:  Tugger died recently, after we rushed him from our Norman vet’s office up to what turned out to be an expensive, incompetent animal hospital in Edmond, Oklahoma.

He had been having respiratory/bronchial unpleasantries for a couple of months, manifested as around-the-clock sniffles and sneezes.  At first we just thought that, like us, he had developed alleges to something in the environment–we both take antihistamine pills an a daily basis, and I have an inhaler that a sleep doctor had prescribed for me last year, so we thought that Tugger, too, had developed an allergy to something or other, just like us.  We had gotten so used him giving us a wet sneeze almost on an hourly basis that we were probably slow to notice that the sneezes were increasing in frequency and wetness over the last couple of months.

Too, Tugger had trouble dealing with the loss of his “play thing,” Diva, our old, sole remaining Tonk.  She had to be put down two months or so ago, as she got progressively worse and worse, finally, seemingly, out of her normal state of activity (and mind).  That was harrowing enough, of course, as Claudia took Diva to a local Norman animal hospital on a Saturday afternoon because our regular vet’s office was closed.

At any rate, we got through her death, but Tugger just didn’t seem to be himself.  His symptom was sneezing (sometimes very “wet” sneezes), but we thought his change of behavior (slowing down, lethargic, etc) was due to to loss of his playmate, Diva, and not to the source of the sneezing.

We took Tugger to our local vet, a woman who knows Tugger well.  She still works on Tugger’s dad, the Serval, Boz; and she did the work on Tugger when he was very, very young: getting him “fixed” and declawing him.  Dr. Leopard initially had Tugger on Prednazone and some pills that Claudia had to force him to swallow.  Thankfully, he wasn’t all that impossible to deal with on getting the pills into his mouth several times a day, although there were times that Claudia got a bite from him, or when he coughed out the reminder of the pill a few minutes later.  But, he and we were coping with that pretty well.

Unfortunately, things turned worse after Diva was gone.  Claudia had resorted to taking her to a Norman animal hospital at 24th and Highway 9 on a Saturday afternoon (the office of our vet, Dr. Leopard, had closed at 12 noon) and ask that she be put down.  She was delirious and howling and growling, so clearly in deep, deep pain.  It was tough enough having to put Diva down, but now we though we saw in Tugger a very lonely big cat who had lost his buddy/plaything.  After Diva was gone, he wasn’t as active as he had been previously, just sitting hours on end on our bed, or on the loveseat in Claudia’s office.  Just not himself.  And, of course, the sneezing from time to time continued.

We finally took Tugger back in to see Dr. Leopard, who did some testing, and didn’t find what she was looking for, so suggested that we take him to either Stillwater (the OSU Vet School is there) or to Edmond, to a new animal hospital there.  We chose Edmond because it was an hour and a half closer to us.

We got Tugger checked in at the Edmond animal hospital (called Blue Pearl), paid them over $1,200 for the lab tests they were going to run, and came back to Norman.

We planned to pick him up, saying we would wait on all the other costly tests they wanted to run. We just wanted him home. When Claudia called to see if we could make the trip back up to Edmond, we were told he was not coming out of the sedative they had given him, and that Blue Pearl wanted to keep him longer, to oversee his ‘waking up’ process. We agreed.

Then, we began getting troubling calls from the “internist” vet who was in charge of his case, and finally, she called Claudia late in the evening to say that Tugger had been given “a little too much anesthetic” and was not recovering as quickly as they had hoped. She told Claudia that they had mistakenly given him double the dose, but assured us that he could have tolerated up to 50 times the dosage (!).

I won’t go into the details, but . . . yes, the internist later called us back to say they had “lost” Tugger . . . but were trying to keep him alive by respirating him by hand to see if they could get him back.

The vet called us at something like 4 a.m. to say that there was a little response in his paws, but not in his eyes. I had hope; but Claudia had lost all hope by then. The internist talked about doing a CT scan, and Claudia’s cynical belief is they kept Tugger alive on a respirator in order to do the CT, hoping to find evidence that would clear them from negligence. They recommended we put him to sleep after the CT.

Later that morning the internist admitted that Tugger would not recover. Tugger’s vet told us that even IF he recovered, he would be severely disabled. We agreed that we did not want Tugger to suffer a moment, and putting him to sleep was the only choice we had. The internist said she would personally take Tugger’s body up to Stillwater that day for an autopsy (well, for animals its called a necropsy, I think).  I said yes, we want a necropsy.

When a week had passed, I called Stillwater and talked to the person who knows if animal reports are done or not, and she said it wasn’t yet completed, and no, I couldn’t have it: only the vet who delivers the animal gets it. Again, Claudia’s cynical alarm was going off…was this why the Blue Pearl vet offered to deliver him to OSU . . . where she used to be on staff before taking the job at Blue Pearl?

I did some checking in the OKC area for lawyers who handle animal cases, and found several.  But I also found out from a receptionist at one of the “human” malpractice law offices that I also called that there is a national veterinary association that is in charge of licensing vets, and that association knows what state offices exist doing that job, and that those offices have procedures that allow citizens to ask that a vet or an animal hospital be investigated.  Searching the web, I found this page:


That led me to the Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Examiners  which then led me to a consumers page and a complaint form that calls for an investigation by the Board.

In the meantime, we have visited with a original veterinarian who saw Tugger when we lived on the east side of town.  His office is on the east side of Norman, but we got an appointment with him, and showed him a copy of the OSU necropsy report which we finally got sent by the internist at Blue Pearl.

This old vet, a Dr. Russell, noticed that the OSU report noted “a high dosage of opiods” given to Tugger. Dr. Russell scanned the report and kept repeating his astonishment that Blue Pearl admitted to us and to the doctors at OSU that they had mistakenly overdosed Tugger on the sedatives.

We are currently waiting to see if Blue Pearl is going to try to collect the other several thousand dollars they had originally said were going to be charged us for an MRI and a CT scan to “diagnose” Tugger.   (Russell says he has heard Blue Pearl is now owned by Carnation, and their team of corporate lawyers: in other words, “it isn’t going to be easy.”)

I can tell you that if they do try to collect another huge billing, we will engage an attorney and file a law suit against them.  If they don’t, I will just wait a little time and then file a complaint with the State Vet Board to look into their having killed our pet through their staffs’ incompetence.

Now, Believe it or Not, a Slightly Positive Ending:
Kismet in the Form of Nahla

While this was playing out with Blue Pearl, Claudia had texted Tugger’s breeder’s daughters, who both know Claudia (she was their . . . high school reading teacher, of course) and had helped us get our first Savannah (their father breeds his serval, Boz, to domestic Bengals, and gets Savannahs.  And they live northeast of Norman, out north of Lake Thunderbird).

Two days after Tugger’s death, the daughters told Claudia that their dad had just received a call from one of his Savannah families, an older couple, who could not keep their Savannah, because the wife was dying of cancer, and the husband was not able to take care of the cat and her.   Their dad, Brian, was waiting for a call from us to see if we would be willing to take the female Savannah off this other couple’s hands for them.

Then the kicker: the Savannah, a female named Nahla, was Tugger’s sister . . . from a previous litter by the same Serval father and Bengal mother . . . just a year prior to Tugger’s litter.  So, Nahla was Tugger’s sister!

Here is a picture of Tugger:






Here is a picture of Nahla, in her former house:








So, we still have some of Tugger in our house, although it is a “I’m-in-charge-here” sister, who Claudia says views us as her house staff.

!! We Haven’t Said Anything Publicly (on Facebook) Yet for Several Reasons !!

We just aren’t ready to deal publicly with the fact of Tugger’s death, and the almost immediate replacement that just dropped into our laps through the kind services of the breeder’s two daughters.  They were the ones who brought Nahla to our attention, and I’ll tell you we were both teary eyed as we spoke to their father, Brian, about taking him up on the kind offer to put us together with the Miller’s, who live in Bethany (on the west side of OKC) and who have had Nahla as their only cat for 8 years.

But, sooner than we expected, we were (and are) dealing with a brand new “family” member in the house, another Savannah who is figuring out where to hide from those two strange animals who are around her all the time.  She hides under the dining table when we are in the living room, only infrequently coming out to come into the living room around us.  But, she is softening her stance too: she sleeps at the foot of the bed, and even meows on the floor in the mornings running through our feet.  But then she remembers that we aren’t the two humans she has known for her whole life.

So, it will take some time.  But progress is being made on a daily basis.

PLEASE, PLEASE DON’T MENTION TUGGER OR NAHLA ON FACEBOOK.  We just aren’t prepared to handle questions about this two strike emotional change that we have had to endure recently.  We are working on it, but let us decide when.

Hope you understand.

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