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How Lucky Lucy Survived Being Poisoned

By: Stephen Sawicki

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Barbara and Gerald Kawadler adore their dog Lucy, so when the Labrador retriever mix nearly died from eating a strychnine-laced hamburger, they were completely distraught.

The nightmare began the day after Christmas 1998. The Milton, Mass., couple let Lucy and their daughter's two dogs out in the yard. It wasn't long before Lucy was stricken.

"First, she was hyperactive," Barbara recalls. "It was like she couldn't find a spot for herself. Then she started having seizures."

Controlling the Seizures

The Kawadlers rushed Lucy to Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston, where veterinarian Tracy Lehman treated her. "At first, they didn't know what was wrong," Barbara says. Lucy was put on Valium in an attempt to control her seizures.

The Kawadlers left Lucy at Angell and returned home to discover that their daughter's dogs also were seriously ill. The Great Dane died before they got him into the car. The yellow Labrador succumbed en route to Angell. Lucy was the sole survivor.

Poisoned Hamburger Patty

A search of the yard turned up a hamburger patty tainted with strychnine. Someone in the neighborhood was poisoning the dogs.

The Kawadlers recalled how Lucy came into their lives nearly a decade ago when she was just a puppy. Someone at their daughter's office brought her to work. One thing led to another and the Kawadlers had a new pet under their roof. Gerald brought Lucy with him to his heating and air-conditioning business almost every day. "She was in charge of complaints," Barbara says with a laugh.

But on that December day in 1998, Lucy was fighting for her life. The Valium was not controlling her seizures, which if left unchecked, could have caused brain damage. So doctors anesthetized her, which did the trick, then intubated her so she could breathe. They also performed gastric lavage - to essentially pump her stomach - and gave her activated charcoal to absorb any remaining toxins.

In all, the poison killed six dogs belonging to four families. Only Lucy survived, most likely because she ate less than the others and because she was treated quickly. No arrests were made.

Lucy left Angell - to much media fanfare - and was home to welcome in the New Year. She's still going strong, and the Kawadlers couldn't be happier.

"Lucky Lucy is alive and well," reports Barbara.

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