A Lesson in Empathy

mrchops ktnv
Mr. Chops, as pictured on the KTNV website.

What sucks:

A Good Samaritan picked up a lost dog in Henderson, Nevada last month and brought him to a local vet.  The vet scanned him for a chip and determined he had an owner.  The vet then called AC to pick up the dog.  Right then and there, either the vet or the ACO (or both) should have contacted the owner.  But that did not happen.  Instead, the ACO loaded the dog onto his truck then went on several other calls.

Meanwhile the dog’s family, Jim Whipple and his 17 year old son Brandon, were actively searching for him.  Mr. Chops had been rescued by the Whipples many years ago and was well-loved:

The Whipples say Mr. Chops loved to play with socks and was full of energy.
“If something was going on, he was always there to comfort you.”

At 4:30 pm, the ACO returned to the shelter, parked the truck and left for the day.  It was 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mr. Chops suffered in the heat, trying to claw his way out of the cage, until he finally died.  His remains were discovered the next day when the ACO returned to work.  The police department, which runs AC in Henderson, is investigating itself in the matter and won’t comment on the investigation.  They will say however that in future, the policy will be to brings dogs back to the shelter in a more timely manner and to check the truck to verify there are no animals on it before leaving for the day.  Ya think?

Although I said it at the beginning, it’s worth repeating:  all that sucks.  Mr. Chops’ agonizing death was entirely preventable.  The dog never should have been loaded onto the truck in the first place.  A microchip, as we are so often scolded by various AC outfits, is supposed to protect your pet.  But as has been reported way too frequently on this blog, microchips only work when AC does their job.  Government investigating itself is unacceptable.  The fact that there was no existing policy which required ACOs to check the trucks before leaving them for the day is inexcusable.

What doesn’t suck:

When the Henderson police realized that Mr. Chops was dead, they wanted to notify the owners:

The family was notified in person by a Henderson Police deputy chief, people from Animal Control and a grief counselor.

By sending these particular people to the Whipples’ home to deliver the tragic news, the Henderson PD not only demonstrated empathy for the family but also respect for the fact that to most owners, pets are family. They recognized that in all likelihood, the news would be heartbreaking for the Whipples.

And while many of us might be tempted to issue a call for someone’s head as a result of the needless suffering and death of our beloved family member, Mr. Chops’ people responded differently:

The Whipples say while they hope to see policy changes, they do not want to see the officer who left Mr. Chops in the back of the truck to lose his job.
The Whipple family was obviously devastated, but says they realize it was a tragic mistake.

“Honestly, I understand people make mistakes they can forget things. I often forget things, but it is a life. He is gone,” Brandon Whipple said.

“We as a family are concerned about the poor individual that made the mistake and left him in because they have the grief to live with,” Jim Whipple said.

Both father and son saying they hope that everyone can learn from Mr. Chops’ death.

Yes, I believe we all just did.  Thank you.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

5 thoughts on “A Lesson in Empathy

  1. The Whipples are a whole lot nicer than I!
    The pos who did this and the rest of his wonderful can all DROP DEAD with the rest of the abusers!
    Death to all abusers!

  2. I once spoke to someone who thought that the moment a chip is scanned, the system alerts the owner. I had to tell her that no, it only gives a chip number. It’s up to the finder to contact the chip company and get the owner’s contact info. Of course, people also think that chips are somehow also GPS trackers…

    But a vet should understand how a chip works and make the damn call. Or the ACO should have. SOMEONE should have. And then to drive around all day with this poor dog in a hot truck and then LEAVE …

    That poor dog. That poor family. I cannot imagine.

  3. This happened at my shelter many years ago. I was the one that found the cat after a weekend in the truck. The employee in question who has some mental disorders to be sure (I do too so not judging but…) blamed me because I was the one on duty all weekend, but I had assumed the cat was at the vet (no good internal communication either).

    After a slap on the wrist and a temporary transfer to another county job for a few weeks, he was back and still works there.

    I ended up having to quit (a few years after the incident) after realizing that the issues were systemic and that nothing I was doing seemed to make a difference. I was being emotionally harassed by the worker, had rumors spread about me that I was sleeping with the police chief, and when I brought up industry standard changes I was told they couldn’t be implemented. Ultimately I became suicidal so I had to leave for my own health and safety… as well as I’d become so depressed that my care of the animals and our lovely volunteers had also become sub-par.

    I was also not supposed to talk about this after the internal investigation. But it’s been a few years so whatever, I don’t really care.

  4. A simple Post-It note, stuck on the dashboard or the center of the steering wheel that said “Dog on board” is not hard to write out – I forget things too, and that’s what I use to remind myself I need to stop at the gas station. It only took 2 times of running out of fuel to implement that. I can’t be as nice as the Whipples either, because 1) take the dog you picked up right to the shelter on a hot day – your truck could stop running anytime, for any reason, and having pets in the truck is dangerous, and 2) this is a living, breathing creature – if you need a reminder that you’ve got precious cargo on board – and especially if there’s only ONE SMALLISH dog, let it ride up front in the cab with you, so it’s not left alone, scared, hot, and rolling around in a small, dark, hot space out of sight – and mind – for however long you’re wandering around, doing dog-knows-what-else.

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