Lily’s Story... A Heartbreaking Tale of Love & Loss By Candace T. Botha


or Kate Wagner of Wisconsin, French Bulldogs and flourishing houseplants are two of the topmost passions in her life. Earlier this year, however, little did Kate know that her two “loves” would collide in such a tragic and deadly way that her family would be left shattered and brokenhearted. Born and raised in “the Badger State,” Kate is a young career-oriented woman who worked as a special education teacher before leaving public education to pursue her doctoral degree in occupational therapy. In addition to her doctoral studies, she also teaches virtually in her work as a dyslexia interventional specialist, an online oppor- tunity that began long before the pandemic and a career that she absolutely loves. It was during the summer of 2019 that Kate Wagner of Wisconsin purchased a 6-inch plant that she had spotted at a big box gardening store in her

community. Because of her love of houseplants, Kate couldn’t pass up the plant that was priced at only $5.00. For nearly a year, the plant sat on a small table by a sunlit window, well out of reach of Kate and her boyfriend’s two dogs... ...Or so Kate thought. It was in April of this year that Kate and her boyfriend, Alex Siekman, left Lily, an 18-month old, 20- to 22-pound French Bulldog, and Mac, an 8-year-old, 30-pound French Bulldog, alone while they went downstairs to do some housecleaning. “The dogs were on their own for about an hour,” Kate recalls. “Lily, however, must have suffered some sort of separation anxiety while we were gone.” When the young couple came back upstairs, they discovered that Lily had chewed up the entire plant perched on the table, and she also had eaten some of the potting soil. But that’s not all the young couple found…there also was vomit everywhere. The houseplant that had thrived in the sunlight for 10 months was a Sago Palm. “After discovering what had happened, I immediately began searching the Internet for information about the plant,” Kate recalls. “I had no idea that Sago Palms were toxic, and when I purchased the plant, there was no warning label on the pot.” Without hesitation, Kate and Alex took Lily and Mac to the local emergency veterinary clinic, where she received excellent care. Because Mac had come in contact with Lily’s vomit, he had to have his stomach pumped. Thankfully, he survived the horrifying ordeal. Lily, however, was not as lucky. “From the outset, Lily was only given a 25 percent chance of survival after her liver and toxicity levels were measured,” Kate says. “Her treatment included inserting an NG (nasogastric intubation and feeding) tube that passed through her nose into her stomach and an additional IV tube that was inserted in her neck. “Our little Lily was fighting for her life in the emergency veterinary clinic for about a week,” Kate continues. “When she finally began responding to treatment, the veter- inarian felt comfortable sending her home. At that point, her chances of survival had increased to 50 percent, and her vet was fairly confident that she would pull through.” Once she returned home, Lily stopped eating altogether and was acutely lethargic. “Mac, our other dog, didn’t understand why Lily was no longer interested in playing with him,” Kate comments. About a week after Lily came home, on Saturday, May 16, Kate took the pup over to her parent’s house to spend time outside in the sun. “Lily always loved being outside,” she says. It was that afternoon Kate realized that the end of Lily’s life was near. “While she was outside, Lily suddenly began spinning in circles while she was looking up to the side and then into the sun,” Kate says. “I knew something wasn’t right.” Within 45 minutes, Kate and Alex were back at the vet clinic. The diagnosis: Lily most likely had a brain bleed, and she had suffered significant brain damage. “Her eyes also were yellow, which means that Lily had become jaundiced and her liver was failing,” Kate says. It was then that Kate and Alex made the heartbreaking decision to put their once-playful, 18-month-old pup down. In retrospect, Kate describes the last couple of weeks of Lily’s life as “horrible.”

34 | January/February 2021 |


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