For the last seven or eight months I've been fortunate enough to enjoy the company of a wonderfully happy (if fairly stupid) dog called Dennis. He would accompany me on walks on the weekend, wait for the bus in the mornings with me (and others) and more often than not be waiting for me in the afternoon when I returned home.
Apparently he would on occasion chase little kids around the village and could be a bit aggressive at times but I never saw it. Sure, he was an absolute pain in the backside from time to time (dirty paw prints don't look good on freshly laundered white shirts for example) but he was a genuinely happy and fun friend to have around.
Yesterday Dennis came to my place in the morning and was moping around a lot. I didn't think much of it except that perhaps he'd been in a fight with other dogs and was coming to my place to rest. Sadly, my assessment was very wrong.
Over the course of the next couple of hours he became increasingly lethargic and refused to budge from my laundry. When I discovered him lying in his own vomit I called a friend of mine who works at the Animal Protection Society (APS) and she in turn called the vet. We were far too late. We buried Dennis in the park next to my house. He will be sorely missed.
Sadly, dogs are poisoned in Samoa all the time. The poison of choice is Paraquat. One of the more widely used herbicides, it's an extremely powerful and nasty drug. For humans, the lethal dose is 35 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. In dogs, the lethal dose is somewhere between 25-50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. There is no antidote for Paraquat.
Once ingested, Paraquat is distributed by the bloodstream to practically all areas of the body, resulting in systematic organ failure. The liver, lungs, heart and kidneys all fail but it is in the lungs that the damage is most concentrated. Pulmonary oedema is the most common type of failure, the lungs accumulating fluid until they fail. It makes for a particularly horrible way to die.
The frequency with which dogs are poisoned (and otherwise ill-treated) illustrates that there is an enormous need for better education. This is the reason why my friend is at the APS. She develops and implements education programmes for schools and villages. No one contests the need for a dog control programme in Samoa but organisations such as the APS fight to make sure that any programmes are carried out in a sensitive and humane manner. I wish my friend and the APS all the very best of luck in their work.