Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Part One of Four

When I was in my senior year of high school I worked after school for a company that was local and just getting its feet off the ground. The name of the company was Animas Diabetes Care, LLC and I worked from 3-7pm in their billing department. I would send invoices to insurance companies and file orders for medical supplies in patient’s charts. It was by no means a challenging position, but I enjoyed the business atmosphere and the people that I worked with. When summer came I switched to full-time, and increased my responsibilities and workload. I was also working at Hallmark at the time, and enjoyed the differences in the two jobs. I was touched when Animas asked me to come back on my winter college break and ultimately I would continue to work both summers and winter breaks throughout my four years of college. I changed departments in the latter years, and the company grew and moved to a larger facility as well.

I believe it was the summer of my sophomore year of college that I was working in the patient administration department (PAD) when a company-wide e-mail circulated about some test dogs that were up for adoption. I didn’t quite grasp what the e-mail was trying to convey, and because I recognized one of the gentlemen’s names from my many years at the company, I decided to reply and get some more information.

It turns out that the company had a practice of using dogs as test subjects for their potential medical products. Now don’t get too concerned – it’s not as if they were torturing these dogs or doing anything inhumane to them. The product that they were testing on these dogs at the time was a glucose sensor that was to be inserted into the bloodstream, and then a watch could be worn to monitor the glucose levels in the blood to help patients with diabetes better manage their care. It was a great and wonderful example of medical technology progressing to better aid those who are in need of more accurate care.

One of the dogs that were up for adoption had been a part of the glucose study, and the e-mail made it pretty clear that if no one was to adopt these dogs they would unfortunately be put down. I could not stand to think about that option, and I am pretty sure that I immediately got on the phone to my mom and began convincing her why we needed another dog. We already had two at the time, so my reasons had to be pretty persuasive. As I recall it didn’t take much arm twisting once she heard that if no one adopted the dog, it would be put down. I get my sympathetic love for animals from my mom.

I e-mailed with the gentlemen and he was thrilled that we would be able to give this dog a permanent home, but he continued on with a long list of caveats that frankly had me worried. These dogs were test dogs in the truest sense of the word. The dog, whom the lab named Trouble, had been born and raised in a laboratory setting. I was warned that these lab dogs know nothing other than crates, cages, and the occasional human touch. Trouble, in particular, had been transported a number of different places by truck in a crate, and as such was quite traumatized by travel in general. She would not know what grass was – the smell or the feel of it, would not be potty trained, would not know what sunshine felt like – can you imagine? Despite all of these caveats, I was all the more convinced that this dog belonged in our home.

Trouble was being kept at the laboratory at Thomas Jefferson Hospital. I planned a trip down to the city with my mom to meet this dog and to decide if this was really something that we wanted to do. We met in the lobby with one of the head veterinarians and she guided us back to where Trouble was kept. We passed mice in cages, rabbits, rats – it was a side of the Hospital that I had never seen before and I was a bit awestruck. Finally we came to the dog kennels and were taken to the gate of Trouble’s cage. She was standing in the back cowering. I remember that there was a bowl of food, untouched, and some waste in the middle of the cage. They opened the door and called for Trouble. She was beautiful. She was about the size of a Labrador and had beautiful white fur with tan spots. She was a foxhound and an adorable one at that. She timidly stepped out and as she stepped onto the linoleum floor, swiftly – and softly – jumped onto the chest of the lab technician. She got a few pets and then landed back on all fours and looked sheepishly at my mother and I. My mom put out her hand and Trouble sniffed it, and then swiftly – and softly – jumped onto the chest of my mother. In that instant I knew that this dog was ours.

We spent a few more moments with her and talked to the lab technician before it was time for our visit to end. We confirmed our willingness to adopt Trouble with the veterinarian on our way out and she promised to be in touch with the adoption date and procedure. The train ride home we marveled at how calm she was and how Trouble was not a name that suited her at all. The first order of business once she came home would be to rename her.

To be continued...

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