Two dogs dead after suspected poisoning in Ta Ta Creek residence

Family awaits test results and expresses concern for safety of their children

Two dogs have died after vomiting up bread and the owners are sending in the bodies and samples of the dogs’ vomit to Prarie Diagnostic Services in Saskatchewan for a full necropsy.

Sam McCurdie lives with his family on two acres of land in Ta Ta Creek. He got up early on May 8 to attend to his chores, feeding and watering his alpacas and chickens. He said that when he left for work shortly after 7 a.m. his two dogs, three-year-old Talu and her daughter seven-month-old Gnara, were happy and healthy. They are outside dogs who act as livestock guardians, living with the other animals.

When he got home from work around 12 hours later at 7:30 p.m. he noticed the pup was vomiting and both dogs were “acting kind of drunk … wiggling and wobbling all over the yard.”

He got on the phone with the on-call veterinarian at around 10 p.m., but the dogs started to do better. They could hold down water and Gnara even managed to eat a bowl of food.

McCurdie said he decided not to bring them into the clinic, as he wanted to see if a good night’s sleep would get them through it.

Unfortunately, the following morning, the dogs could barely lift their heads and they rushed them to Steeples Veterinary Clinic at 9 a.m. and when they arrived, Talu had her first seizure.

McCurdie brought with him a sample of the dog’s vomit, which he said had bread in it — bread that they do not have in their household, and furthermore, the dogs haven’t got into any garbage or even left the yard for two days prior.

“Dr. Ruth Sawatsky [owner of Steeples] took one look at that puke and said this looks exactly like the same stuff as what they found in the Community Forest in Cranbrook, she said it’s extremely suspicious,” McCurdie said.

Initially, based on the dogs’ symptoms, it was believed that the dogs were poisoned with a Compound 1080, an animal toxin used to control wolves and coyotes, exclusively in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

They extracted blood samples right away, discovering the dogs’ kidneys had been severely affected, and Dr. Sawatsky got in touch with a toxicology specialist at a veterinary hospital in Calgary.

Upon consulting the toxicology specialists in Calgary and digging up the records from previous poisonings, plus factoring in the slower speed at which Talu and Gnara deteriorated, they determined it was unlikely the toxin Compound 1080 present, and it was more likely something like antifreeze or xylitol.

Dr. Sawatsky told McCurdie that if they were able to afford it, they should take them to the intensive care centre in Calgary, and that they’d have to leave immediately, but even still, they may not make it in time. The cost of this also would have been around $4000 a day.

“I said, you know we’re raising four kids too and they’re the priority,” he continued. “And it was a tough call because these dogs are worth their weight. They’re big dogs, they’ve kept bears away, they’ve kept cougars away, even the ravens that come down and try to get our chickens, they chase off and then they’ll pick up an egg and they’ll bring it to you without breaking it.”

Describing his family’s beloved pets was clearly difficult for McCurdie, who said these past few days have been incredibly hard, and that it hasn’t fully sunk in yet.

“We don’t know the toxin as of yet but that’s why we’re here in Cranbrook now,” McCurdie said on Monday, May 11, “is to meet with the staff at Steeples and get that sample sent to Vancouver this afternoon.”

McCurdie has also contacted the RCMP, but they are unable to begin an investigation until they have evidence of poisoning.

However, McCurdie is not just concerned with the investigation moving forward, but for the safety of his four children, particularly his two-year-old.

“The thing that I’m trying to stress is that if my toddler picked something up I would be probably incoherent, I don’t even want to imagine it, but that’s the level of seriousness that it is, because it could have happened,” he said.

“The dogs puked four feet from the swing sets. I don’t have proof of where the dogs found it in my yard but I know that it wasn’t in my yard and then it was, so it’s a very disturbing thing but I’m trying to maintain the maximum amount of compassion that I can have, because I refuse to think this is just some sick person.”

McCurdie set up a GoFundMe to help cover the vet bills plus the cost of sending the vomit specimen to the lab. The remaining money will be held at Steeples and given to the next person who needs it for a similar situation. The link to contribute can be found here.

This is McCurdie’s first experience using GoFundMe and he said the support has been unbelievable.

“It really proves that most people are very good and caring and compassionate and it’s easy to get caught up in all the negative with Facebook and stuff, but it’s been really humbling, the whole experience really.”

Furthermore, he said that while he and his family are deeply saddened and angry, and they’ve been receiving a flood of calls from people angry at the situation, McCurdie doesn’t want to feed that anger.

“We just want somebody to step forward and maybe just say ‘I screwed up, I went too far,’” he said. “Ultimately, I don’t want a head on a stick, I don’t want a manhunt, because we’ve been getting messages from really angry people and we don’t want to feed into that. Like Mother’s Day yesterday, we put our phones down and they were lit up, because people are just so mad and I’m mad, but you can’t let yourself go down that path, because it’s either going to provoke more or whatever.”

McCurdie says he wants closure and to know that his kids will be safe in his yard. The Kimberley Bulletin will follow up once the tests have been returned from the lab.

“I feel that there is a positive way to express our anger and pain and to not stoop to more violent actions due to our frustration,” he said.

READ MORE: Reports of two dogs dead, third ill after walking in Wycliffe Butte

READ MORE: RCMP investigate multiple dog deaths linked to Cranbrook Community Forest


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