Archive for Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Burned dog’s vet bills mount

A dog injured in an apartment fire last week is racking up some serious medical bills. The owner is seeking community help in paying for the more than $3,500 the dog's treatment has cost.

June 2, 2010


The only injuries reported in a devastating house fire in the 900 block of Mississippi Street on Friday were suffered by a four-legged resident named Riley.

The 2-year-old golden retriever was in the house, along with two cats, when the fire broke out. None of the house’s three residents were home at the time.

“He lost all of his pads on his feet … he’s got third-degree burns on his thighs and side, his head was pretty burnt up,” said David Szczucinski, Riley’s owner. “I was pretty hysterical, I would say, as any owner would be.”

With his cell phone on the fritz, Szczucinski called out for help getting his dog to an animal clinic. A neighbor phoned a friend, who quickly agreed to help.

Anthony Barnett picked up Szczucinski and Riley down the street from the burning house and rushed to Gentle Care Animal Hospital at Sixth Street and Kasold Drive.

For the effort, Szczucinski calls Barnett a hero.

“I was definitely hoping that I didn’t get pulled over because I thought that would make the situation a lot worse,” said Barnett, who owns Home Sweet Home Dog Resort, 2140 Haskell Ave.

Along with his other injuries, Riley’s throat and lungs were affected by smoke inhalation. Szczucinski says it’s a miracle Riley is still alive, but the medical bills are a harsh dose of reality. Just three days later, Riley’s bills had risen to more than $3,500.

Szczucinski and the home’s other two residents have received help from the community in dealing with their losses in the fire, and now Szczucinski hopes a benefactor for Riley will step forward to help the dog continue on his road to a full recovery.

Anyone who would like to make a donation can contact the Gentle Care Animal Hospital at 841-1919.


christy kennedy 7 years, 10 months ago

$3,500 in three days? The care required must be extensive but that seems high.

denak 7 years, 10 months ago

That does seem high. Granted, it would be a lot higher if it were a burnt human in the hospital but still I spent three days in the hospital and the bill was roughly $4000.

Seriously, what does one do for a dog who has been burnt. Give him water, antibiotics and painkillers and then what???? Can you graft skin onto a dog? Would you even try? Would they have to take anti-rejection medication?

Sometimes, isn't it just better to let them go.


Jeff Cuttell 7 years, 10 months ago

A special thank you to Happy Handsome Hound for stepping up and helping out.

Paula Kissinger 7 years, 10 months ago

Vet bills are high...some vets charge more than others. People can laugh, but this is why I have pet insurance. Had this happened to me and the final bill was $4000.00, my out of pocket cost would be $900.00. That still is expensive but it's easier to deal with than having to pay the entire amount.

wmathews 7 years, 10 months ago

Pet insurance is definitely worth it. Our dog has type 1 diabetes, and if we'd had pet insurance it would've covered all of his blood labs and blood glucose tests, which have amounted into the thousands in the past seven months.

Danielle Brunin 7 years, 10 months ago

We have pet insurance as well. It's very reasonable and you can customize it for wellcare, sickcare, or both. I think some companies include it automatically in their policies too. I think Progressive, maybe? It's definitely becoming more popular. Anyways, I hope poor Riley recovers soon. I wish I had $3500 to give. :( Sending good thoughts to all involved.

1234 7 years, 10 months ago

Maybe Home Sweet Home will float his bill for the guy. Surely he needs a 3500$ tax right off :)

amazonratz 7 years, 10 months ago

IF there was homeowner's/rental insurance, I would also argue this with the insurance company, as we consider pets "property" in this country. Our insurance is supposed to cover our property loss and damage. I'm sorry this happened, it's every pet owner's worst nightmare. I wish a speedy recovery for your best friend.

yankeevet 7 years, 10 months ago

I will donate.............good luck to you and your dog....

disgustedagain 7 years, 10 months ago

Gentle Care has good vets but they are way more expensive than most vets in town.

What happened to the cats??

yankeevet 7 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

WS2010 7 years, 10 months ago

The cats were fine. They ran and hid from the fire as far as I know. Then were rescued by the Firefighters. Riley was at the door, trying to get out.

funkdog1 7 years, 10 months ago

I would think that being in that neighborhood you'd take the animals to Animal Hospital of Lawrence at 7th and Michigan. There are two very good vets there.

Tammy Copp-Barta 7 years, 10 months ago

Yes .. Matt Coles is GREAT at the Animal Hospital!! .. Anytime I've taken pets to Gentle Care it's cost me an arm and a leg .. they wanted to do $300 worth of tests to my GUINEA PIG!!! .. When I refused to spend that much .. they had me do a foot soak and change to a different bedding .. he lived another year ...

Tammy Copp-Barta 7 years, 10 months ago

Yes .. Matt Coles is GREAT at the Animal Hospital!! .. Anytime I've taken pets to Gentle Care it's cost me an arm and a leg .. they wanted to do $300 worth of tests to my GUINEA PIG!!! .. When I refused to spend that much .. they had me do a foot soak and change to a different bedding .. he lived another year ...

Tammy Copp-Barta 7 years, 10 months ago

sorry for the duplication .. guess my computer had a hiccup ;)

cowboy 7 years, 10 months ago

Every owner has to make a difficult decision to care for a seriously injured pet or to put them down. Pretty tough for most.

Hang in there Riley !

The vet has already committed by treating the boy not knowing if they'll be paid or not .

Sending good energy your way Riley !

ontheroadfitness 7 years, 10 months ago

Gentle Care has some of the best veterinarians I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. I hope Riley heals up quickly so he can enjoy the dog days of summer!

WS2010 7 years, 10 months ago

Riley is a part of my family. He is a sweet-natured, loving dog who would cover you with kisses. Seeing him laying on the vet's table, burned and bleeding, then looking into my little brother's frantic eyes was one of the worst things I have ever experienced. It is a miracle that Riley is alive.

Thank you to the heros that helped Riley that night and continue to help him recover and grow stronger...the firefighters, Anthony Barnett, staff at Gentle Care, and my little brother David. You could be hero too. Please help Riley.

Danielle Brunin 7 years, 10 months ago

Maybe you could organize a benefit dog wash or a pet treat bake sale to raise proceeds? Even if local businesses don't donate $3500, they may donate treats or supplies. Good luck!

Sharon Aikins 7 years, 10 months ago

Poor Riley. I feel so sorry for him and his owner. Pets are like members of the family. Unfortunately, we can't always afford them should something out of the ordinary happen. Maybe enough people will step forward to cover this bill and there will be no future costs involved that the owner can't pay. Part of having and loving our pets is being able to care for them no matter what. Good luck.

gatekeeper 7 years, 10 months ago

For the owners - There is a special credit card you can get with 0% interest for paying vet bills. I've unfortunately had to use it a lot on my dog this year. It's set up for emergency incidents like this that are expensive. Maybe this can help you cover some of the costs. I checked and Gentle Care does accept it.

I'll take a few bucks to the vet. I hope many of you will do the same. A bunch of people giving just $5 or $10 will add up quickly.

parrothead8 7 years, 10 months ago

I've used CareCredit, years ago, when my beagle got some freak bacterial infection that required surgery and a week-long stay at the Univ. of GA vet hospital. I didn't have the money, but was able to pay it off over the next year. My dog lived another five years, and there was no way she would have gotten those years without CareCredit.

Bob Forer 7 years, 10 months ago

A couple folks mentioned the quality of the vets. I concur. But lets not forget their support staff, whom are equally caring and competent. Its always a pleasure visiting them, although I don't think my little pal would concur. And yes, they are expensive, but they do spend plenty of time with you, and while I am sure the other vets in town are acceptable, Gentle Care will always be Number One in my book.

The same thing goes for other services in town. Westside 66 is superb. But I don't patronize them because of their prices. Rather, they do quality work and stand behind their work. And you couldn't ask for a nicer, more intelligent owner than Richard.

MYOB 7 years, 10 months ago

gop and autie~ I hope your families don't feel the same way about you if you become sick or elderly and too expensive to care for......

jonas_opines 7 years, 10 months ago

"I hope your families don't feel the same way about you if you become sick or elderly and too expensive to care for......"

All the members of my family have a $5000 yearly cut-off, but it goes down incrementally every year thereafter. After that, they get the shot.

You may say it's heartless but I think it's pretty generous. I made my cut-off at $3500. They won't have to give me the shot, though. I'm just gonna vanish into the highlands of Wild China, find a panda, and slap it. Last item on my bucket list.

mom_of_three 7 years, 10 months ago

Well,MYOB, lots of people think that way. My dad is probably in the group with Autie. If you have lots of animals, you can't necessarily afford to spend that on one animal without serioualy considering the outcomes. In this situation, I am not sure I would be able to spend the money either. but I imagine it was spent before he knew it.

Danimal 7 years, 10 months ago

I have to say, it's not fair to the animal to be in constant suffering that they're incapable of understanding. The humane thing would have been to put Riley down. I get as attached to my animals as anyone else does, but it's cruel of owners to put an animal that is in excruciating pain through multiple procedures. Animals don't get that they're lives are potentially being saved, they just know that they're constantly suffering. I think that people have been humanizing their pets too much and going to extraordinary expense and effort to save them.

The thing that really disgusts me is the World company only devoted a :45 second clip to Memorial Day, but they gave an injured dog 2:05.

gatekeeper 7 years, 10 months ago

To each his own, but don't get on here and chastise someone else for saving the life of their pet. This dog is obviously loved by his family and he was able to be saved (vets are good people and do tell you when you need to let them go).

Did it ever occur to you that the dog is being given large doses of pain meds?

You would have said to put my dog down in Dec when he got sick. He ended up having major surgery and a few stays in the doggie hospital. Now, he's as frisky as a puppy and loving life. While he was in the hospital, he was doped up and not feeling pain. And I will tell you that my dog, in a way, does know he was saved. Everyone that knows him and his personality says the same thing. He almost bit the dust and has a different attitude now that he feels good again (as my mom put it, he's going to do what he wants and get what he wants which wasn't how he acted before he got ill). He also wants and gives a lot more love now. Animals understand a lot more than you're giving them credit for.

And your comment about this dog getting more attn than mem day is just stupid. I'm glad this dog is getting attn and I'm from a military family (both grandfathers fought in WWI, uncle in WWII, father in Korea, cousin trained fighter pilots for Iraq and my niece's husband is literally on his way back from Afghanistan as we speak). All of them would be happy to see this dog getting this attn. Heck, my niece's husband recently got a tattoo of a beloved family dog on his chest. Did you spend Mem day doing things for the families of fallen soldiers or did you enjoy the day off? Unless you are holier than most and spent the holiday honoring deceased troops, you shouldn't comment about this dog getting coverage.

HW 7 years, 10 months ago

While I don't agree with gop's number ($150), I do agree with the basic sentiment. There is a large portion of society out there that still believes that pets are not children and should not be saved at any cost. Would I have spent $3500 on this particular instance? Maybe, maybe not. My number sits somewhere closer to $1000 dollars for a limit, but definitely depends on the situation. A dog with diabetes and needing expensive long term care? Back 40 with a .40. Also, for folks that are discussing the expensive costs of vets, try taking your dog ot cat to a large animal vet next time. They tend to be more reasonable and can take care of most anything for a dog or cat. Lawrence is fairly lacking in large animal vets though. A Guinea Pig may be a different story;).

MYOB 7 years, 10 months ago

I understand what all of you are saying, and I know that a lot of people feel the same way and consider their pets disposable. As far as I'm concerned, when you make the commitment to have a pet, you then commit to taking care of that pet, physically and financially. If you can't then you shouldn't have pets. If the pet is suffering, that's a different story than convenience of time and/or wallet. Just my opinion.

gatekeeper 7 years, 10 months ago

Too many people consider them to be disposable. That's why we have shelters full of homeless animals. Too many people get pets that shouldn't. I think we should have to get permits to own pets and children. If you can't financially support them, you don't get a permit.

gatekeeper 7 years, 10 months ago

To each his own. My animals are worth the world to me and I will do anything for them. In reality, we're all just animals.

mom_of_three 7 years, 10 months ago

in continuation of autie's post....unless I was a hundred thousand-aire and 3000 was a drop in the bucket.....

naturalist 7 years, 10 months ago

Yes it's not surprising that this vet bill went up to so much so fast. Check around, Gentle Care isn't any more expensive than most of the other vets in town and some are more expensive. Our dogs are our family and it's our responsibility to take as good of care of them as we can. This dog will recover and will forever repay his owner with love and affection. Kudos to Anthony for stepping up to help in this emergency.

Boston_Corbett 7 years, 10 months ago

Dogs need medical care too. Treat them as you would any friend. Woof, woof.

coloradoan 7 years, 10 months ago

I'm in for $20.00. Called for the address today to mail tomorrow. Think about it, only 175 of us at $20 (or 700 of us at $5.00) and it's covered. Since they made the choice to save him, then let's make it happen. While I am empathetic with a prior poster about whether the suffering to get well is appropriate for a pet that cannot articulate it's own preferences, this family chose to save him and I'm good with it. I know I love my cats and would do whatever was necessary. Go Riley!

Pete Kennamore 7 years, 10 months ago

As I've discussed before on these boards, my wife and I shelled out over $40,000 in medical costs during an 11 year lifespan of our beloved English Mastiff so I'm well aware of how fast the bills can mount. I'm contacting Gentle Care and making my donation for Riley. Elrond

bxke1414 7 years, 10 months ago

Hi all, this is David Szczucinski, Riley's owner. I very much appreciate everyone's support and contributions for Riley's well being. Your (the community's) response has been absolutely incredible and gracious. In response to a few comments made above, I am a firm believer that everyone has a right to their own opinion, but I hope to God none of you (those who wouldn't be willing to try and save your pet) ever own a pet. A substantial amount of Riley's bill was incurred Friday night into Saturday morning where he was under supervision throughout the night and morning. During this period we did not know if Riley would pull through or not. But there is always hope, and I would never let my dog suffer if I knew the outcome would not be good. I have owned numerous animals growing up and have had to make the awful choice to put down animals due to disease, car accidents, etc... Yes, the choice is difficult whether to keep your pet alive and there is no way to anticipate extreme circumstances like a house burning down. Let it be known that Riley is like my child, and I would do anything for my child. If he would have been in a state of no return, I would have made that difficult choice. But HE IS recovering very well and continues to improve on a daily basis. Today he even ate food on his own for the first time since the accident. The staff at Gentle Care is amazing and I look forward to them being my vet from this point forward. Once again, thank you all so very much for your help, I couldn't do this without the community right now.

gatekeeper 7 years, 10 months ago

I am so glad to hear he is doing much better. Ignore the posts that come from people that just consider dogs animals and not part of the family. Give Riley a pet for all of us that care about him and his recovery. If you can, do some blogs updating us on his status. Those of us that have contributed would love to keep up on his status.

naturalist 7 years, 10 months ago

I'm so glad to hear that Riley is recovering. I have many pets and I feel about them as you do about Riley. In an emergency we react and take care of them first, worry about the bills later. Good luck and take care! Give Riley a cookie for me.

thelonious 7 years, 10 months ago

David -

Thanks for the update. My wife and I lost our 9.5 year old St. Bernard last summer after a fight with bone cancer in her jaw - we treated it and bought her an extra 15 months of quality time, it was expensive but well worth it, so we feel your pain and donated for Riley yesterday. Some folks wouldn't have spent the time and money we did on our dog, and we were fortunate enough to be able to do so, but that was our call. The good folks at Bradley Animal Hospital in Lawrence and MU Veterinary Cinics in Columbia Missouri helped us out as much as they could. Don't worry about those who don't understand a connection with a pet - if they have never felt it, they won't get it, and odds are they don't connect real well with people, either.

Keep us posted, good luck, and best wishes for Riley's continued recovery.

KansasPerson 7 years, 10 months ago

We just came from the vet clinic where Riley is being treated. We said we wanted to donate a bit, and the person at the desk pulled out a legal pad with a nearly-full page of names and donations on it! And under it, another page from yesterday!

I love this town!

Get well soon, Riley. David, we've been paying so much attention to Riley that I forgot to ask you if you are also in need! Burnt out of your house is no fun. Are you getting along okay?

bxke1414 7 years, 10 months ago

Thank you all so much once again! This town is incredible :-) Riley was switched over to from wet to dry (damp) food! His breathing is also getting better as well as his left eye. The burn scabs are about to come off, so the next few days will be interesting while we wait to see if the flesh beneath is viable or not. Riley knows everyone is there to help him, and today he even smiled and gave everyone lots of kisses :-)

I am doing okay on my side of things. My friends and family have been amazing. Crazily, I was only about 3 weeks from moving out and into a new place with a fenced in back yard for Riley. My landlords are working to get me into that house as soon as possible. Until then I'll be alright. Thank you all once again, we both appreciate it very much :-)

50YearResident 7 years, 10 months ago

How many people are claiming ownership of this dog? I seen at least 3 user names. Looks like the vet and the owner(s) are going to make a huge profit on this deal.

WS2010 7 years, 10 months ago

50Year...only one person HAS claimed to be Riley's owner and that is my brother. If you actually read the posts you would see that. The only thing I claimed to be is David's sister when I came on here to THANK everyone who has helped Riley. Get your facts straight. If you are worried about this being a scam go over to Gentle Care and visit Riley. I'm sure David would be happy to talk to you as well. David and the vets are trying to do something positive and your negative comments are not needed.

KansasPerson 7 years, 10 months ago

Yeah right 50Year, it's a big scam! A professional veterinarian is going to put her reputation on the line by taking donations for a fake cause! As for the fellow whose house is on fire, the first thing on his mind is going to be how to scam the community!

I had a longer, angrier rant at you, but fortunately the computer ate it.

I"m glad I"m not you.

p.s. For the record, I've only seen ONE person claim to be Riley's owner.

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