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Grease in sand proves fatal to dog

A woman's dog had been with her for eight years and three continents. But an accident last month killed him suddenly.

By PATRICK COOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 7, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Diane met Woody in a little pub by the military base in South Korea. He was down on his luck and, well, ugly. She didn't like him very much, but she felt sorry for him.

His sad, puppy-dog look made her take him home that night. But he cleaned up nicely, and they stuck it out together.

It was just your typical owner-mutt love affair, one of a million stories about man and woman's best friend, but one that ended last week with a lesson this owner wants people to know.

Woody died Jan. 29 after eating sand that smelled of bacon grease. The sand filled up his insides, and he suffered a fatal heart attack after surgeons tried for three hours to clear it out.

The St. Petersburg dog's death at age 8 stunned his owner, Sigrid Diane Cartier, and she is now hoping other dog owners won't have to suffer the same experience.

"I wanted him to die at like 16 or 17 in his sleep," Cartier, 34, said Monday. "He was a member of the family."

A neighbor had poured out the grease in the sandy alley outside Cartier's back yard. Woody escaped from the yard and went after the smell.

Hours later, the dog was dead and Cartier was grieving. They had come a long way together. Cartier was teaching adult education classes at Camp Casey in South Korea, about 30 miles north of Seoul, in 1993. When she saw the manager of a pub across the street abusing a dog, she intervened.

She was afraid the woman, who may have been drunk, was preparing to eat the dog. Although once more common, dog meat is rarely eaten and extremely expensive in South Korea.

Although she didn't want a dog, Cartier said she kept him anyway.

"I just tried to make him as comfortable as possible," she said.

He needed her, and he showed it. He followed her everywhere, even to the classes she taught, Cartier said. When she moved to a base in Germany in 1995, he came with her.

These years even earned the dog a joking promotion in the Army. The papers are there to prove it: Woody became a corporal on March 1, 1995, for his "meritorious achievement."

Losing a dog never is easy, but it is especially difficult under circumstances as tragic as Woody's, said Connie Brooks, shelter manager at the Pinellas County branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"He did what all dogs would do. If they're hungry, they're going to look for food, and they're going to eat whatever they can," said Brooks, who also is an animal behavior counselor.

Owners have to watch dogs' environments very closely, just like children's, she said, but in Cartier's case, there was probably nothing else the owner could have done. When the dog smelled the grease, "it was just a natural recourse" to go after the scent.

"It's unfortunate that people put out things like that, because not only will dogs get into it, but also wild animals will get into it," she said. "People should be using a garbage can or garbage disposal instead of put it (outside)."

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