Critically injured dog is saved, keeping her owner’s spirit alive

Shammy received emergency surgery at Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center in Levittown, Penn.

Shammy received emergency surgery at Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center in Levittown, Penn.

PHILADELPHIA – A 10-year-old shi tzu named Shammy is recovering from a deep stab wound after a tragic killing that took the life of her owner, Virginia McLaughlin.

Many people pitched in to help save Shammy’s life after the tragedy, including neighbors, family members, police and veterinarians from VCA Knightswood Animal Hospital and Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center.

“It’s a miracle,” said her son Doug McLaughlin. “This is a piece of my mother that we can have with us.”

According to news reports, an acquaintance of Mrs. McLaughlin stabbed her and stabbed himself in her home. Both died. The attacker also stabbed Shammy.

Virginia McLaughlin

Virginia McLaughlin

Mrs. McLaughlin had named her dog Shamrock, or “Shammy” for short, because she got her on St. Patrick’s Day. Shammy was her constant companion at home and on walks to the park or when working in the yard.

“My mom treats her animals like people and they really get a special personality,” said her son Tom McLaughlin. “Without a dog, my mom would have been kind of lost.”

As the family dealt with the loss of Mrs. McLaughlin, neighbors brought Shammy to Dr. Deborah Rubin of VCA Knightswood, because they knew she had treated her in the past. Dr. Rubin saw that Shammy was suffering from a deep stab wound in the right side of her chest and was having difficulty breathing.

Rubin sent X-rays to Dr. Samuel Durkan of VSEC, who is board-certified in veterinary emergency and critical care. He urged her to bring Shammy in to VSEC’s hospital in Levittown.

At VSEC, Shammy was stabilized and given pain medication. Dr. Sabrina Reilly, a board-certified veterinary anesthesiologist, made sure the dog was properly anesthetized in preparation for emergency surgery.

Dr. Lauren Deahl, a VSEC surgery resident, saw that Shammy had a deep gash in her right chest, broken ribs and a bruised lung. She was in respiratory distress because of the open wound in her chest cavity. Deahl put the ribs and muscles back in place, closing them with surgical sutures, and also sutured up the outside wound. A chest tube was temporarily put in place to drain excess fluids.

“She was very critical,” said Dr. Deahl. “Without treatment, within a few hours she would have passed away. She required a lot of very intense care.”

Everyone at VSEC was moved by the tragedy and wanted to do their best to make sure Shammy was healed and comfortable.

“I hope that it can help them deal with their grief,” said Deahl.

VSEC did not charge for the treatment of Shammy, because of the circumstances.

Virginia McLaughlin with her dog Shammy

Virginia McLaughlin with her dog Shammy

Tom McLaughlin said the family is grateful for the emergency surgery on Shammy. He’s going to be taking Shammy back to his home in Florida.

“She’s like my little sister and she’s going to keep my mom’s spirit alive. It’s just another memory that I’m going to have of my mom” Tom McLaughlin said. And that’s important to him because, “My mom was the greatest mom.”

Doug McLaughlin agreed. “My mother was a very positive person, she tried to find the best in everyone and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” he said. You find the best in people in situations like this.”

The McLaughlins were glad to hear VSEC is affiliated with a charity, the Lend-a-Paw Foundation, which provides free and low-cost care to lost pets and those whose owners are in financial difficulty.

And they are urging people to remember their mother’s spirit. “She would have wanted us to remember her but move on loving life and being happy,” Doug McLaughlin said in a eulogy. “If we all do this the world will be a much better place.”

Tom McLaughlin with Shammy

Tom McLaughlin with Shammy