Moolah's Story: What happened to the Standard of Excellence?
By Jim Schwartz, Founder of Next-To-Kin, man of dog

My first generation of companion animals were all named after great professional wrestlers. There was my silver Miniature Poodle, Buddy; named after Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers, the first dual National Wrestling Alliance/World Wide Wrestling Federation champion. There was Nicki, a Black Lab-Shepherd female who was named after Nick Bockwinkle, the American Wrestling Association champion; and there was Rickie, a female marked Maltese - all nine pounds of her - who was named after Ric Flair, the 16-time NWA/WWF champion.

Then there was my black Standard Poodle, Moolah, the Standard of Excellence. Moolah was named after Lillian Ellison, who wrestled as the Fabulous Moolah. Lillian is probably the greatest female wrestling champion known to date. For 27 years, she was the champ and she trained all the subsequent female wrestlers for many years. I picked Moolah from a litter of 11 puppies. She was such a fabulous dog that I named her "The Fabulous Moolah - The Standard of Excellence."

On October 29, 1999, I brought Moolah in for her annual rabies shot. At that time, I asked the vet, "Can we not do the three-year rabies vaccine - like we are doing the three-year parvo and distemper?"

"No," I was told. "Arapahoe County [Colorado] still requires the annual rabies vaccination."

Now Moolah, at the time, was not in the best of health to begin with. Secondly, she was 11 years of age. I would later learn that both of these are critical concerns. I would later learn that the rabies-vaccine label typically states "only administer to healthy dogs." I would later learn that the research is pretty overwhelming that older dogs do not need the vaccination - especially if they are kept in a confined area and out of the woods.

However, at that time, I was not aware of those points. Nor was I aware that Colorado had passed, in January of 1999, a bill allowing the three-year rabies vaccination - or that it had been enacted into law in July of 1999, four months prior to Moolah's shot.

Moolah developed autoimmune illness.

Every guardian knows his or her dog. Moolah wasn't herself. Normally upon my calling, she would be up instantly. Now she wasn't. Moolah always ate very well. (Once she got into my Werther's Original gold-wrapped butterscotch candies, devouring them. When I looked for them and accused her, she gave me a "who me?" look even as the wrappers dangled like tinsel from her ears). Now she wasn't eating well, either.

Moolah was always at my side. Now, she was in the cool hallway - panting and panting and panting. Her gums became pale. Her blood platelet counts dropped like a rock; Oxyglobin was used, special medication requiring me to wear gloves. Her platelets continued to drop. Her dosages of the steroid prednisone were increased.

She still wasn't eating -- not even Good Times hamburgers with cheese.

I was advised to leave her at the vet's for a 24-hour watch. It went on for days; I visited her several times daily. The last day she looked at me as if to say, "Take me home to die." I didn't. I can still see her face as she went back into the cage.

Then came the call: "You ought to come down."

Five-six-seven thousand dollars later - all to no avail - she could hardly get up; she could hardly breathe. Hearing my voice when I entered, for the first and last time that day, she raised her head.

It was time. I had promised my late-friend Fred Burke to do what he had done: "I bring them into my life," he said, "I will be the one that takes them out."

I sang to Moolah and held her. The vet sedated her. I kept my promise to Fred Burke.

Sadly, The Fabulous Moolah's case is not isolated. It unfortunately happens every day.