Dog sickened by meth after eating poo in Olympic Village

May 8 2023, 11:24 pm

A Vancouver dog owner is sharing a shocking tale of how her dog became sick after somehow ingesting methamphetamine in Olympic Village.

Chloe Lerner hopes the frightening health scare for her French bulldog Rizzo pushes Vancouver to provide more facilities and resources for everyone living in Olympic Village, including better supports for people using drugs and more public washrooms.

“If this individual had access to a public washroom, maybe this wouldn’t have happened,” Lerner said.

The meth poisoning incident started when Lerner took Rizzo, named after the character in Grease for her blend of spunk, sass, and sweetness, for a walk the evening of November 15. They were walking by Refined, the salt pyramid public art sculpture at Manitoba and East 1st Avenue, when Rizzo ducked her head into a crevice and came up “unfortunately smelling like poop.”

“I thought, okay gross. She’s gonna have an upset stomach tonight. But it happens, right?” Lerner said. “There’s dog poo on the ground and goose poo, and unfortunately sometimes human poo.”

But that night brought more than an upset stomach. Lerner was sleeping, with Rizzo in her bed like usual, when she noticed her pup was restless. She turned on the light and saw Rizzo shaking with her eyes wide open.

She tried to encourage Rizzo to stand, but the dog just flopped over on her side.

“I was like, okay, something’s very wrong. We have to get to the vet.”

She rushed Rizzo to the 24-hour clinic in Yaletown, where Rizzo started vomiting what looked like “poopy water.” Lerner said clinic staff told her Rizzo was displaying classic symptoms of poison or drug ingestion.

The clinic tested Rizzo’s urine for drugs, and it came back positive for methamphetamine within 30 minutes.

Lerner believes the meth was in the poo Rizzo ate at the plaza — likely left behind by someone who had recently used the drug and didn’t have access to a washroom. Of course, she can’t be 100% certain, but she says Rizzo didn’t eat anything else unusual that evening.

“I know that Rizzo ate poop, and she ate drugs. It would make the most sense to me that the drugs were in the poop, but I didn’t inspect the poop … that’s my very best guess.”

Rizzo’s discharge papers from the vet clinic indicate the Frenchie was treated for suspected drug ingestion. She was given fluids, anti-nausea medication, and activated charcoal to bind any remaining toxins in her system.

Lerner took her pup home after about seven hours at the clinic, and for several days after, Rizzo still wasn’t her usual self — she was lethargic, wouldn’t eat for nearly 24 hours, and was still shaking.

“Neighbours were seeing I was having to carry her out and put her on the grass, and she’d just stand there and shake, teeter and totter,” Lerner said.

Thankfully, three-year-old Rizzo has now made a full recovery. But Lerner thinks more needs to be done to prevent something similar from happening in the future.

“There is housing meant to assist people who are struggling with things like addiction [in Olympic Village], and I don’t know personally how well those people are being helped. Or how many resources outside of their housing are immediately available,” Lerner said.

She added those individuals are sharing space with families and dog owners in Olympic Village, and a lack of resources means everyone in the neighbourhood is impacted.

“I think it was a really big wakeup call … People really are feeling stressed and scared just to do what should be everyday, normal things in their neighbourhood.”

A spokesperson for the City of Vancouver said the closest available public washrooms are in nearby Creekside Community Centre, open from 6:30 am to 10 pm. The City also said a new washroom for Creekside Park is a priority in its 2020 Park Washroom Strategy, although there’s no estimated date of completion.

In the meantime, City crews will be deploying a portable toilet to Creekside Park for the busy summer months. It will be in place starting May long weekend.

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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