Walking a dog along a forested trail should be an enjoyable experience.
But it turned out to be a nightmare for one Metro Vancouver man and his dog after someone vomited several opiate-laced cannabis candies next to a trail in a popular Coquitlam park frequented by dog walkers.
Now, Coquitlam RCMP are warning dog walkers who visit Mundy Park to be on alert for substances that could harm their pet.
Mundy Park is popular with dog owners because it has a large off-leash dog park, as well as a loop trail for people to walk with their pets off-leash.
But last week a five-month-old pup got extremely sick while walking with its owner Mark Horsley, a 34-year Coquitlam resident.
Horsley told the Tri-City News his Heartland Terrier puppy, named Wag, was on a retractable leash on a trail on the northwest end of the park when the dog came in contact with a poisonous substance.
Last Monday (March 7) at around 3:45 p.m., Wag came across a partially digested mess of red gummy candies just off the trail.
The dog sniffed the vomit, Horsley said, and possibly licked it as well.
It didn't take long for the puppy to show signs of poisoning.
"He was waving on his feet. He stumbled and fell and couldn’t get up," he said.
"We rushed him to the animal hospital," said Horsley, who said the vet extracted urine, which tested positive for cannabis and an opiate.
Clearly, the red gummies weren't ordinary candies and Horsley said he alerted the Coquitlam fire department, whose hazardous materials team arrived on the scene later that evening.
Horsley said he was relieved that the team was able to come to the park, and that he was able to show them where the vomit was, even though it was dark.
They did a good job cleaning up the mess so no other dog would find it, Horsley said, acknowledging the efforts of firefighters who showed up to to clean up the vomit, which contained at least six partially chewed red gummy candies, possibly more.
DOG SPENDS NIGHT AT VET
The dog, meanwhile, struggled for several hours after the poisoning.
According to Horsley, Wag spent the night at the vet, being fed charcoal and having to be flushed out with fluid via intervenous.
"It was heartbreaking to see him be so ill and wondering if we'd lose him," Horsley said.
By midnight, the dog still wasn't well and Horsley wasn't able to retrieve his pet until the next morning.
After a day of sleeping, Wag seemed to have recovered.
Horsley is relieved, even though treatment cost $650, but he's worried it could happen again, and possibly a small child could get poisoned.
Coquitlam RCMP are urging people to be extra careful in public places this spring and to not touch anything that looks like it may be drugs or drug paraphernalia.
"The incident serves as a reminder to please be aware of your surroundings," stated Const. Deanna Law in a press release.
She said that with the weather starting to warm up and more people getting outdoors, the possibility of contact with suspicious substances drugs or drug paraphernalia increases.
Do not touch the drugs or paraphernalia, Const. Law emphasized. Instead, notify Coquitlam RCMP on the non-emergency line at 604-945-1550.
"Police would like to remind individuals that legalizing cannabis did not also legalize illicit drugs, or make it legal to consume or discard drugs in public," she said.
"If you see a crime in progress, call 911 immediately. To report a crime that has already occurred call your local police and we will ensure that the appropriate external partner agencies/resources address the issue," Const. Law further stated in the press release.
MORE DOG POISONINGS SINCE LEGALIZATION
In recent years Coquitlam vets have spoken out about a rise in marijuana poisonings since cannabis was made legal.
Typically, dogs who are taken to a vet with cannabis poisoning are given intravenous fluids and kept overnight, at a cost of up to $1,000 or more.
Dogs can sometimes inadvertently ingest the drugs while sniffing a substance at the side of a trail.
A popular off-leash dog area at Westhill Park in Port Moody was flagged as a possible danger zone for pets last year after a retriever was sickened from eating marijuana laced with barbiturates.
The owner of the eight year old retriever mix took her dog to the Central Animal Emergency Clinic in Coquitlam, where a blood test confirmed that the pet had consumed both marijuana and barbiturates.
"Bijou had to undergo a night of terror as these drugs cause extreme agitation in dogs in amongst the acute and potentially chronic impact it has on a canine's kidneys and liver and the potential for long term neurological issues," the owner told the Tri-City News at the time.
Wag's owner said he has spoken to several people from the Tri-Cities and the Metro Vancouver area, and has learned that pets being poisoned by discarded drugs is more common than many people think.
Horsley said he is also concerned about a child possibly touching a substance that could turn out to contain fentanyl and possibly being poisoned or even killed.
He said people might want to start carrying Naloxone so they can be in a position to help someone recover from an overdose if they mistakenly touch the drug in a public place.
"Sadly the world we live in, parents and dog owners should get themselves Naloxone," said Horsley.