When Lindsey Gregg's English bulldog fell ill last month in the middle of the night, she said she didn't know what to do.
As the owner of several English bulldogs over the years, Gregg said she knew the breed often needs special care. There were no emergency veterinarian hospitals near her home in Summerville, so Gregg decided to make the four-hour drive to Athens, home of the University of Georgia Bulldogs.
Gregg said in a phone interview that she'd never been to Athens but knew the university had a veterinarian school and teaching hospital, as well as a reputation for honoring bulldogs. By the time they arrived, Gregg said Myla, her English bulldog, had already passed away.
"They were so kind," Gregg said. "They came out and got her (out of Gregg's truck), and they let me sit with her for about an hour and a half at Uga. And I'm just sitting there freaking out because this is the bulldog school, and I know they've got a great veterinarian clinic."
In the waiting room of the veterinarian hospital in Athens, Gregg said she saw all kinds of animals waiting for treatment: birds, a horse, a cow and two dogs. She said she was glad there were no bulldogs in the waiting room, because she said she would have likely burst into tears.
After spending thousands of dollars on Myla's care during her life, Gregg said she was prepared to pay anything to find out what happened to her dog. But when she asked what the necropsy would cost -- the animal version of an autopsy -- clinic staff said there wasn't any charge.
The attendants explained that the university is a teaching clinic, Gregg said, and the school's staff will find out how Myla died to help their students learn how to prevent similar issues in the future. Twenty-four hours later, Gregg said representatives from the clinic called to tell her that Myla died of a collapsed trachea.
The clinic's staff gave Gregg one of Myla's paw prints set in clay, and Gregg made arrangements to have the dog cremated and the ashes returned to her.
UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
Myla was deceased when she arrived, so there was no charges for services, said Julie Watson McPeake, a director of communications and marketing for the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine. The paw imprint is always given without charge, because it may help the client's grieving process, McPeake said in an email.
Necropsies are usually charged, but McPeake said that based on the clinician's opinion, Myla's case could be a learning opportunity.
"In situations like these, the hospital covers the cost of the necropsy since it is being done for instructional/learning purposes," McPeake said.
Joe Bartges is a professor at the University of Georgia's Veterinarian School. In a phone interview, he said he didn't know exactly how many English bulldogs the department sees a year, but with a laugh said, "it's a lot."
The teaching college doesn't have a special program for bulldogs, but Bartges said he and the staff have a lot of experience with the unique breed. Being a teaching hospital, Bartges said he thinks the university's College of Veterinary Medicine offers all animals who are brought there treatment that's above other veterinarians.
"We provide a level of care that's at the cutting edge and the forefront," Bartges said. "And we continue to try and improve that information, technology; things that will improve the life of pets and the owners associated with them, the pet parents."
There are three pillars of higher education: teaching, research and service, Bartges said. The university sees all kinds of pets, he said, but it also has a large animal department -- for horses, cows and goats -- as well as a zoo and wildlife clinic that see animals from the Atlanta Zoo and other places.
It's a big team of students, interns, residents, nurses, client care personnel, front desk people and faculty who provide the services and teach the students, Bartges said.
The university also does research to discover new ways to treat all kinds of animals, he said.
Bartges said he personally sees Uga X, the University of Georgia's bulldog mascot, a few times a year. The same family has owned all 10 Ugas since the first English bulldog was established as the university's mascot in 1956.
Bartges said the university's most famous English bulldog gets phenomenal care, including an air conditioned field-side doghouse during football games.
"He's a great dog, and he's in good health," said Bartges, who added Uga X is nearly 10 years old. "He's just this laid-back dog ... great to work with, great personality, he's just a lot of fun to see a couple times a year."
Dogs with the "scrunchy nose" are technically called brachycephalic, Bartges said. That includes English bulldogs, French bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers. They are prone to skin disease and breathing problems because they have the same nose and teeth as many other dogs, but "it's all scrunched in," Bartges said.
Gregg said she's been telling everyone she knows to take their pets to the University of Georgia, including a neighbor with an English bulldog suffering from hip dysplasia.
Not a lot of vets will treat a bulldog, Gregg said she's found. Gregg said she has also lived in upstate New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and she said she would bring Myla back to Georgia every six months to see a veterinarian that specialized in English bulldogs.
All English bulldogs have a special personality, Gregg said, and she said Myla loved playing in the snow and the water, and always made her laugh. Gregg said she's been in the trash business her whole life, and Myla loved rides in the garbage truck -- Mack Trucks, a brand made famous by its bulldog logo and chrome bulldog on the hood of some trucks.
"She was definitely something, and a lot of people knew her," Gregg said.
Gregg said she used Myla's popularity to educate people about the horrors of puppy mills. Myla was purchased from an Atlanta metro pet store with a questionable reputation, Gregg said. That led her down a "rabbit hole of research," ending in a long drive to Iowa, where she brought back five English bulldogs bred in unhealthy conditions.
The employees of her company did their best to give all those dogs a good life, Gregg said.
Gregg said anyone who owns an English bulldog must have deep pockets because their care is often expensive. The dogs don't do well in the Southern summer either, she said, and can easily overheat.
Gregg said the veterinarian school had Myla's ashes sent to a nearby location, so she wouldn't have to make the long drive to Athens again. Myla's ashes, collar and tag from the veterinarian school are home again, but Gregg said she still isn't ready to move her food bowl or bed.
When Gregg first visited Athens, she said the University of Georgia's campus was still celebrating its football national championship. She said she knew about the veterinarian school and the university's reputation as the home of the bulldog -- but didn't know that all deceased Ugas were interred near Sanford Stadium, the university's nearly 93,000-capacity football stadium.
People in Summerville are impressed when she talks about her experience at the university's veterinarian school, Gregg said. But even though she had a good experience, she said it's too soon to get another bulldog in the near future.
Life has gotten busy since she recently started a new business, Gregg said, and Athens is a long drive from home. But Gregg said she might return to the home of the Bulldogs one day, to see the campus and Uga memorial, on a quiet day past her grief and the buzz of a national title celebration.
Contact Andrew Wilkins at email@example.com or 423-757-6659.