A Family’s Shocking Story: We Discovered Our Euthanized Dog Is Still Alive

By Sarah Jeanne Terry

When our dogs get sick, we face a lot of very serious choices. Vet bills can be very expensive. Caring for an ill animal often takes more time and effort. And when they're ill, our pets suffer, and we don't want to force them to suffer too much. That's why some families choose to put their beloved pups down, rather than prolonging their illness. But in some cases, that decision can go too far.

Boxer Puppy Closeup
credit: michael_lofenfeld/iStock/GettyImages

A family in Utah learned that the hard way after their beloved boxer Zoey got sick. She reportedly had seizures and a large mass growing in her side. The family thought Zoey had cancer that would eventually kill her, and they had already been through tough times, so they decided the best thing for their family was to euthanize Zoey. And then they began to mourn their lost dog, until six months later, they got the surprise of their lives.

Zoey's owners, Tawny Coates and her family, spotted their dog on a local adoption site, still alive and well.

Tawny explained, "I see the Boxer Town rescue page and I'm like, 'That looks like my dog.' Then I thought, 'I'm crazy,' but I click on it anyway and zoom in and say, 'No, that's my dog!'" And it was. Six months after they said goodbye to their beloved boxer, the Coates family has been reunited with their dog.

Turns out Zoey's condition wasn't as fatal as the family thought.

Close up of a sleeping boxer dog portrait
credit: valeconte/iStock/GettyImages

The vet who took the dog, Dr. Mary Smart, explained that Zoey wasn't dying, and she wanted to try to save her. And that's where the story gets really interesting because Tawny wasn't the one that took Zoey to be euthanized. She sent her father Larry Coates because she couldn't bear to do it. And now Tawny, her father, and Dr. Smart have different versions of what happened.

Dr. Smart claimed that she said Zoey was curable, but the family didn't seem to want to save it.

According to Dr. Smart, she explained to Tawny's father that the dog wasn't terminal. She told KSL, "In my professional opinion, this was a dog that had years to live and I didn't want to put the dog down. I was trying to save its life." However, Larry Coates insisted that Dr. Smart never gave him options other than euthanasia. But it seemed clear that Dr. Smart didn't totally trust the family with Zoey. She explained, "From my interaction with Mr. Coates, it seemed pretty obvious to me that they didn't want the dog."

So Dr. Smart made the executive decision not to euthanize Zoey, against the family's wishes.

We can't imagine Dr. Smart is the first vet to disagree with a family's decision to euthanize their pet. But instead of just thinking it, Dr. Smart took the money she got to euthanize Zoey and put it towards surgery to save her life. Afterward, Dr. Smart got in touch with Boxer Town, a local shelter, and they agreed to help find Zoey a new home. But Dr. Smart couldn't predict that Tawny and her family would recognize their own dog.

However now, the Coates family has happily reunited with their dog. And yet, they're paradoxically angry at Dr. Smart for what she did. And Dr. Smart admits that she screwed up in not calling the family, but she really thought they didn't want to keep Zoey. She explained, "Had I any inkling that they might at all be interested in having the dog back, I would have for sure called. But after my conversation with Mr. Coates, it just seemed very obvious to me that they didn't want the dog."

While we see how Dr. Smart stepped out of line, we totally see how she could be upset that a family wanted to euthanize their dog. Although legally, what Dr. Smart did was not okay. According to the law, dogs are property, and vets have to do what the owners want. Although as animal lovers, we know it's way more complicated than that.

But as it turns out, this totally weird story ends on a happy note. The Coates family has their dog back. And we hope after this, they think twice before assuming a medical issue means it's automatically terminal.