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Class of 2022: A Loss that Leads to Overwhelming Love

A first-person essay by Samantha Frosch, who after graduation will be working as a small animal general practitioner in Raleigh.

student with puppy
For two years, Ranger spent summers with Sami Frosch in Raleigh, eating as many pup cups as possible.

This is the story of how I lost a best friend but gained 100. 

Being a member of the Class of 2022 has been an absolute privilege. I am walking away with lifelong friendships and memories and an immense support system. I found out in second year I needed all the support I could get. 

My dog was a huge part of my life, my best friend and a valued member of my family. Ranger was special. He was beautiful, way too smart, goofy, loving and above all loyal. He was my first dog and the first opportunity I had to care for someone besides myself. You could leave for five minutes, and he would greet you like you had been gone for years. 

Rangy knew all kinds of tricks, would run along the Neuse River with me, loved other dogs, hated the pool but loved to steal the volleyball and viewed anything edible as the ultimate prize. For two years, he spent summers with me eating as many pup cups as possible, but he spent the school year in New York with my family, who loved him just as much as I did. 

During my second year,  my family realized Ranger had eaten an entire container of gum containing xylitol. I had just had a lecture on this. I called poison control. I wanted to be angry at my family but I couldn’t. Ranger was notorious for eating things he shouldn’t. He would open backpacks, go through garbage and reach things that seemed unreachable on the counter. 

He was taken to the emergency veterinarian, and I listened on the phone in horror as his liver values were too high to read. He was hospitalized for days on supportive care, blood transfusions, countless medications, tons of testing and more. My family took him home shortly after, and I was relieved. Although the situation is really serious and scary, most dogs survive xylitol ingestion. 

The next day, I was overwhelmed at school – not because I had missed a week (which was certainly overwhelming) but because of the love I received from my classmates.” 

Within the next two days, my mom called to tell me Ranger wasn’t urinating much. As a second year, I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t know much, but I knew that was scary. Ranger was hospitalized once more with an acute kidney injury. He was in kidney failure, fluid overloaded and anuric. 

I flew home and missed a week of school to be there for my baby. I was working with every veterinarian I knew to save him. We did absolutely everything. But after a few days, I knew. I could see it looking into his eyes.

I made the decision to humanely euthanize my best friend. He was surrounded by the people who loved him most, and I am confident I did right by him. It was one of the worst days I’ve ever had, and I flew back to North Carolina that evening.

The next day, I was overwhelmed at school – not because I had missed a week (which was certainly overwhelming) but because of the love I received from my classmates. 

Losing a young pet from an accident and not having answers was devastating. My classmates respected my space and didn’t bombard me with hugs or sorries (they probably knew I’d cry like a baby). Instead, my mailbox was overflowing with cards, photos, memorial gifts, Aussie socks, food and more. 

That first day back, xylitol was mentioned in lecture, and I looked down at my phone to see several messages full of heart emojis. I will admit that, at first, I would noticeably cringe at the words “acute kidney injury” or “xylitol” in class. I would stop studying those topics when they came up because of how bad they made me feel. During fourth year, I had an emergency patient that had eaten xylitol, and although it hurt, I knew I was exactly what that dog and his family needed. 

I feel as though I am leaving school quite literally with a super power. I know the body, how it works, how to interpret diagnostic tests. I know disease processes, drug indications and pathology. I can gather information from a simple physical exam others cannot. My hands can feel things, and my brain can put together smells and sounds others would not pick up.

I have gained so much, and there are truly no words to describe how lucky I feel leaving NC State. I have grown so much, and I have my Ranger to thank for that. He has made me a better veterinarian. I’ll forever be grateful to my classmates for helping put my heart back together again.

— Samantha Frosch