Letter From Michael Doolen, DVM

Dear Jerry

I stumbled on your site last night while surfing the thousands of sites that are laden with eye-rolling, anthropomorphic dribble about avian behavior. WOW!!

I laughed until I cried, then I cried until I fell asleep. You are the FIRST ONE I have run into in the 30-some years that I have been preaching exactly the same thing...  to HAVE A CLUE!  Thanks for the wonderful opportunity to see that I am not alone in the world!  Please bear with me a bit – I have a EXTREMELY IMPORTANT  message for you, but I feel I must first tell you a little about myself (you, with your RIGHT ON message on Mytoos.com and obvious dedication to these incredible, wonderful creatures, are the first to stimulate me to force my history on a stranger like this):

My name is Michael Doolen, DVM.  I am 50-something.  I grew up on a horse ranch in Montana where my granddad introduced me to the realities of “natural horsemanship” (now,  I know this translates to natural animal behavior, in general). I began raising parrots in the late 60’s, in the 
days when most of our large parrots were wild-caught, with a few parent-raised in captivity.  I was 
a photographer by profession, and a breeder by (poor) choice as a “hobby” – perfectly acceptable 
to the ignorant masses at the time. As time went on, I learned a great deal from experience with 
them and the people (monsters and kind hearts alike) that dealt with, kept, and loved them.  I obtained most of my stock from people who had wild, often sick birds that bit them once too many times or screamed them out of their homes. Garage sales where I bought the rusty old wrought – 
iron cages for 5 dollars and they “threw in” the poor bird – you probably know the scene.  I accumulated over 300 toos, caws, zons, conures, grays, etc., etc., etc. that mostly lived in several barns and a large farmhouse.  I proudly called myself a breeder and spent from 4AM to 2 or 3 PM feeding, cleaning, etc. every day. 

Then came the babies – of course, I started handfeeding them, rather than allowing the parents to do their job – mostly because they wouldn’t, but also because I began to see that imprinting “produced such better pets”.  Ted Lafeber, Sr., and Jr. became my friends and I helped “test” their products as they developed them, and later consulted for them. I became frustrated that I was losing too many to disease (almost 100 in a 10 day period to Pacheco’s at one point). There were almost no vets in the Midwest  that had even a half a clue, so, being a do-it-yourselfer (ranch training), I decided to go back to school and become an avian veterinarian.  This decision was made in the early 80’s and was the choice I made at a time when I had enough resources to either buy a “proven pair” of hyacinths or go back to school to be a vet. 

Thank God I chose the latter.  My banker laughed at me when I told him I intended to go back to school to become an avian vet. This just gave me more incentive, the rebellious soul that I was.  I attended Iowa State University, studied undergraduate zoology with a STRONG emphasis in animal behavior and ethology. While in vet school, I formed the ISU student chapter of the AAV where student members handraised my (and other breeder’s) babies in a nursery the school allowed us to maintain.  Money raised paid for chapter activities like flying Irene Pepperberg in to speak to us about Alex, etc. I trained under Dr. Bob Altman, went to Utrecht University in Holland to study 
avian & exotic pathology under Dr. Gerry Dorrestein, attended all AAV meetings (on student loan money), and then stayed on at the teaching hospital for 4 years after graduating, working as an exotics clinician, building an avian & exotics program that thrived, but didn’t really fit in with the “agricultural land-grant” college’s mission.  As a result, despite the fact that my work brought in cash and was profitable, funding dried up and I accepted an offer to practice avian & exotic animal medicine & surgery in New Jersey (on the beautiful shore), where I live and practice to this day. 

My avian practice has evolved from mostly “putting out the fires of infectious disease” to mostly “putting out and preventing the fires of the disease known as imprinting” (read behavior consulting.  Read between the lines fighting on the front lines in the war against anthropomorphic abuse of these animals). I have taught and lectured worldwide, have been a leader in the AAV and have developed a reputation in the NE as a premier avian & exotics practitioner and surgeon who people travel for hours and sometimes wait weeks to see (really, not bragging, simply stating the facts). I have recently built a (technically modest, compared to Mytoos.com) website where I hope to help even more people with their birds and the behavior problems they experience. Please visit it and check out my credentials, publications, etc. – I want you to see where your link is located and know first-hand that it will be where it can reach yet more people who need to see it. This would also be a way for you to learn yet a bit more about me – I feel it crucial you come to trust me, so I can recruit your support in the matter I will get to later in this letter.  I would love someday to talk live with you about the behavior modification (the bird’s and the owners)  techniques I have developed that actually work (to some degree) in a fair percentage of cases, IF the owners are willing and follow the program. I at least am able to help these people understand why their M2 just chewed OFF his foot and died last night, despite the fact that they “spend a lot of time with him, and loved him SOOO much – why would he do that”. Over the years I have gone from a supporter to a producer, to a fixer, to an advocate, to a sometimes blue-in-the-face opponent of imprinting who realizes that it may be easier to prevent (talk people out of it) than “fix”(but there they are, so my life revolves around the attempt to fix – thank God people like you are helping to prevent).  I have added a link to your site on mine and will tell anyone asking me what bird I recommend for a pet that they MUST see your site. 

You recommend people see their avian veterinarian, list AAV members, have glowing endorsement from my good friend Greg Harrison, and, I hope me (I would be absolutely honored for you to 
include my endorsement of your informative, wonderful, loving, caring, dedicated,  funny and sad, incredibly invaluable to the future of and mental health of these animals and the loving people who think they want one.
 



OK, here is the main reason I'm writing.  This is a story about euthanasia, something that makes many people very uncomfortable but at times can't be avoided...

This is the story of Albert, a 12 year old imprinted, eighth-hand M2 who had begun to scream, 
bite, and pluck feathers at the ripe young age of 2 years. He had been passed from breeder to 
owner to bird store to owner to owner to bird breeder, to rescue organization, and finally to an absolutely wonderful 30-something woman named Mary.  She loved Albert more than she could express, taking him everywhere with her, often cuddled under her shirt – in the lap of luxury.

 He had a very bad past history and came to her very abused.  He was a mean nasty bird to two of his previous owners, a lover and mate to one (who died, leaving him to a bird store in her will, thinking the owner would follow her wishes to find a good home for him).   He then bounced around, screaming and biting his way into a so-called rescue organization where he was forced to live in cramped, dirty quarters in a trailer house crammed full to the ceiling of “rescued” birds. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.  Mary had a good relationship with Al at first, but he became more and more bent on self-destruction. 

She tried everything to convince him to leave his feathers alone and preen normally. Unfortunately, he had been severely over-wing-clipped some years before and had not been allowed to ever fledge in the first place,  and his wings were so badly damaged that all the emergency repair surgery, bandaging, hormone treatments, drugs, and love would never heal him to a point where he could ever fly again. 

Mary spent thousands of dollars, going from dog/cat vet to (sort-of) avian vet to “self-appointed behavior expert” to holistic dabbler, to nutritional expert to animal communicator (who ironically informed her that Albert said he just wanted to die) to the internet (the EARLY internet, where there was more bad information than good), and finally to her pastor, who told her that all God’s creatures deserved a place at His side when the suffering was too great to live with. A wise man.

It seemed that the more Mary looked, all she could find were people who wanted to be the hero and provide a “silver bullet” to “cure” Albert of his “obsession”.  Nobody had a clue. It got so she could only prevent him from making himself bloody and doing more damage by focusing her attention on him EVERY WAKING minute, and allowing him to sleep in her bed at night, so she would be in physical contact with him nearly 24 hours a day. This poor woman nearly had a breakdown.   The more she paid attention to him, the worse things got. She finally found me.  I stopped the bleeding of the day, looked at his history and did a top of the line, all inclusive workup.  

I did this mostly to see just how badly his life of stress had affected his liver function, but also to 
help her KNOW for sure that it wasn’t zinc, psittacosis, aspergillus, psittacine beak and feather disease, polyomavirus, proventricular dilatation disease, pacheco’s or anything else “fixable or manageable or curable” with drugs. What I found (indirectly with bloodwork, and confirmed directly by endoscopic biopsy) was an end-stage liver, ravaged by fat infiltration after years of stress, high-fat diet with no opportunity to burn all those calories, and drugs.  

We had a long discussion about “what was best for Albert and for her”. She decided that Albert 
could only find peace in heaven, and that it was her responsibility to help him get there. Then the ball was in my court. I gave him an injection of valium in his breast muscle. He was not restrained for this – he sat quietly in Mary’s lap while I gently gave him the shot. He had had many, many shots of antibiotics in the past – this was nothing new to him and he acted as though nothing even happened. Actually, he and I had developed a friendship and he was giving me kisses as I injected him.  

After a while, he got very sleepy and leaned into Mary’s loving breast, nearly asleep.  Gently, 
quietly, calmly. The lights in the room were dim and there was low volume music in the background from a CD player Mary had brought along. Playing was his favorite music.   I put a gas anesthetic cone over his head – a clear one he could see us through. He looked sleepily at Mary, then at me as he quietly, peacefully went to sleep, breathing  the gas deeply. He had the calmest look on his face that he had ever displayed and Mary later said she was sure he was telling us thank you with his eyes.  

He was soon in a deep plane of surgical anesthesia - feeling, and knowing nothing of this world or of the painful existence he had endured so long. With tears in my eyes, I administered a euthanasia solution into a vein and he silently rose to meet the others who had passed before him to the rainbow bridge. 

Mary and I sat for a while, she holding his limp body in her lap, and me holding her hand. I left her alone with him for a while until she was ready to let me take him to the back where I placed him into paper packaging so she could bury him in her back yard, next to her cat, who had died the year before. Before she left, she gave me a big hug and thanked me, saying this was the calmest and most peaceful she had felt in many weeks. 

True story. Not an isolated incident, either. It is our responsibility to these wonderful creatures to do what is right after we, as humans have inadvertently enough, innocently enough, and with love in our hearts - caused them to suffer.  

Jerry, please post the relevant parts of this letter. People need to know that, rule number one is: 
All animals die – sooner or later, one way or another. Rule number two is:  If we cannot resolve 
their suffering, we must relieve them of it – kindly, painlessly, HUMANELY. 

They MUST KNOW that Gandhi  (see note below) WAS NOT humanely euthanized by anyone’s definition, especially not the veterinary profession’s.  He was brutally tortured to death.  Needlessly.  We must not characterize this horrible account as an example of humane euthanasia.  IT IS NOT.  I can’t bear the thought that each person reading this account will probably come away thinking that euthanasia involves this kind of nightmarish, tragic experience. This is no way to ask people to make a judgment about this act, the kindest thing we could ever do for our pets when they are suffering and we cannot relieve them any other way. This will haunt me forever.  
( Editors Note: Gandhi was horribly euthanized by an incompetent vet and the story appeared on Mytoos.com  )
 

If you are still reading, please hear my heartfelt thank you for listening.
Please consider allowing me to appear on yours, endorsing your valuable work.
Please be well. Anyone considering a too or other large hookbill needs you and your wonderful dedication. We must prevent what we cannot fix.
Your very impressed new fan,

Michael Doolen, DVM (Mike to you)

http://www.doolen.com
 



Professional Experience:

November 8, 1994 to present: Clinician, Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital of Oakhurst, a division of  Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, Oakhurst, NJ

June 1996 to present: Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medicine – University of Pennsylvania College of Veterinary Medicine

June, 1991 to October, 1994: Clinician, Iowa State University, College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital

Professional Consultation:

Ellman International, Inc.

Lafeber Company

Silogic Design, Inc.

General Scientific Corporation

Veterinary Specialty Products

Storz Veterinary Endoscopes

Medical Diagnostic Services

NJ Board of Veterinary Examiners 

Guest Lecturer:

University of Pennsylvania

Eastern Iowa Veterinary Association

Jersey Shore Veter

Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference

Iowa State University

Pennsylvania Veterinary Association

Texas A & M University

University of Pretoria, South Africa

Argentina Veterinary Medical Association

Association of Avian Veterinarian Conferences

Mid-Atlantic States AAV Conference

European Chapter AAV Conference

Japan Veterinary Medical Associa

World Small Animal Veterinary Medical Association

Publications:

Doolen, M.D.: Mike Doolen on BIRDS, Intervet 1989. 5:20-22.

Doolen, M.D., Jackson, L.: Anesthesia in Caged Birds. ISU Veterinarian 1991. 53:76-80.

Doolen, M.D. Ask the Experts, in Bird Talk (Monthly). 1988 - 1991. Fancy Publications

Doolen, M.D., Greve, J.H.: Description of a Microfilaria from an Umbrella Cockatoo (Cacatua alba) and an Unsuccessful Attempt to InfectMosquitoes (Culex pipiens pipiens). Avian Diseases 1992. 36:484-487.

Pelelo, C.J., Doolen, M.D.: Proventricular Dilatation Syndrome in Psittacines. ISU Veterinarian  1993. 55:82-85.

Doolen, M.D.: Determination of blood levels of a new form of doxycycline after intramuscular injection in the domestic pigeon (Columba livia). Proceedings of the annual meeting of the European Association of Avian Veterinarians  1993. Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Doolen, M.D.: The principles of radiosurgery - incision and coagulation with radio waves. Vet Forum July 1994.

Doolen, M.D.: Radiosurgery - designed specifically for veterinary medicine. Vet Forum November, 1994.

Doolen, M.D.: Principles of radiosurgery. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association  1994. Durban, South Africa.

Doolen, M.D.: Adriamycin chemotherapy in a blue-front Amazon with osteosarcoma. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Association of Avian Veterinarians 1994. Reno, Nevada.

Doolen, M.D.: A case of thirteen deaths associated with carpet freshener toxicity. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Association of Avian Veterinarians  1994. Reno, Nevada.

Doolen, M.D.: Crop biopsy - a low risk diagnosis for neuropathic gastric dilatation. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Association of Avian Veterinarians  1994. Reno, Nevada.

Doolen, M.D.: A new oral speculum for large psittacines. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Association of Avian Veterinarians  1994. Reno, Nevada.

Doolen, M.D.: Surgical diagnostics in avian species. Diagnostics and therapeutics in Cage Birds and Avicultural Medicine 1995. Texas A&M University.

Doolen, M.D.: Antimicrobial therapy, including a focus on psittacosis. Diagnostics and therapeutics in Cage Birds and Avicultural Medicine   1995. Texas A&M University.

Doolen, M.D.: Wisdom, caution, and self-control: purchasing the new bird. Proceedings of the Symposium on Disease Prevention for Cage and Aviary Birds   1995. Texas A&M University.

Doolen, M.D.: Advanced avian techniques. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic States Association of Avian Veterinarians   1995. Williamsburg, VA.

Doolen, M.D.: Advanced avian techniques laboratory. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic States Association of Avian Veterinarians   1995. Williamsburg, VA.

Doolen, M.D.: Basic avian techniques. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic States Association of Avian Veterinarians   1995. Williamsburg, VA.

Doolen, M.D.: Basic avian techniques laboratory. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic States Association of Avian Veterinarians   1995. Williamsburg, VA.

Doolen, M.D.: Handfeeding and handfeeders: common problems . Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic States Association of Avian Veterinarians   1995. Williamsburg, VA.

Timmerman, A.M., Doolen, M.D.: Common Reptilian Diseases. ISU Veterinarian 1995. 57:14-21.

Doolen, M.D.: The critical hour. Proceedings of the First Annual African Avian Management and Medicine Symposium  1995. University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Doolen, M.D.: Basic avian surgery. Proceedings of the First Annual African Avian Management and Medicine Symposium   1995. University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Doolen, M.D.: Avian radiology. Proceedings of the First Annual African Avian Management and Medicine Symposium   1995. University of Pretoria, South Africa. 

Doolen, M.D.: Avian radiosurgery. Proceedings of the First Annual African Avian Management and Medicine Symposium   1995. University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Doolen, M.D.: Practical laboratory in avian soft tissue surgery. Proceedings of the First Annual African Avian Management and Medicine Symposium   1995. University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Doolen, M.D.: Reptile anesthesia. Proceedings of the Exotic Animal and Reptile Symposium 1995. University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Doolen, M.D.: Specialized reptile surgery. Proceedings of the Exotic Animal and Reptile Symposium 1995. University of Pretoria, South Africa

Doolen, M.D.: Radiocirugia: principios y aplicaciones en la practica veterinaria. Selecciones Veterinarias 1996. 4:1, p48

Rewert JM, Doolen M. Diagnosing and treating hepatic lipidosis in exotic pet birds. Vet Med. 1996; 91:648–651

Doolen, M.D.: Contributer, in Self-Assessment Colour Review Avian Medicine. Eds. Forbes, N.A. and Altman, R.B. Manson Publishing 1998. 

Doolen, M.D.: Straining and Reproductive Disorders. Chapter in Manual of Avian Medicine. Eds. Olsen, G.H., and Orosz, S.E. Mosby, Inc. 2000

Doolen, M.D.: Staff Training, in Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine. Vol. 9, No. 4, October, 2000. W.B. Saunders

Professional Affiliations: 

Member, American Animal Hospital Association

Member, American Veterinary Medical Association

Member, Mid-Atlantic States Association of Avian Veterinarians

Member, Association of Amphibian & Reptilian Veterinarians

Member, Association of Avian Veterinarians, Past member of the Executive Board of Directors, Past member Editorial Board, Past Membership Committee Chair

Second Vice-President, Monmouth-Ocean County Bird Fanciers
 
 

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