It's been a year since a Bellingham family's two pugs died after eating poisonous mushrooms, but Bill and Renee Bliss say they are finding the same kind of mushrooms in their yard this year and they want to get the word out so other families don't have to go through the same heartbreak they did.
Milo, age 8, and Maggie, age 10, were Bill and Renee's dearly loved pets. On Nov. 2, 2012, unbeknownst to their family, the two dogs ate poisonous mushrooms in the back yard.
"Milo died that day," Bill said. "Maggie spent a week in the hospital before passing."
Bill says the dogs received excellent care at local hospitals, and an investigation into the cause of Milo and Maggie's deaths lead him to the Washington Poison Center.
Dr. Donna Mensching advised him to collect the mushrooms from his yard and have them identified by a mushroom expert. She also recommended that the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory analyze Milo's vomit for the presence of mushrooms.
Some of the mushrooms found in the yard were identified as poisonous and the experts confirmed the presence of Inocybe species, possibly Inocybe mixtilis.
Inocybe species were identified in Milo's vomit.
"All are very poisonous to dogs," Bill said. "Little did we know."
"Maggie’s clinical signs were a mixture of those caused by Inocybe species and a second type of poisonous mushroom causing liver failure, so we suspect she had access to both."
The next step was to remove the problem in the yard.
“We picked a gallon-and-a-half of mushrooms. It was some I’d never seen before,” said Renee.
They are seeing the same types of mushrooms this year so they are diligent in removing them.
"(Bill) does a twice daily walk in the yard looking for them," Renee said.
They don't want their new pugs - Emma and Lola - to suffer like Milo and Maggie did.
"I don’t know if it's dogs or pugs but they want to eat everything they see," said Renee.
Renee says when word got out last year about Milo and Maggie, they got cards and letters and phone calls from people all over the country.
"It was the coolest thing. For something so sad, some good things came out of it," she said. "I think we had saved an animal because of the press… so it made it all worthwhile."
They want to get the word out again about the threat mushrooms can pose to both pets and children.
"I hope everyone will pay close attention so not a single pet (or unsuspecting small child) dies because of this innocent mistake," Bill said.
What to do about mushrooms
Mushrooms grow in wet areas where there is decaying organic material or in association with many trees, and prime growing season is in the spring and fall.
Gardening expert Ciscoe Morris says there's no product that will kill mushrooms.
"The only way to rid your garden of them is to pick them, but they'll come back the following year," he said.
"You have to remove them from anywhere your pooch has access," he said.
If you think your pet or child has eaten something poisonous, call the Washington Poison Center (800-572-5842 for pets; 800-222-1222 for people) as soon as you know an exposure has occurred.