For more information on Chris Cooper's efforts to educate dog owners about the risks associated with Rimadyl, visit friendsofsophie.com of the "Friends of Sophie dog" page on Facebook.
A pair Boulder dog owners whose golden retriever died after severe poisoning associated with the anti-inflammatory drug Rimadyl -- prescribed to the dog in 2009 -- have reached a settlement with pharmaceutical maker Pfizer and have started an awareness campaign about use of the drug.
The terms of the settlement between Shelley Smith and Chris Cooper and Pfizer are being withheld as part of the agreement, according to the Animal Law Center, the Wheat Ridge-based animal law practice that represented Smith and Cooper in the lawsuit.
But Jennifer Edwards, founder and attorney with the Animal Law Center, said the financial terms represent the largest Rimadyl settlement her organization is aware of in Colorado.
"It's been a pretty long, hard-fought battle, but it was certainly worth it," Edwards said Tuesday.
Elinore White, the director of corporate communications for Zoetis, formerly the animal health business unit of Pfizer and now a standalone company, issued a statement following the settlement: "At Zoetis, the health and well-being of the animals taking our medicine is our primary concern."
Cooper said the settlement was a big win, but noted that it was bittersweet because it did nothing to change the fact that his dog, Sophie, was taken away from him.
"It's a major victory and that's all fine and good, but that doesn't change the fact that they killed my beautiful baby," he said. "It was never about the money, because it will never make me whole. Sophie meant the world to me, and no amount of money in the world can fix that emotional hole that's going to be with me forever."
'Roller coaster ride from hell'
Cooper and Smith filed the lawsuit in 2011, two years after Sophie died from Rimadyl toxicity. According to the original complaint, Aspen Meadow Veterinary Clinic in Longmont gave Rimadyl to Sophie after a June 2009 surgery on a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament in the dog's knee.
About a week after the surgery, Sophie was extremely lethargic and not eating, and was diagnosed with Rimadyl toxicity. Sophie went through numerous treatments and eventually was admitted to the clinic at Colorado State University.
"It was an up-and-down roller coaster ride from hell," Cooper said.
He said he and Smith would have put Sophie down, but vets kept insisting she would pull through. Instead, he said the dog suffered for months before dying at CSU of respiratory failure in July 2009 as Cooper was trying to drive up to Fort Collins to see her.
"She died alone and scared and I couldn't be there, and it still breaks my heart," Cooper said.
'My baby didn't die in vain'
The complaint alleges the poisoning is a known complication of the drug that appears to affect golden retrievers more frequently than other breeds.
The bottle that Pfizer uses for Rimadyl contains numerous warnings about the drug's side effects, and the Food and Drug Administration produces a flier for pet owners about the potential risks of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the class to which Rimadyl -- also known as carprofen -- belongs.
Rimadyl was FDA approved in 1996 for the relief of pain and inflammation associated with osteo-arthritis and for control of post-operative pain associated with soft tissue and orthopedic surgery in dogs.
The Rimadyl that Sophie was given was repackaged by the vet in a plain orange pill, and Cooper said he never would have given Sophie the drug if he and Smith had known the dangers. Now, he said he is putting the entirety of the settlement toward a campaign to educate people about the risks of Rimadyl.
"If I had the information I had now, or someone had handed me a flier, I never would have given (Rimadyl) to my dog," Cooper said. "It's just heartbreaking to see these other people going through what I went through."
Even before he reached the settlement, Cooper went around handing out fliers warning dog owners. He's also started a website -- friendsofsophie.com -- and a Facebook page for "Friends of Sophie dog" that tells the story of her death and outlines some of the warning signs of Rimadyl poisoning
Cooper is using the money from the settlement to further fuel the social media awareness campaign.
"I'm not taking a penny of Pfizer's money -- it's all going into this campaign," he said. "I just hope we can inform as many people as possible about the potential side effects of this drug. ... "It's the only thing that is going to let me sleep at night, knowing my baby didn't die in vain."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.