FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — Last May, the Levy family made the decision to put down Cesar, their Miniature Pinscher, to bring his struggle with an illness to a peaceful end.

Then they had to relive the experience all over again.

"He was our dog before my husband and I were even married. He was our first child," Keri Levy told New Jersey 101.5.

Cesar was diagnosed with Cushing's Disease, an illness that is prevalent in older dogs and causes them to produce and secrete hormones in the body. The dog was brought to the Briarwood Veterinary Center in Howell to end its pain. Levy said that the center cared for Cesar and other pets both her and her husband had in their homes going back to childhood.

Levy said that she received an anonymous phone call on Saturday that Cesar was still alive. She called her husband, who broke down in tears in disbelief at the news while at dinner with some friends.

"He was blindsided. This was his little buddy," she said.

She also had to explain to her young daughters what had happened.

"When we first put him down in May, it was hard enough to have the conversation with them. And now to have to explain to a 10- and 9-year-old that we were basically deceived and lied to, and that the dog was still alive but unfortunately they won't be able to hold him or touch him again, because he's in worse condition than when we brought him in the first time ... was absolutely horrific," Levy said, her own voice cracking with emotion.

Briarwood Veterinary Center had recently been sold by longtime owner Dr. George Menez, who continued to work at the office until this week.

Levy credited Briarwood's new lead veterinarian, Dr. Maureen Kubisz, for helping to determine just what had happened and put her in touch with Menez on the phone.

"Menez said to me that he wanted to apologize and that things got out of control and started to unravel. He takes full responsibility for it. Even though he knew the dog was not OK and we had made the decision to put him to sleep to stop his suffering, he sometimes feels like he has to try and save the dog," Levy said.

When asked by Levy what that meant, Levy said as Menez's wife yelled in the background to "be quiet," Menez told her Cesar's case was the only time he had done this.

"He proceeded to tell me where Cesar was and who had him. It was a worker in the office who had taken him," Levy said.

That worker was told by police to bring the dog back to Briarwood.

"It makes me wonder, because 10 years ago he put a dog down for me. Again, I didn't stay in the room because I couldn't bear to do it with a 6-month-old in tow. I wonder about anyone else who wasn't able to stay in the room," Levy said.

Levy was reunited with Cesar on Monday and said neither the office worker nor Menez had properly cared for or medicated the dog since May.

"We got him back 10 pounds lighter than he was five months ago. He was suffering. His bones were deteriorating. His body was eating his muscle mass. He was blind. A slew of things wrong with him," Levy said.

She and Kubisz then made the decision that the best thing for Cesar would be to be put down for real this time.

Ironically, Menez was caring for the puppies Levy's family recently took into their home over the summer.

Levy isn't sure if she will take any legal action against Menez or the office worker.

"We'll weigh our options and see. To me, it's not about money and recovering money. To me it's about, who else was deceived? Who else may have thought their best friend is safe in heaven but is suffering somewhere else?" she said.

Levy recalled the woman who took Cesar making comments about taking in elderly dogs and not understanding why dogs had to be put to sleep.

"When I got the call, I immediately thought it was this woman," Levy said.

She hopes the woman, who was let go by Briarwood's new ownership, will be investigated.

Monmouth County SPCA director Ross Licitra said Howell Police have consulted with his office to weigh their legal options.

A message for the Briarwood Veterinary Center has not yet been returned.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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