Pets quickly become a part of the family, but they can’t always go everywhere families go. When it comes time for a vacation, we have to leave them in trusted hands. That may be a friend or other caretaker, but there are also a number of pet hotels and kennels that will take care of your furry friend for a fee.

YouTube star Corey Dixon trusted his dog Aspen to PetSmart when he went on a trip to an area that supposedly has a lot of bears. It seemed like the safest choice, since dogs will sometimes run up to and antagonize bears before you realize what’s happening.

But while at PetSmart, Aspen came down with a serious illness. Dixon was shocked by his dog’s condition when he arrived to pick him up, saying his ribs were showing and he was having serious trouble breathing.

Aspen is a service dog trained to alert her owner when his heart condition was about to cause him to faint. Many service dogs are so sensitive, they can recognize changes in a person’s body before the humans do. Dixon was distraught by what her stay at PetSmart seemed to have done to her.

Dixon has a fairly large following because of his YouTube videos, and people paid attention when he reached out to PetSmart to complain about the condition Aspen was handed over in. He also wanted to know why he wasn’t notified when she began to get sick on the premises.

But sadly, the worst was still to come. Aspen was put down on Sunday after her condition continued to deteriorate.

Dixon wrote to his followers that he managed to raise about $3,000 for veterinary fees online, and says that money will be used for funeral costs.

He also shared some pictures of Aspen enjoying happier times:

And thanked everyone for their support during this difficult time.

He especially wanted to honor Aspen for her work as a service dog. Dixon’s condition would lead him to faint, and if that happened in public, Aspen was trained to find help. She saved his life more than once.

The difficulties aren’t over. PetSmart is contesting Dixon’s story, saying that Aspen died because of a pre-existing condition, and it had nothing to do with her stay at one of their pet hotels, the CBC reports. But Dixon disagrees, saying they still had a responsibility to Aspen and her health.

“We know that she was sick in PetSmart’s care, we know that much. And that they didn’t bother to call the vet when she should have been seen a lot earlier,” Dixon said. 

“If she’d seen the vet when she started showing signs of being sick, maybe she would have had a better chance.”

The company did give $5,000 towards veterinary expenses for Aspen, which Dixon thanked them for. However, a spokesperson named Erin Gray said that a preliminary investigation “indicates that our associates followed all policies and procedures.”

Gray added that at least one veterinarian “reported the cause of death as a pre-existing autoimmune disease … completely unrelated to Aspen’s stay at PetSmart.”

Gray is referring to a condition called Myasthenia gravis, which is a disease that can affect breathing. 

However, Dixon says they’re still waiting on the results of a test that will show whether Aspen had the condition, and no one yet knows the results. 

Regardless, it still wouldn’t explain why Dixon never heard a peep about Aspen being so ill until he arrived to pick her up. He also shared an assessment of Aspen’s health from a vet made four days before her stay at PetSmart:

Dixon has apologized for making his timeline all about Aspen, but it’s a painful situation:

Aspen was family.

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