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Dog, Shammy, stays by Northeast Philly widow's side after her tragic death

Julie Shaw, STAFF WRITER

Updated: Tuesday, September 27, 2016, 2:38 PM

Shammy and Virginia McLaughlin.

Shammy was injured, but she stayed by Virginia McLaughlin's side.

That's where police found the little Shih Tzu when they went to McLaughlin's Northeast Philadelphia house two weeks ago and saw the 68-year-old widow stabbed to death in her Elmore Road home. Shammy was also stabbed, but survived.

Police said the man who killed McLaughlin — Lawrence Carty, 60, of the 3500 block of Grant Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia — committed suicide afterward by stabbing himself. He was also found in McLaughlin's home.

Carty had been a friend of McLaughlin's. They went country-western or line-dancing together. But in the days before the fatal stabbings, they had a serious fight after which McLaughlin ended her friendship with Carty, a neighbor of McLaughlin's has said.

The dog’s loyalty, family members said, is a testament to McLaughlin’s love of life, of people and of animals. McLaughlin named the dog Shamrock — Shammy for short — after rescuing her from a shelter on St. Patrick’s Day a few years ago.

For McLaughlin’s sons, Shammy’s recovery — accomplished only with the help of generous veterinarians and neighbors — has been a critical ray of hope as they struggle to make sense of their mother’s death.

Virginia McLaughlin, known as "Ginny," was born in Brooklyn, attended Triton Regional High School in Camden County, and later moved to Northeast Philadelphia after meeting the man she would marry - Thomas McLaughlin, an elevator mechanic.

The two had met through friends at the Shore in Wildwood, the eldest of their four sons, Doug McLaughlin, said.

"Our mother loved only one man in her entire adult life - our father, Tom," Doug told a gathering of hundreds of people last week at his mother's funeral Mass at Our Lady of Calvary Church on Knights Road in Northeast Philadelphia.

"When she was 50, her world was changed forever when he passed away suddenly," Doug said. Thomas McLaughlin died of a sudden heart attack in June 1999 at age 52.

Virginia McLaughlin worked at Sweet Ovations, a company that makes fruit bases and fillings, in Northeast Philadelphia. But most of all she "wanted nothing more in life than to be a mom," said Doug, 44, who lives in Montgomery County.

She also loved dogs. Before Shammy, she had Lambchop, Rosie and Carrie — all rescues, Doug said.

Doug said the wounded Shammy remained by his mother's side for about 36 hours after she was killed.

After police found them, neighbors rushed Shammy to VCA Knightswood Animal Hospital on Knights Road.

Debbie Rubin, lead veterinarian at Knightswood, said last week that Shammy had been stabbed behind her right front leg. The wound penetrated her chest, Rubin said. After Rubin's team gave Shammy pain medicine, took X-rays and stabilized her, Rubin took her that same day to the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center in Levittown for more advanced care.

At VSEC, Shammy was cared for by Samuel Durkan, an emergency-care veterinarian, and his team, including Lauren Deahl, a surgery resident.

Deahl, who operated on Shammy, said the dog had a deep gash in her right chest, broken ribs and a bruised lung.

"She was very critical," said Deahl. "Without treatment, within a few hours she would have passed away."

After Shammy returned to Knightswood three days later, Rubin took her home for the night.

"After the trauma she went through, I didn't want her to be by herself," Rubin said. " . . . I wanted to make sure she knew people loved her."

That night, Shammy jumped into bed and slept with Rubin.

The next day, Doug's brother Tom picked Shammy up from Knightswood.

"It was very emotional, but a happy ending for Shammy," Doug said.

"Tom asked how he can pay the bill and they said all services were free," Doug said, referring to Knightswood and VSEC, which is affiliated with the Lend-a-Paw Foundation charity.

Shammy will now live with Tom in Key West, Fla.

"That dog meant the world to my mom," Tom, 40, said.

The siblings' younger brothers, Ryan, 35, lives near State College, and Tim, 33, lives in the Coatesville area.

At the church service, Doug also mentioned how his mother loved her four grandkids, her sister, her brother, her friends and always showed interest in her sons' friends. She was devout in her Catholic faith.

Cheryl Nickel worked with McLaughlin for more than 25 years. She said McLaughlin retired from Sweet Ovations, now called Zentis, about three years ago. "I loved her dearly. We laughed a lot," said Nickel, who described McLaughlin as a "beautiful, beautiful religious person."

In his eulogy, Doug asked people to find positives in any situation. "The question people have asked most in the past week is 'How can I help?,'" he told those gathered at the church. "The answer is simple . . . You can help by keeping my mother's legacy alive . . .

"Whether it is filling up a room with your smile," he said, "taking interest in others, leaving an impression on those you have met, caring for animals, being a great parent or grandparent, being patriotic, being strong in facing challenges or being a happy person."

shawj@phillynews.com

215-854-2592

@julieshawphilly

Julie Shaw, STAFF WRITER

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