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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Three-year-old Rex stuffs his nose into his paws and plants himself on a chair. Sprawled out, he may stretch to two-feet long, but he appears to have one very big broken heart. The black miniature poodle has apparently not been the same since losing his best friend.

“For 3 1/2 years he was with his best buddy and now his best buddy is gone,” explains Rex’s owner, Renee Russ of Haltom City.

Rex stayed in a PetSmart Hotel off Interstate 35 in Fort Worth with 3 1/2 year old Max, also a miniature poodle, in late September while Charles and Renee Russ went on a cruise.

Phone records show PetSmart began calling them three days into their vacation to relay news they never expected.

“They said he (Max) threw up clear bile. They watched him through the day and then sometime during the night he passed away,” said Renee.

Max, a miniature poodle, shown here in happier times. (credit: CBS 11 News)

Max, a miniature poodle, shown here in happier times. (credit: CBS 11 News)

Charles and Renee say their dogs are like children to them. “I was in disbelief. I was like ‘no’ and then I was like how could they?” said Charles.

As soon as the couple got back from their trip on September 22, they took all of Max’s medical records to the store. They say the file proves Max was very healthy. They wanted to know more about what had happened. They asked to see the incident report. But, Charles and Renee said they could not get the paperwork or answers.

They called the I-team and we went looking for answers. In the state of Texas, no regulatory agency oversees businesses which board animals.

When we visited the store, an employee and a manager both told us we would have to contact PetSmart headquarters in Arizona.

A spokesperson from PetSmart sent the following statement saying:

“We care greatly about the health and safety of the pets entrusted in our care, and we are truly saddened by the loss of Max in our PetsHotel. This incident is still under investigation, and at this time, we’re waiting on test results and will work with the pet parent to convey those results.”

The Russ’s say a manager told them they sent Max for an independent autopsy. The Russ’s say they could not get answers about that either; however, shortly after the I-team reached out to PetSmart, Renee Russ says she received a call telling her the autopsy was ready and could be picked up.

But neither Charles nor Renee Russ is satisfied. The autopsy finds the cause of death is inconclusive. The Russ’s say PetSmart told them more tests are needed.

For now, they wait and wonder what happened to Max.

“It’s really quiet and somber around here because they were my babies.”

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