Oh, dear Tacitus, i'm not sure whether to thank you or not for this posting, but i do bless your tender yet durable heart. Well, of course i do thank you, on behalf of the non-human animals--since the ones written about here are the lucky ones. I still do "animal rescue" occasionally, in the sense of finding (or, secretly, temporarily providing) a home for a small animal or, at present, considering what to say to a scuzz i'd like to pimp-slap for knowingly mis-feeding a kidney-diseased cat for a year, so that now she's also thyroid-diseased. For 10 years, though, i regularly found abandoned animals, in heartbreaking condition, and, if possible, got them fixed up and found homes for them or, if they were already too far gone, had them euthanized. Most of them are never found by anyone who would lift a finger, so die slowly and wretchedly.
Helter Shelter A grim tale of the needle and the damage done Someone stopped loving him. No one ever loved her. He got too big. She started chewing on sprinklers. He bit a child. Her owner is out of town, and the house sitter noticed the dog got out but didn't bother to call the shelter. Whatever happened, it doesn't matter now: Their time is up. You move to the first noisy cage. As you open the door, a few dogs try to escape, while others cram themselves into the far corners to avoid you. Everyone on the outside says the animals have no idea what's coming, but you've seen too much proof to the contrary. Yes, on some sad level, they know. You squeeze into the cage and slip your leash, your noose, around the neck of one. You lead him back to the gate and open it just enough for you to squeeze through. You pull his head closer to the gate, and get ready. Then you jerk him out quickly and slam the door so the others don't get out. He's scared and whimpering, looking around frantically, but he does what he's told and follows you, faithfully, to the end of the line. As a co-worker readies the syringe, you're kneeling, holding the dog still, cuffing one leg with your hand. Sometimes you have to fight them. Sometimes the battle is so fierce, you resort to forcing them between a gate hinged on a wall, immobilizing them long enough so you can get the needle in. But not this time. This one's calm. He trusts you. He even gives you his paw: He's obviously someone's pet. So you stroke his head softly as the co-worker finds a vein. Then, just like that, he melts in your arms. You grab his paw again and drag his limp body to a corner. On this morning, and every morning, there will be about 15 to 20 of these canine executions, not counting the ones that come in throughout the day that are injured or unadoptable. As you walk to the cages to retrieve another, the anger swells inside you. Because you know most of this daily ritual easily could be avoided. Spay and neuter, people, you say to yourself. Spay and neuter! You hardly could stand to watch her care for her pups, licking them, dragging them around to protect them. Finally, you gave in and fed her treats, telling her, "That's a good girl." Because, sadly, you knew all her efforts were in vain. This day always comes. Once you've got them all gathered in the room, you put her down first. Because you've learned the babies cry when they're injected, and that only adds stress to the mother. The stench of death permanently haunts the air: It's a dull fragrance you won't forget the rest of your life. Someday years from now, you'll be served food at a restaurant, and something will trigger the memory of that awful smell. Just like that, the meal will be over. You wash your hands incessantly; trouble is, what you're trying to clean doesn't go away with soap and water. That would take a psychologist, better than the one you have. An hour into it, you're nearing the last of the morning's kill. Next up is an adorable pop-eyed Chihuahua you had thought someone might claim. Or adopt. You start for her, but then you make a grave mistake: You look into her eyes. In a flash, your mind acknowledges that this is a living, breathing thing. Damn dog, now she's under your skin. Now, through the bars, you spot the big mongrel. You squeeze into the cage, and he moves away. He's scared and hungry; he's not the alpha male in this lot, so he hasn't eaten in five days. And who knows what he went through before he ended up here? So you kneel and call to him in a pleasant voice. Now he's wagging his tail because he thinks you're going to rescue him from this awful place. You get him outside and pet him to try to keep him calm. But he's excited, jumping up and down, because you helped him out of the chaos. You're his friend now; he'll follow you anywhere. So you lead him toward the room and he trots along happily. But halfway there, something shifts in him. You figure he's starting to smell that stench coming from the freezer. Yes, on some level, they know. He starts jerking his neck back, using his front legs to try to pull you back. The more you fight him, the more he realizes he should fight. So you drag him the rest of the way. Spay and neuter, people! Leaving the room, you remember something you wanted to tell a co-worker. She's working alone in the cat room, putting down several dozen to start her day. You open the door, but the scene makes you forget what you wanted to say. There she is, sitting in a corner, crying, surrounded by dozens of dead cats that litter the floor. You make eye contact and get ready to say something, but she waves you off. It's a quick shake of the head that says, "I'm fine; just leave me alone." So you do. For those who do this for a living, it's mostly business as usual, life goes on. But there are occasional meltdowns. Not to mention divorce, denial, alcoholism, nightmares, antidepressants and all sorts of other ugly side effects. Walking away from the cat room, a simple question forms in your head, one that plagues you often throughout your days here: Does anybody care about animals? Anyone at all? Instead, you get the people who-— before business hours-—drop off a cardboard box of mangled kittens that were used to train pit bulls to fight dirty. Usually, they just toss the dead alongside the road somewhere, but for some reason, someone brought these in. You open the box to discover all but one are dead, and the only one alive is using its front legs to crawl toward you because its back legs are crushed. Or you get the people whose hobby is trapping feral cats and bringing them to the shelter. Once you asked about strange lines etched into the stick they use to hold the trap shut, hoping you were wrong. But, yes, like notches in a gun, that's how they track how many cats they've captured. It's a game to them. Or you get the man who brings in three kittens in an ice chest he placed in his trunk. In the middle of summer. When you open the lid, most of the horror has played out. You look up and scold him, asking him what he was thinking. And he shrugs. Not like it matters, he says, they didn't belong to anyone. And to think, you took this job because you wanted to save animals. Standing there at the kennels, lost in the flashbacks, you ask yourself again: Does anybody care? A friendly face pops into your mind. Yes, there is one, you finally remember, trying to cheer yourself up. That poor young woman from the west side, the one who's been coming by twice a week for the last six months, looking for her beloved red Doberman pinscher. She keeps asking you, "How long should I keep looking?" And you keep telling her, "As long as your heart needs to." Who are you to take away hope? And now, come to think of it, you did notice a nice-looking Doberman in the back kennels this morning. Nah, couldn't be, you think. He disappeared six months ago. But, needing a miracle, you go and check anyway. You look him over for a while. There is some red in his coat, but you're not certain. I think I hear him, she keeps saying excitedly. She keeps calling out his name. All you hear is what you always hear: the deafening din of scores of barking dogs. When you get to the back kennels, a lowered metal guillotine door is keeping everything outside. So you raise the door, and 80 pounds of frenetic dog come bounding inside, wildly running around the cage. You think to yourself, how would he even know she was coming? Yes, on some level, they always know. Overcome with emotion, the woman sinks to the cement gutter and starts sobbing into her hands. You sit next to her to offer some comfort. Then, before you know it, you're right beside her, bawling uncontrollably. She's crying because her life is complete again. And you're crying because, after working this job, your life never will be the same. Because for every animal that leaves with its owner, half a dozen are hauled off in garbage trucks. No you think, wiping away the tears, this is no place for an animal lover. Bee staff writer Ty Phillips can be reached at tphillips at modbee.co
Thank you for that post, even though I was on the verge of tears I still found it very moving... & although it may feel like simple rescue efforts are not enough if even one gets a shot at a good life, you are! God Bless
I agree with scout about the kleenex warning!! Thank you for the story...if only everyone could see the true reality of what being an irresponsible owner does, maybe their wouldn't be such a need for the suffering of those poor dogs. I know that I could not do it...I couldn't bring a dog anywhere knowing that it could be put down when its time was up, but reality is that most people who dump their dogs couldn't care less as long as they don't have to see it.
He's your friend,your partner,your defender,your dog.You're his life,his love,his leader. He will be faithful and true to the last beat of his heart.You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion