The intake area at an open admittance shelter is my least favorite room in the entire building. It weighs heavy, and often times the emotions are palpable enough that once you walk through that front door, it might as well smack you in the face. The intake team is essentially the first line of defense for the entire shelter. They handle it all, and although I don’t envy them for a second, I admire them more than I could ever put into words. So, when you bring your dog in for relinquishment, this first line of defense will be the ones to start the process of you surrendering your dog. There are many people in this World that love their animals deeply, and are often left with no other options. Sometimes, relinquishing their animal IS the best option, and I will forever commend these people that bravely make the decision that is BEST for their animal, even if it means giving them up. You were not one of those people.
You tell them that you just don’t have time. You got the puppy for free from a friend whose dog had a litter of blue eyed husky mixes. You tell them you thought it would make a good Christmas gift for your children. You tell them that she is now nine years old and your kids no longer care about having her around. You tell them you just don’t have the patience or time to take her on the walks she needs. You tell them that you know she will get adopted fast because she is a “good dog otherwise”.
The dog is jumping up on the desk as you continually pull her back and yell at her to stay seated. She doesn’t know this command, you didn’t take the time to teach her. The intake team puts the shelter slip leash on, and removes the collar that you had once given her with excitement. Her tag with her name and your number on it will probably be in the trash later that day, and just like that will be replaced with a shelter tag with a simple number on it. A number that shows what number admitted into the shelter she is. She is number 126834.
That is number one hundred twenty-six thousand, eight hundred thirty-four.
Your dog is confused and frightened, and wondering where her best friend went. Don’t worry, she is a good dog, she’ll do well in the shelter and get adopted fast, right? She is put in a small cage with a cold cement floor and given a blanket fresh out of the wash. Whenever she was put in a cage at home, you were leaving. So, rightfully so, she doesn’t love her new surroundings. She howls and screams and begs for the attention of anyone that walks by. Your dog rips up her blanket out of frustration until she passes out from exhaustion in the corner of her new little home for the time being. Don’t worry though, surely she’ll do well in the shelter. She will get adopted fast.
As the days go on, her frustrations grow. Your dog chews on the thick metal bars in every attempt to escape this new and unfamiliar place.
In the process of chewing on the bars, she broke off two of her teeth. She is brought to the Vet to get examined. The assistant attempts restraint, but takes your dog by surprise. Your dog whips around and snaps, breaking skin.
Your dog is not aggressive, she is scared. Shelters are scary.
It is an immediate strike, and a caution sign is placed on your dogs kennel. Your once Christmas gift has been deemed dangerous to the staff.
As the week comes to an end, your dog quickly declines in the shelter. She barks and yells and cries for attention. She longs for your carpet at home, but now spends her nights alone in this scary new place. All because you didn’t have the time. Notes build up in her file, and she is placed on a list that makes her an unfit adoptions candidate. Geriatric, arthritic, destructive, and unpredictable. Indeed, your dog will not be getting adopted fast. Funding doesn’t permit, fostering isn’t available with an aggressive/fearful large dog, and other rescues are unable to take her. If only it were easier than all of this.
I met your dog today. I pulled my morning list and swallowed hard as I read through her notes. Good history at home, but failed in the shelter. My heart sunk to my feet. I love many things about my job, this was not one of them. The World had failed your dog, you had failed your dog. Time and patience could have saved your dog. Personal education could have saved your dog. Making sure you were in the right place in life before getting a dog, could have saved your dog. Not giving up on your dog would have saved her. I spend my life saving animals, but today, even I could not save your dog.
I euthanized your dog today. I gave her treats and cuddles and told her I was sorry that she was failed. I told her she was a good girl and called her by her name. I kissed her sweet face and massaged her sore hind legs from age related aches. I laid her to rest and resented you for it, and I don’t even know you. In fact, it’s not you I resent, it’s a society that has made animals disposable.
I hope your next dog is one that you love for life. I hope your next dog is a forever type of dog, not an only when it’s convenient type of dog.
I hope I don’t have to meet your next dog.
If you are struggling with caring for your animal in ANY way, there are almost ALWAYS options and resources at your disposal. From low cost/free spay and neuters, to behavior hotlines to call any time of day; shelters, rescues, and other animal welfare agencies are there to help you.
Just to name a few! If you need assistance with finding resources in your area, I would be more than happy to help.