Friday, April 16, 2010

We should be able to do better than this


This dog was no prize. She was old, deaf, didn't see very well. She hobbled. She was way too skinny, had patchy fur. She soiled herself all the time probably from loss of bowel control given her age. She was stand-offish. I spent almost half and hour with her and in that whole time, I couldn't get her to pay any attention to me except when I had a treat in my hand which she sniffed and turned her nose up at.

It would be very easy to toss dogs like her away (someone certainly did). I ask myself if my compassion for an animal is based on what I get from the animal or what I give to the animal. If it's based on what I get from the animal, then is it truly compassion or is it self indulgence? When we assess a dog, formally or informally, do we assess the dog's worth or the dog's worth to us?

It would have been a miracle if the owner had shown up and claimed her, saved her from being euthanized. Maybe it was time for her to be euthanized anyway. Who knows what underlying medical issues she may have had to result in her looking so raggedly - or was that the result of neglect, neglect right up to the end?

I wanted to take this dog home for a week. My intentions were not pure. I think I mostly just wanted to assuage my own guilt at participating in her abandonment by not merely being just another bystander.

I wanted to take this dog home for a week because even though she was not a dog that immediately warmed the heart and even though she was a dog in the last stages of physical decline, she was also not a dog that deserved to be abandoned and left in a cage for the final few days of her life away from all that was familiar. She deserved a week at least, a last few days of something akin to a home before she was delivered to the other side of life.

I don't know what I was thinking, though. Rocky never would have tolerated her. And with Stella's health the way it is, there was no way I was going to impose a new dog on her, especially one that was going to require so much time and work.

So it didn't happen and now she's gone.

18 comments:

Caroline said...

Darts to the irresponsible owners who discarded her. May they be discarded when they grow old.

Ian said...

So sad.
They all have their time to go as we all know and perhaps it was her time but they should be with someone who loves them and thanks them one last time for all the wonderful times spent together and for the memories they are leaving behind.I cry like a bloody fool each and every time I have to take a member of the family in for that final goodbye but I couldn`t live with myself if I didn`t walk those final few steps with them.

I`m sure this dog appreciated your kindness.

Anonymous said...

was she never put onto the public adoptions page?! I scour the TAS adoption page fairly obsessively specifically looking for the seniors and she'd not come up :(

Pibble said...

I don't know you personally, but my feeling is that your heart is warm and loving, and I think you gave her more than you know by being there for her. You didn't fail this dog; you gave her the love, respect, and dignity that someone else should have given her in her final days, but didn't. They failed her, not you.

YesBiscuit! said...

At least she had a half hour of kindness from someone which, even if she did not indicate it, I'm sure she appreciated. Dogs are very keen on knowing what's in the hearts of people and I'm sure she knew you had good will in yours.

Fred said...

Anonymous, I'm pretty sure she did not pass her health check so they would not have put her up in general adoptions.

Amy said...

Stories like this remind me yet again why I like dogs so much more than people. I hope she is healthy and happy and romping around in doggy heaven until her heart is content. RIP sweet, old baby.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be great if there were doggie hospices available. Somewhere dogs could go for a week or two or however long they need, and get spoiled rotten before they cross the bridge. RIP doggie.
G & C

redstarcafe said...

What did her people think that TAS was going to do with her? Take their problem off their hands and find her a home that would truly love her at life's end?

Please tell me this was more of a situation where a loving owner had passed away and there was no safety net ... yet.

Fred said...

This dog was found wandering the streets up by Mount Pleasant. She was slow, deaf and could hardly see so it's unlikely she escaped from anywhere up there. If her owners looked for her at all they couldn't have been looking too hard.

selkie said...

stories like this break my heart.... how CAN people be so cruel?? To end up like that at the end of her life is so unbelievably sad that I makes we weep. I saw a lot of those in the three years I was at the THS. I remember one family (yes family) bringing in their 16 year old boxer mix and saying "they just couldn't bear to see her put down" and just DUMPED her... after 16 YEARS of devotion and love! Yet, I have also seen astonishing things. One of the most positive things I DID see at the THS, was the number of dogs like this poor thing that after being abandoned - not only old but often sick - that got cleaned up, treated and then, to my astonishment, ADOPTED. So there are horrible, people out there with no souls and no hearts but there are as MANY out there with HUGE hearts.

One old GSD I remember, who was cranky, had bad arthritis (which got much better as they put her on medication there) who smelled (as old dogs do) was adopted by a lovely lady around 75 who told me, laughing, I'm old, cranky and my bones hurt, so we'll just wait out our time together!

Anonymous said...

I think we cannot continually lose faith in humanity in such situations, and hope for the benefit of the doubt..as the dog was on in years, perhaps the person who had her were themselves of an elderly, incapacitated state..

htg

Miz Minka said...

This story broke my heart, like so many others you've shared with us, Fred. I was fortunate to rescue one dog this year -- but there are so many others. I wish there would be no more stories like this old girl's. RIP, and may you forget all of your old life's heartaches.

EmilyS said...

BadRap does what they call "compassion holds". A week or whatever of kindness for a doomed dog.

http://badrap-blog.blogspot.com/2009/08/fearless-hearts-of-foster-homes.html

I'm not sure it makes a difference in the end for the dog, but if it makes a difference for the people, that may be enough.

Joanne said...

I think compassionate holds are a wonderful idea. A dog lives in the moment, they don't carry resentment of what happened yesterday...so I think that should their last memories of their life be ones of a loving environment, walks, being warm, treats and hugs, this is a program that should definitely be implemented perhaps by THS???? It would be hard to say goodbye (I don't do that well still), but I would try it with a very little old guy or girl just for them (and me of course...but that doesn't matter). Just do it as Nike says!!!

redstarcafe said...

EmilyS I agree that it would make a difference to the people, helping them avoid the onset of insensitivity and burnout that comes with seeing so much suffering, in that they could contribute to kindness in an animal's final days.

Anne said...

Any time i hear people say "they wandered off to die" i correct them by saying "actually they probably wandered off to be found by a good samaritan who brought them in to a shelter who then had to make the sad decision to end her life when her owners didn't come to get her".

But then the other day we had a 20 year old cat who's owners WERE looking for her and claimed her less than an hour of being dropped off.
So sometimes there's a happy ending for the old gals.

C.S. said...

I wonder sometimes if whoever drops off a dog at THS is afraid it'll cost lots to have the dog put down by a vet. I live in the American South, a place where many are totally insensitive to dogs. However, one of our local vets does wonderful work with THS, as well as NEVER charges for euthanasia. There is simply NO EXCUSE to drop off an elderly, dying dog/cat who has been a life's companion.