It is as simple as up or down, over or under, and yes… black and white. It is strange how a simple “yes”, or, “no” question has gotten so muddied that people cannot answer it without defending others, or worse yet, defending their own answer to the question.
When the term “lifesaving” is used to describe a shelter choosing to adopt out an animal instead of euthanizing that animal, is misleading to the community that it serves. The simple fact is that the vast majority of animals that enter shelters in the United States are healthy and not in danger of dying but for the threat the shelter itself poses. You cannot describe a shelter employee as having “saved” an animal when the only threat the animal faced was the one that the shelter itself presented. If someone is threatening to kill you, and then chooses to let you live instead, would you describe that person’s actions as having “saved” you?
Wednesday was just another night out with a friend. At the end of the evening we were driving home, and then I saw it. There was a little white dog, barking at the top of its lungs in the middle of traffic. I pulled over and jumped out of the car hoping to at least get the poor guy out of the street. The small dog stood his ground in the middle of the intersection, surrounded by lots of cars coming from four directions.
For over an hour, every attempt we made to get close was met with fierce teeth, growls and barking like we were the mortal enemy. A passer-by stopped to see what we were doing, and loaned us a blanket. Eventually, after some effort, we were able to throw a blanket over the dog. Then came the question of who is going to pick him up. We were surprised how scared we were of this fierce little dog. Finally, I convinced my friend that he was the one, and he swooped-up the bundled up dog and was bit through the blanket while putting him in my car.
I already had a dog waiting for me at home. The shelter was closed. I decided to take him home and resolved that I would go to the shelter in the morning. I set the garage up for the dog with a warm spot to sleep, food and water. I pulled my car into the garage and closed the garage door. Then I opened the back door of my car, bolted inside and shut the door to my house.
In the morning I quietly snuck into the garage, and in the warm spot I had made, the little white dog was sleeping…sleeping standing up and under a blanket. For three days, he stood there sleeping. I never saw him out from under the blanket, but could see he was still standing up. Finally, I walked over and sat down on the floor. Then, I lifted up the blanket very slowly.
What emerged was not pretty. Shaking like I have never seen, the dog made his way over to my lap. I could see now that he had no fur growing on his body, malnourished, scares on the top of his head, and it looked like someone had used a lighter to burn both ears. (They were crispy.) Our eyes met, then he jumped up on my chest and licked my face relentlessly.
He knew that he had been saved.
And I made my choice to save him.
He is now named Wednesday and 5 years old. Wednesday has serious trust issues with people, rightfully so. Wednesday allows a few people to get close to him, and occasionally he bites even them, with no warning. He plays and snuggles with my other dogs and to this day when feeling insecure, Wednesday sleeps standing up under the covers.
Shelter leadership that is satisfied or complacent with adopting some animals and euthanizing the rest is not what I would consider “lifesaving”. Lifesaving is hard work, and people are accountable for the choices that are made. It takes compassionate leadership that ends the killing of healthy and treatable animals.
A simple question, with a simple answer. “Yes” or “no”?
Janis Rosenberg is President of Unleashing the Possibilities, Inc. a non-profit corporation dedicated to raising funds to build Yolo County a new, state of the art animal shelter. Learn more by visiting their website at http://unleashingyolo.org and you can also find them on Facebook.