It can be frustrating and hurtful some days scrolling down Facebook and reading banners with odes to animals, poetry to animals like “I will always keep you forever, I’ll never leave you at an animal shelter. My commitment to you will never die.” There’s another banner showing a picture of a dog driving the car, and his owner running behind the car and it says something to the effect. ” That’s what you get for dumping me at the animal shelter.”
Once in a while, I’ll read comments from people when they see a post of a “pitiful looking dog staring at a shelter wall”. The post calling out for someone on FB to rescue this poor dog. The comments from people, many of them are in judgement of the people who dropped the dog off will state “how can they do that”, “how can someone be so cruel.”
And I ask myself what do they think an animal shelter is for? If we are going to have animals as pets, there will always be animal shelters. I worked for the Marin Humane Society for a little over five years. It was tiring at times receiving animals over the counter. In the beginning, I did get frustrated with people, because I was still young. I did not have much life experience. I was quick to judge.
One day, two men walked into the shelter and placed a small lap dog on top of the counter. I set my incoming form on the counter, grabbed a pen, didn’t look up and started asking them the list of questions on the form while pushing over to them the “owner surrender questionnaire”. I started reciting our policy making sure to repeat the euthanasia policy over at least three times to make sure they got it. Again, never looking up. Never looking at them. Just kept on going with my paperwork.
Finally, after a few minutes, one of the men asked me “he won’t get put to sleep, right. He’s very adoptable. People want small dogs.” Again, I didn’t look the dog owner in the eye, I just recited the euthanasia policy. And than he said “where’s Carol. We talked to Carol and she said everything would be okay, our dog wouldn’t be killed.”
I’ll stop here and say that the dog was very cute and it was 99.9 percent sure, this dog would be adopted in Marin in a snap.
At this point, I was embarrassed. I didn’t want Carol to step in. I realized I had screwed up and I wasn’t really looking at the reality of the situation. I was in judgement over these two good looking, affluent looking men and wasn’t seeing their heart.
I finally looked into their eyes. “I’m so sorry. Give me another chance to help you. Yes, your dog is adorable and his chances of being put to sleep are next to nothing unless he got really really sick and we couldn’t treat him.”
One of the men, let out a big sigh and smiled at me. “I’m so happy Janet. Thank you Janet. Thank you. This is so hard for me. I have AIDS and I’m going into hospice. I want to make sure my little dog gets a good home.”
And I don’t have to tell you what kind of lesson that taught me at twenty six years old. After I filled out the paperwork, I found Carol and handed her the sweet little dog.
When I was losing my farm, I had to rehome animals. I rehomed geese. They were bonded. And I did the best I could do rehoming them. When I was living on the ranch in Lake County, I had to return my pony back to the rescue I adopted him from. I was so broke I knew I would not be able to provide him proper trimming and the type of feed he needed to prevent founder. I loved him. I cried when I walked him to the trailer that picked him up from me. I did the best I could do for him. Years later, I contacted the lady who adopted him to ask for a picture since I wanted to write a story about him. I wanted a picture to remember him by. All my pictures have been lost and destroyed from the past. She did not respond to my message. I believe she read the note, because it shows “seen” on messenger on Facebook.. I will not write her again. I don’t want to make someone feel uncomfortable. I will miss having a picture of “Little Eddie” to remind me of who he was and who he is and my love for him.
Recently, I was sharing a cup of coffee with a friend of mine and she was telling me how she had to spend a year on a plan to place her horses and her other animals because she had to leave a relationship that was unhealthy for her. She cried on the way to work back and forth on her commute everyday for a year knowing she would have to do it. So much pain, so much sorrow people carry in silence.
People’s lives change. They suffer losses. They lose rentals that allowed animals and cannot find new ones that do. People get sick. People die. People realize they really can’t take care of a dog, a horse, a cat. People lose their jobs and can’t afford feed, vet care, or training.
People give up animals for many reasons.