A few weeks ago I posted a picture of a dog, calling it “the perfect photo.” Well, I think this one is even better.
Meet Tess, a two week old Blue Heeler. She and her two healthy brothers were born in the Skagit Valley Humane Society where I’ve been volunteering the last few weeks. Her mother June and the suspected father were found and brought into the shelter just a couple of weeks before that. The staff there has been taking great care of them since then.
Tess was unfortunately born with a severely deformed right front leg. There was a discussion about whether or not to save her. This is the main county shelter that takes in all dogs and cats without question. That means when all the space is full, the animals must go somewhere else. A lucky few get into the local no-kill shelters, but they only take highly adoptable pets. A tiny number get into specialized shelters for older or troublesome animals (like pit bulls). The rest are euthanized.
The Skagit Valley Humane Society isn’t a no-kill shelter, but they put down very few animals. There’s no timetable for adoption, and unless the dog is extremely sick and unlikely to recover, or extremely dangerous. Some of the dogs have been there for a long, long time.
So back to Tess. Given the cost of removing her leg, and the possibility that she wouldn’t survive, the shelter was considering euthanizing her. I was working that day and watched as a group of staff formed to discuss Tess. Someone suggested that the staff pitch in for the surgery.
Remember that the people working at a shelter are doing it out of love (or they should be), not because they’re being paid well. Most of the staff also volunteers since there’s a lot more work to be done than there’s budget to pay for. These are some of the best people I’ve ever met. But they aren’t rich. Pitching in to save a puppy, which is just this week’s big problem, is a real hardship.
Anyway, as you can see from the picture above, Tess had the surgery and she’s doing really well. She’ll certainly be adopted in a few weeks when she and her brothers are ready.
A happy ending.
But not really. Whoever adopts Tess would likely have adopted a different dog if she was euthanized. That dog probably won’t get adopted at all now. He or she, along with 3-4 million other dogs and cats, will be euthanized in the U.S. this year alone.
A good friend of mine is getting married later this year. A couple of weeks ago she told me she and her fiance will be getting a dog or two in the near future, and they know exactly what kind they want. She knows I’m a dog person and I think she told me because she thought I’d be excited for her.
I wasn’t excited for her. I strongly suggested that instead of buying from a breeder they adopt their dogs instead from a shelter. It may not be a purebred (although 25% of the dogs in shelters are), but instead of making the dog and cat overpopulation worse they can make the situation better.
My friend can balance out the situation with Tess by making the decision now to adopt only from a shelter. That dog that wouldn’t be adopted because Tess lived would now have a home.
Both of my dogs, Laguna and Buddy, are shelter dogs. They’re more or less purebred labrador. Given how hard it is for me to leave the shelter after I volunteer I suspect that I’ll have one or two more dogs by the end of the year.
But that still leaves 4 million dogs and cats that will be killed this year. So please, consider adopting a shelter animal. You won’t regret it.
PS – Cleaning the shelter, which mostly means cleaning up a lot of dog shit, is a highly humbling experience. Even if you’re just going there to walk the dogs, volunteer. It’s stunning how few people do. If they knew how great they’d feel afterwards the shelters could start charging people to work there. I started off thinking I’d volunteer for a half day every week or two. But after seeing how short handed they are, I’m gladly volunteering three mornings a week now.
Here’s a picture I took today, just after finishing the cleaning, of a spaniel mix who was abandoned by his owners. He’s one of my favorites and I keep thinking he’ll be adopted when I come back next, but he never is.
PPS – It’s amazing to me that there is no vet in the county that is willing to donate their time for free to the shelter. There are a few that give discounted rates, mostly for neutering and spaying, but vet bills are still a very significant cost for the shelter. It seems to me that it would be a great deal for the vets if one or two of them were willing to do all work for free that the shelter needed, including their costs for materials and medication, in exchange for publicity in the shelter and on the website. But none apparently want to. Even the local newspaper charges full price for adoption ads. Shameful.