When my fifteen –year- old Rottweiler, Danny (aka Dan-Man) died last Christmas, I felt numb for weeks. I got Danny a year out of veterinary school. He had Parvo, and his owners had no funds to treat him. That day I already euthanized two others, and although I didn’t like Rotties, I couldn’t bring myself to kill one more. As boyfriends, and family came and went, and as I moved from place to place, and job to job, he was the only constant. He made any place feel like a home. He helped me feel grounded, safe, secure and loved in it.
Danny loved to eat, and he always sniffed everywhere we walked, looking for a thrown away morsel of food. Two years ago I bought a cottage in Long Beach, and after moving in I let him out in the yard. Danny immediately went on his rounds sniffing and digging in the ground, hoping to find a half eaten hamburger. When I shared this with one of my clients, she asked me what I was doing about the digging—“I enjoyed watching a fourteen year old dig” was my reply.
I put Danny to sleep the day after Christmas at the Teaching Hospital at UC Davis. He had an inoperable spinal tumor, which paralyzed him. A week after his death, on a rainy January day, I went to several shelters to try to replace him. There were many Rotties at the shelters, and I adopted two – Candace and Derrick. A year later, I have come to accept that Danny is not replaceable—he was as unique, as you and I are unique. My new dogs don’t dance before dinner like he used to, they don’t have his confidence and solidity. And yet, if anything helped make me feel better about his absence, it was rescuing two others.
“Why do pets live such as short life compared to us?” grieving pet guardians ask. Perhaps, it is because there are millions of others who deserve a life too. Perhaps one of the reasons that our pets pass away is to make room for others to feel the love that they shared with us.
I know that shelters are the most depressing and painful places to visit—I cried, like you will, walking through them, knowing that I left thousands there to die. I hear their crying most days, and I can’t forget their faces, their pain and desperation, wonder if they understand that they did nothing to deserve being there. And yet forgetting about those who died there yesterday, and will die there tomorrow, allows the suffering and dying to continue. The problem of pet killing in shelters will live on—out of sight, out of mind.
I dream of a day, when our city, our county, our state become a no-kill place. The problem of pet overpopulation is very complex. Yet if we just decide that it is wrong to kill an innocent being…. If we agree that it is wrong to do so to someone who did not ask to be born, but once here wants nothing more than to love you unconditionally,… maybe we can also agree that the time to stop it is now. We can …and should bring about changes to engender a more humane society for ourselves and our children.
Please look around at the links below and educate yourself, and anyone else who will listen, about the plight of our pets.