Last night the Toronto Humane Society voted to elect a new board of directors and one of the candidates was the former THS President who has a strict anti-euthanasia policy, even for dogs that have been assessed to be unfit for adoption.
I’m a dog nut who doesn’t have a dog. When a creature with a wagging tail approaches me I’m crouched and in the petting position before you can say Milk Bone. If I had been in Hurricane Katrina, rescuers would have had to drag me kicking and screaming before I would ever have left a pet behind. I’ve always been pro-adoption when it comes to adding a fur baby to the family. But in recent years I’ve changed my mind about saving every single one and I’m now opposed to the Mom-and-Pop rescue organizations that go into a place like the Humane Society and “rescue” the dogs that have been assessed by experts and are marked for death.
I have tried to make a family member out of two such dogs. One, a Spaniel named Louie, I never even bonded with mostly because he bit me every time I put a hand out to pet him. He couldn’t be brushed or bathed and was desperate to be the centre of attention. After a long and painful year trying to rehab him, a friend took Louie with no better results, so he was sent to a farm – a real farm – where he could run like the wind and be the only pet, which is all he ever wanted.
Sammy was a Beagle-Bassett cross with whom I fell in love at first sight after seeing her photo on a Mom-and-Pop rescue shelter website. The husband and wife ran their little operation outside of the city on a shoestring and literally put everything they had into it, housing dogs in a fenced-in area of their back yard and living day to day on donations and hope. They took in the dogs that were deemed unadoptable, believing they were just misunderstood and deserved a shot at a good life. We picked up Sammy, this little underfed, stinky creature and she let loose with an adorable, raspy, continuous howl when I gave her a bath. She was an odd little being. I would find her in the strangest positions, like this one, with her back feet on the wall.
She didn’t like to play or simply didn’t know how. She would give a bored look of disinterest if you rolled a ball to her. The only toys she enjoyed were fuzzy stuffed animals. She would mock-chew them by rubbing her front teeth on the fur. It was friggin’ cute. It wasn’t until we let her off-leash in an open field that we figured out what she liked to do for fun – run. She would become a blur, making wide circles around us as long as we would let her go. But if she picked up a scent – goodbye. After one particularly heart-wrenching afternoon looking for her all over the neighbourhood, she never got off a 30′ lead again.
I’ve never had a dog that walked so well on a leash. She never pulled and she stopped when I stopped, turned when I turned. But as a few weeks passed and she got more comfortable in her new environment, the problems started. She reduced decorative wordwork to kindling when we weren’t there. Lee Roy, our Border Collie, suddenly turned up with a deep puncture wound in one ear, which we assumed happened in a flash at the dog park one day. (Surgery to fix it was $1100.) At the suggestion of a veterinarian who specialized in behavior problems, we set up a video camera when we went out and could not believe our eyes. For more than an hour, until the tape ran out, Sammy paced frantically, howled and cried after we left. We tried all of the vet’s advice. We attempted to distract her with treats but she wasn’t a foodie. When we crated her she tore open her gums by trying to chew her way out and we found her with her face covered in blood. We couldn’t put her in a closed room because she either destroyed everything or hurt herself trying. We even tried a calming medication and that bought me until exactly 11 am each morning. I would do the morning show and then rush home – forget lunches with friends or anything spontaneous. If I wasn’t home by 11:05 the woodwork was at risk again.
Sammy wasn’t a joy. She was loved but she became a chore. My life revolved around her. It was almost like leaving my job and rushing to a second job. And we knew we couldn’t medicate this poor thing indefinitely. Something had to give. Finally, one day I came home to a crime scene worthy of CSI. Blood splatters lined the walls and carpet leading to the master bedroom where I found the cat, Stan, under the bed, terrified and bleeding. Sammy had blood on her muzzle. That was the end of the line.
Some jerk or jerks had neglected and possibly abused Sammy and ruined her chances for integrating into a family. It wasn’t her fault. I don’t think most people would have tried as hard or as long as we did and it was very painful to have to give up. But would I do it all again? No way. Sammy should not have been “rescued” from the Humane Society whose experts deemed her unfit for adoption only to put us through two years of torment. And that’s why the anti-euthanasia guy is wrong and although the results haven’t yet been made public, I hope he didn’t make it to the executive board. People have ruined the animals, that’s true, but they’re ruined all the same. I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through half the heartbreak that I went through trying to rehabilitate a dog that simply couldn’t be saved.