Sunday, February 5, 2012


I'm finding it hard to write these days when so much of my energy is directed at other things, like my mom, who has late stage Alzheimer's. But then I think that the mortality that I face daily when I look at her is also a part of my daily life with dogs.

Gizmo is sixteen and can barely walk. He's been that way for years. And when I look at him, I realize that his progression very nearly mirrors my mom's. Each day he recognizes me a little less, I think. And yet he's--dare I say it?--happy. I don't think he's suffering.

And that has long struck me as a key difference between our 4-legged and 2-legged families. We are expected to euthanize the former when their quality of life declines. And while we may disagree on when it's responsible to euthanize, most of us seem to agree that it's the right thing to do.

Within the last two weeks, two of my friends have had to make that decision. And I know I'll have to make it myself in the not-too-distant future. But I have the luxury of waiting to make that decision until it's one of compassion. What about the people who euthanize when their dogs are still healthy?

Just last week I stumbled across the story that actor Nick Santino killed himself after euthanizing his healthy dog because neighbors complained. I've read the comments, too--that he could have/should have found a reputable rescue to take the dog, that he could have/should have moved.

The truth is, I grieve for that man. And every day, people across the United States are making similar decisions. Some can no longer afford food; others are losing their homes; still others are divorcing. Does this make them bad people? I don't think so. The fact is, they are agonizing over the decision, and in all too many cases, precious few resources exist to help them keep their pets while they go through periods of transition or challenges themselves.

Not long ago, I did learn of an organization, Foster My Pet, that took in a friend-of-a-friend's cat when she was going through such a transition herself. But she was one of the lucky few who found a solution that allowed her to keep her cat after her life stabilized. But that's not the norm--although I applaud the efforts of Foster My Pet. The truth is, people in rescues across the United States have to turn desperate people away daily, not because they lack compassion, but because they lack the resources and foster homes to take in all of the animals needing homes. Like every person I know in rescue, I've fielded too many desperate phone calls to count, and while I've worked diligently to rescue or rehabilitate as many as possible, I empathize with Nick Santino because I know how difficult it would have been for him to place his dog with a group either temporarily or permanently. He killed himself because he felt he betrayed his dog. And that is tragic.

I do hope that, perhaps his death will illustrate the need to continue to raise awarness about the plight of domesticated animals in the United States. Like the country, they're in crisis. And all too often, it's not because they're sick.

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