Hello, readers. My name is Gerri Bara – I’m a Realtor, a Rescuer and a Writer – not necessarily in that order. The following post was originally an email that I sent to my rescue contacts in Maricopa County, AZ (Phoenix area). We have a horrible animal overpopulation problem here and there are (thankfully) hundreds of people who make up an informal network of rescuers. We reach out to each other to save homeless animals, share information and – sometimes – vent. I was asked to post this story on the Sunbear site to help create awareness of the issues we face. The “E” referred to in the story is the Euthanasia List.
Turning it In
Gerri Bara, Chandler, AZ
My car found its way to the East Side county shelter yesterday again… all by itself, darned thing. I brought home a little guy – I think he’s a Beagle mix and maybe some chi – he’s small. He needs neuter surgery and has been in some nasty fights – he was a stray and street life was cruel to him. Extremely sweet and gentle. Great with our dogs, cats, LOVES kids. While we were filling out paperwork in the lobby at Eastside he wanted to go up to every kid in the place. Tail never stopped wagging. They say he’s about 2.
He was on the E for fear. Same old story. G et him out of there and he’s a charmer. He’s sleeping on the floor by my chair and I sit here and think “if I hadn’t stopped there yesterday he’d be dead now.” Makes me sick to my stomach.
He has a nearly healed puncture wound on one ear and an open puncture wound on his flank – lots of little and not-so-little scars. But the biggest concern is his right front paw. He hobbles and scoots – full of energy – but won’t put that paw down. Holds it out in front of himself when he walks or runs. I can’t tell if it was broken and healed wrong or if it’s a current injury. Waiting to hear back from Suzy at CircleL re: vet appointment. He is already using the doggie door. Had a bath last night and was very good. Loves being in the car. Loves being alive. We will foster him until we can find him a loving permanent home.
I lost my temper with a lady yesterday … well, not a lady – a lady wouldn’t take her dog to the pound and dump it off like a sack of garbage. I was standing in line in the back at Eastside, waiting for my little guy to get his rabies shot and a much needed Frontline treatment. He was snuggled in my arms – I swear they know it the second they’ve been saved off the E list.
Anyway, here comes this well-dressed woman with an old black and white chihuahua in a cage. Just a little tiny dog. He was stressed, panting, laying on his side and looking up at the woman with both love and fear in his eyes. He already had a sense of what was to come. It was SO hot, and I had just looked at so much heartbreak in so many upraised eyes behind a hundred kennel doors. I was not feeling politically correct.
So I said, “Is that your dog?”
“Yes,” she says. A little haughty.
“What are you doing?” I asked, knowing, heart sinking – but still hoping I was wrong.
“Turning it in.” she says, with not even a tiny hint of a crocodile tear. I notice her use of “it” instead of “him.” Not a good sign.
“Why?” I asked, in a voice I still had control of, but half an octave higher.
“We’re moving,” she explains in a condescending voice, as if that is the reason the world is round. Like those two words provide a perfectly reasonable justification for the fact that we are murdering thousands of animals in this country every day and she has generously let silly little me in on an insider’s tip.
And just like that, here comes my Scottish temper, boiling to the top. It doesn’t happen often (thank the Lord, because I can’t control it), but when it’s here, it takes over my vocabulary and I never know quite what to expect. “How can you DO that?” I demanded. I looked more closely at the dog. So cute, so tiny, so trusting. The woman turns her back to me. “They’ll probably euthanize him. Don’t you know that?” I say in a pleading voice. “No one adopts the old ones. He’ll be terrified and confused, and he’ll will wait and wait for you. He won’t understand that you’re never coming back. And he’ll shake and cower and cry, and finally he’ll just shut down, and then they’ll put him on the kill list for fear, and that will be the end. Because you moved.”
She didn’t answer me or turn around. I think we were both stunned – maybe me more than her. I couldn’t believe those words came out of my mouth, but there they were. The truth – hanging right out in the blazing open air. No sympathy and no empathy for her lack of responsibility or her lack of compassion. How can there be?
Come on. A chi eats what – a quarter cup of food a day? The lady had a diamond on her hand worth thousands.
“We’re moving.” We sure as heck are. And it isn’t in the right direction.
Maybe some rescuer with a kind heart will see that dog and step up to the plate – assume responsibility for a life that the woman so casually threw away. I sure hope so.
The guy behind the counter called “Next?” I turned around and went inside, out of the heat, carrying my little guy and my paperwork. He looked at the cute little dog in my arms and asked, “Turn-in?” Then he saw my paperwork, with the bright, shiny rabies tag stapled to the top and smiled a little.
“Nope,” I smiled back. ” New Hope .”
As we drive home I think my normal thoughts and dream my normal dreams: the shelter I’ll build when I win the lottery, the never-ending need for creating awareness, my inability to understand a heart that could leave a loving, trusting animal behind, my gratitude for the thousands of others who rescue, and for those who love their pets “’til death do us part.”
Then the little guy on the seat next to me whimpers a little, and I reach over to give a reassuring pat, and for a while I just think about him.
One at a time…