Pound Pooch

diary of a shelter worker.


day of the dead

The other day, nothing quite seemed to be going right. In the same way that Dia de los Muertos has a macabre, almost comical feeling, this day had just that kind of odd, through-a-distorted-mirrors, not quite funny, but too strange to be real aura.

A man brought in a kitten that couldn't move its legs. It had a horrible eye infection, and was essentially dying in the cardboard box he was sitting in. It was one of the most pitiful things I had ever seen. He was put to sleep as most humane.

A woman carried in a pigeon. We don't normally deal with wildlife, but this pigeon wasn't exactly alive. She said she had seen a hawk knock the smaller bird out of the sky. It was moving when she picked it up and rushed it in. He was dead when we received him, stiff, with his head still upright.

At the end of the day, a woman brought in a cat that had drowned in her pool, still sopping wet. She said she had heard a cat fight the night before and feared this might be an abandoned cat she had been feeding for a year. Her children won't get within 10 feet of the pool. I untied the bag and tried to figure out what kind of cat it was, for identification purposes. The cat was on its back, legs straight in the air. Dripping chlorinated water.

Each of these isolated deaths had their own small tragedy, like a small Mexican skeleton with a violin, and were, in their own small way, memorialized like a little sugar skull.


2 days, 5 dead

It was a rough two days for pit bulls in our shelter.

Friday morning, a white dog with brown spots was euthanized. He was an owner surrender in the field- the officer explained that they were going to press neglect charges. The owner surrendered him. The vet hospital where we picked him up said that he was animal aggressive. We didn't see much of that- he was generally good natured for the first 4 days in his kennel. He made odd squeaky, piggy noises when people walked by, and sought out attention. I gave him a stuffed kong, and he rearranged his blankets so that he was half in, half out of his kennel, and barked at the kong till it was dead to his satisfaction, then licked the yummy peanut butter out. He had wounds on his butt and went kennel crazy by the time his legal "due out" came. He was euthanized first thing in the morning, instead of late afternoon, because we were full to overflowing, and his kennel was needed.

Friday afternoon, we euthanized a wonderful girl that I worked to get rescue for. This girl was wonderful, and I know I say that a lot. This girl was cute as a button and had the personality to match. She loved toys, and people, and to curl on the bed up at the front desk and to just hang out with us. A devoted group of people worked to get her out in time, and my manager was willing to give her a few extra days to get her out. In the end, we couldn't spring her. I came in on my day off to hold this girl, and I have never seen a sadder, or sweeter ending. She passed in the arms of me and my roommate, after eating a giant bowl of wet food, and as many treats as she could stuff in her mouth. She licked the faces of everyone in the room, as her breath was leaving her.

Saturday was another rough day. A man came in and asked me if I could help him place his 7 year old pit bull. The dog, as he described it, was extremely animal aggressive- from flies, to cats, dogs, livestock, etc. I knew that we weren't going to be able to put the dog up for adoption, and told the man so. He signed a realize for euthanasia, and we walked straight into the back room. Conan had been found as a stray, at about a year old, and the man's friend gave Conan to him. He was a beautiful little black and white boy, with little cropped ears, and flea allergies all over his rear end and back legs. He was so happy to be scratched that we didn't have to restrain him. He just leaned into us, and slept inside, for the first time in 6 years.

I didn't see George pass. George was a sharpei/pit mix, a devil of a combination. He was also someone's pet. He came to us neutered, and with long toenails. We also couldn't touch him. We couldn't scan him for a microchip. We held on to him for an extra day so that we could befriend him enough to scan him. He didn't have a chip, but he wasn't stable enough to go up for adoption. We had taken to calling him George after a coworkers friends' sharpei with a tendency to bite people.

The last pit bull to die on Saturday was the most frustrating for me. We got a call about an aggressive pit bull that was foaming at the mouth and "trapping people in their cars." We get a lot of calls like that, with the nation-wide pit bull hysteria. These are usually tail wagging, tongue-lolling pit bulls, who want to be petted, but their big heads and the media hype scare people. This call was the real thing. The pit bull was very aggressive. The officer required police back up, and in the tumble to catch the dog, he lost a tooth. He came into the shelter very upset, and very bloody. Fortunately, the officer had found the dog's owner, and gotten a release for euthanasia. This dog did not go as peacefully. He had to be sedated first, clearly.

Please, consider what you are getting into when you buy or adopt a pet. These guys are yours for life. You are responsible for them. How they live, if they breed, if they hurt people, how they die. Please, spay and neuter your pets. Please, please, please, do not breed your dog. Please. Your "just one litter" and "perfect homes"? I think I watched them die. Five of them, in two days. This little memorial is all that's left of them.