It’s not as easy as you think

Your dog wags it’s tail as you load it up in the car, happy to be able to go on a fun adventure with you.  You arrive at your destination and your pooch is wagging his tail, licking your face and bouncing up and down with excitement.  “What are we doing, huh, huh?”  You reach for your pet, attach its leash and leave your car.  The sad thing is that your dog doesn’t really comprehend what’s going on.  He’s just happy to be by your side.  You walk gingerly toward the door of the animal shelter, confused and maybe apprehensive about what you are about to do.  In your head, you run through all of the questions and all of the answers that you think you already know.  Resigned to the fact that there is nothing more that you can do, you open the door to the shelter and you walk in.

As you stand at the desk, explaining your story and completing your necessary paperwork, your dog still stands at your side, anxiously awaiting what fun surprises are in store.  A voice booms over the intercom that tells staff at the shelter that a new intake is waiting.  Before you have a chance to process what is happening, someone walks up and introduces themselves to you and your dog.  In that moment, the world stops and your head reels.  The staff member takes the leash from your hand, extends some courtesies and then walks away with your dog in tow.  You again tell yourself that you are doing the right thing and that your dog will have a better life.  You had no other options, did you?

Sadly, there are options.  Options that you didn’t consider.  Options that you didn’t even know about.  What is worse than missing the options is the realization that what you thought was in the best interest of your dog, was actually one of the worst experiences your dog will ever have and one that they may not survive.

The shock of going from life at home with you to life in a shelter is overwhelming to any dog.  What was once peaceful and comfortable is now chaotic and cold.  The shelter is full of whining and barking, whimpering, death and despair.   The dog that once laid out on his back, wrapped in a blanket on your couch is now laying on a cold kennel floor.  The dog that once ran through your yard with the wind in his hair now sits in a cage, sometimes days on end, without ever seeing outside.  He sits shaking in his own urine and feces with no end in sight.  He begins to cry, lonely and scared.  As someone passes his cage, he reaches his paws through the bars in an attempt to say, “Hey you!  I’m not supposed to be here!  I have a family that loves me.  You’ve made a mistake!”

The nights turn into weeks and the weeks into months.  With each day that passes, more and more of the life inside of him disappears.  The sparkling gleam of joy once always prominent in his eyes is now gone, replaced with a haze of depression.  No more does he extend a paw, asking for reconsideration.  He now lays in his cage, passing the time in the only way he can, by dreaming.  He dreams of the days when he used to lay in your lap and all of times he would chase that tennis ball through the yard.  The only thing he has now is memories of the life he once had, the life that he doesn’t understand how he lost.

One day, someone walks up to his cage and for that moment, he realizes that maybe he gets to go home.  Finally!  You have come back for him!  He tries to muster up some hope as he walks into a room he has never seen before.  He looks around, trying desperately to find you.  “Where are you?”  Someone picks him up and lays him on a table.  The stranger ruffles his hair and tells him, “You’re a good boy.”  Out of nowhere, he feels the sudden pain of a needle prick.  Instantly, his mind floods with memories of you.  As his heart slows, his last thought is of you.

Millions of dogs and cats meet this very same fate.  While you think that changes in your life or your dog’s behavior force the issue of you leaving them at a shelter, ask yourself if you will be satisfied with the outcome.  Most pets that arrive at the shelter will never leave.  If they can survive the rampant illnesses and depression, they may be adopted.  Some owner relinquishments don’t even have that opportunity, some are euthanized on intake.  Can you walk out the door of the shelter knowing that you could be handing out a death sentence?

There are always other options.  Contact rescues in your area, call your local shelter and ask them for referrals for help.  Whatever situation you are in, there are others who have been there, too.  There are countless people who will work to help you keep your pet, whether that would be in the form of assistance covering medical expenses, training to overcome behavior issues or just some extra help providing dog food.  Resources are out there, you just have to ask for help.  It’s always your best option.  And if all else fails, send out a plea for help on Craigslist.  There are plenty of crazy animal lovers that are 110% willing to help ease your burden and ensure that your dog or cat has a home for the rest of their life.

**When using Craigslist be extremely cautious!!  Please only use it as a means of obtaining assistance with vetting/behavioral issues/obtaining assistance with dog food or finding low cost spay/neuter or vaccinations.  Craigslist is not a good place to post your pet in an attempt to find a new home.  Numerous medical facilities, dog fighting rings and experimental groups use Craigslist to obtain dogs and cats for their own sick and twisted use.  If you absolutely need to rehome your pet and you’ve exhausted everything, as a local animal rescue for help.  You can find a list of animal rescue groups on**


Posted on May 29, 2012, in Posts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. If you are in the Kansas City area and you need assistance with your pets, please email me and I will point you in the direction opposite of your local shelter! I have great rescue workers, volunteers, dog trainers, boarding facilities and vets that can assist you!

  2. Man this made me cry and thought it could be helpful for others so I reported on facebook. Thank you for what you do!!

  3. great article .. just not too sure about the craigs list .. yes we do panik if we see dogs on craigs list and rally to try and get them out of harms way .. but the reason we panic is that craigs list is a place dog fighters often get bait dogs from .. so we tend to not like seeing dogs on craigs list .. but yes i hope people read this and realise there are alternatives out there and just what handing your dog into a shelter means .. my facebook wall is always flooded with dogs on their last days in shelters from tiny pups top nursing bitches to bitches whose pups havnt been born to bitches whose pups have been dragged from them as soon as they start eating solid food and mum thrown out still full of milk with no babies .. and it goes right through the scalr dogs and cats of all ages and types right up to the other end of the scale .. dogs that are old and worn out so not wanted any more .. we even had one 17 years old the other day surrendered by the owner because it was old .. and they said theyd had it for 17 years ….. so they just hand it into the shelter .. all so wrong and all so unecessary

  4. I should have clarified that better in my blog. I meant to post on Craiglist and ask for help with the problems. Doh!

  5. i think anyone who takes their dog to the pound should never be allowed to own another pet i love all three of my babies

    • Sometimes, circumstances are out of our control. While I LOVE that you would never ever take your babies to the shelter, please make sure you have a plan in place should anything ever happen to you. It’s astounding the number of pets that find themselves at the shelter after just losing their owner to death. Thank you!

    • I would ask that you not be so closed minded and I am grateful you don’t get to say whether any person that has ever taken a dog to the pound has the right to own another pet. I made the TERRIBLE MISTAKE of taking a dog many years ago when I was at my wits end and it seemed I was out of options. I have wondered ever since what became of Sam and never stopped regretting it. I keep a picture of him least I ever stop remembering.

      I now own three dogs that my husband and I adore and spoil rotten. No matter what, I would not take my dogs there again. I’m older, I know my options as I’ve even volunteered in a no-kill shelter for a time and fostered for another, plus I’m in a much different place personally.

      I know I may be responsible for the death of Sam and I own that. I’m terribly sorry for possibly causing him any pain and/or harm. I’ve judged myself enough. I don’t need someone like you deciding what I can or can’t do in the future.

      As for this article, well done. It is beautifully written and spot on.

      • K, I’m not here to judge. I just want society to understand what they risk when they leave their pet at the shelter. Often times, people have no clue what really happens. We need to educate and make people understand that they have options.

        As for your Sam, I am sure he has already forgiven you and he will be waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge, with his tail wagging. If people were only as forgiving as animals this world would be a far better place.

        Thank you for loving your three dogs, for volunteering and for understanding. We all live and we learn. As long as we are learning, we are growing. Keep your chin up and forgive yourself. Set an example in Sam’s honor.

      • Just so we are clear, I love the article and don’t have one issue with it. My comments are a reply to rebela. Your response was correct as well. We have contingency plans in place for our dogs in the event something happened to both my husband and myself at the same time and the dogs needed a place to go.

        Again, please accept my apologies if you felt I was disapproving of the article as that was not the case. I simply wrote it to make people think before putting someone like me a box for the rest of my life for a mistake.

  6. Patricia Gonzalez-Powell

    .. happens so many times .. and i must say it breaks my heart every time i think about it or hear about it .. and, yes, i cry .. with saddness .. and impotence of not being able to do much from where i sit …
    .. so i volunteer, and i donate .. as for now, that is all i can do .. i buy lottery tickets in the hopes that when i win i can help so many more!!
    thank you, Darath .. for all you do .. through your work and through your words

    • join facebook .. join the army of people who fight to save the dogs all over the states .. you can do that from anywhere .. post the dogs on your facebook wall .. or do like i did aqnd set up a page to share them .. youll soon get your news feed swamped with dogs in need .. share them on rescues pages .. share them with other crossposters .. go on the various pages like urgent part 2 and watch the dogs threads for people saying they want to help save a dog .. learn what it takes to get the dogs to them from other experienced people on there .. and give them the help and advice they need to save the dogs .. ive been doing this from the Uk for a year now and it DOES save dogs lives …… and anyone can do it from anywhere .. there is lots we can ALL do to get these dogs out there and seen by more people and hopefully among them WILL BE that one person who CAN save the dogs life …… yeh we lose some dogs .. but the thing i always say about urgents page theyre on the 48th album of dogs weve saved .. the ones we didnt manage to save are on 18 .. we DO save more than we lose

  7. This is the best article i have ever read. Absolutely amazing. This should be posted at every shelter door all across the United States. Btw….I am typing this as tears run down my cheeks. Thank you for all you do Darath. Kansas City is so lucky to have you.

  8. As tears stream down my face, I thank you for writing such an amazing story. We need to somehow share this story with people BEFORE they decide to take their pet to a shelter. It needs to be in their consciousness before they make the decision to go to the shelter. Darath you are blessed with the talent of writing and touching people.

  9. Never, ever, ever advertise your dog on Craigslist unless you are willing to drive to the person’s house and do a thorough home check and ask the prospective new owners a whole of questions that will ensure this dog’s safety. Otherwise, you are leaving this dog’s fate in the hands of people who are far more dangerous than a shelter. Craigslist is notorious for advertising free dogs, unfortunately, many people who are into dog fighting are the ones who come forward for your dog. Then they are used as bait dogs. And at that point, you might as well have killed them yourself.

  10. He didn’t say to list the dog on Craigslist, he said go there for help. Many rescues have found great fosters on Craigslist. It’s the “free to good home” pets that are in danger..not someone posting and saying “hey I’m going to lose my dog because of xxx reason and I need help!”

  11. I want to say something about cats. Being in a shelter environment is very hard on owner surrendered cats. They either close down in fear, or become aggressive. I have seen one cat become so crazy aggressive in the shelter that he would charge the front of the kennel with open mouth and bared claws. He never got better, and was crazy crazy. Unfortunately, he was killed. I am not even sure a foster home would have brought him back to sanity. In other cases, I have seen cats shut down to the point that we (vols and shelter staff) were afraid that the cat would damage his health from not eating. Luckily, we were able to change some things, and he came out of his shell, and started eating and interacting. He was adopted.
    Some owner surrenders are sadly necessary, along with animals who lose their owners due to death or health issues. I personally would like to study what a shelter can do to make it easier for these animals to maintain their mental health and be easier for adoption.

  12. Sue Hawthornthwaite

    Sorry this is so long! I wrote it from the perspective of Bertie, our staffy x, because I think his experience is sadly typical of that of so many staffies / staffy crosses / pit bulls – in the hope that it might make some people think about what they’re doing to these poor dogs…

    Bertie’s story -the staffy shunt:

    Hello, I’m Bertie – well, I’m Bertie now. I’ve had a few names, but I can’t remember all of them!

    I think I used to live with another dog when I was a puppy, but I’m not really sure. One day my ‘dad’ took me down to the beach & I was really excited to begin with, thinking we were going to have lots of fun, but then I heard what dad was saying… he was speaking to everybody he saw & telling them he wanted THEM to take me home with them! He told them that if they didn’t he would kill me or have me ‘put to sleep’ (don’t know what that means?) or he’d just leave me there on the beach. I was so scared & couldn’t understand what I’d done wrong to make him stop loving me.

    Finally, a little kid said they’d take me & I went home with this child. I was really frightened because I didn’t know them & my best friend wasn’t with me. I was really sad that dad wasn’t with me; even though he didn’t want me anymore I still loved him!

    I went home with this child but as soon as we walked in to the house everybody started shouting. A big man said me I couldn’t stay there; he didn’t want me in his house…

    The time just after this is all such a blur. I kept getting taken to different houses but only for a few days at a time. Some people complained because I was bad & wet & messed myself in the house – but I was scared & didn’t know what was happening or who was looking after me & people were too busy shouting at me to remember to take me out when I needed to go to the toilet. Everybody kept shouting & saying they didn’t want me. I didn’t know why – I guessed it was because I was so bad & completely unlovable – why else would no-one want me? They said that I was stupid too because I didn’t even know my own name but they kept changing it! I kept trying to show everybody how much I loved them & wanted to stay with them, mainly by trying to kiss them, but nobody wanted to know.

    One day I was taken to a place full of lots of kids (a school?) & the girl I was with kept asking all the other kids if they would have me because otherwise I’d have to be ‘put to sleep’. I still don’t understand this, I’m good at sleeping & don’t need any help! Anyway, a nice boy called Shem smiled at me & said he’d take me home with him.

    I can remember this place. Fran, Shem’s mum, didn’t shout & was really nice to me. There were two mad dogs already living there & that evening we all had a few fights & I chased the cats – whoops – so Fran had to take me to work with her the next day because there wasn’t room to separate us all.
    Anyway, Fran had to ask for help because she wasn’t allowed to take me to work & later on she dropped me off at another house. Steve & Michael said I was a good boy & Steve took me for a walk on the beach. I don’t think he knew what had happened to me the last time on the beach but I was really scared & thought he was just going to leave me there. He didn’t though & we had a play on the beach & then we went back to his house & he played me with again & then someone called Sue was there for a bit & then Fran came & took me to her house again.

    I thought I’d found a proper new home when Fran’s mum said she loved me & wanted me to live with her. I went round & they were lovely to me but I chased their cat away & after a few days I went back to Fran’s. I knew something wasn’t right because Fran looked really upset & started to cry when she was on the phone to places called ‘rescues’. I heard her saying that they couldn’t keep me because they already had two dogs & two cats. This really scared me because I knew Fran liked me & if even she wasn’t going to keep me what would happen to me?

    Apparently, the ‘rescues’ told Fran that it would be easier to have me ‘put to sleep’ because I’m something called a ‘staffy cross’ – which didn’t sound like me at all – I’m hardly ever cross. Anyway, it sounded like this was a really bad thing to be & meant that nobody loved me or would even let me live with them. I was really, really sorry & ashamed of myself for being so bad & tried to change but didn’t know how. Fran got more & more upset & desperate & started trying to advertise me to see if anyone could love me or just let me live with them.

    Then, one afternoon, she cheered up & said I might have a new home – again! I was a bit upset – I liked Fran & all the cats & dogs (most of the time) but now they didn’t want me & somebody else was just going to get sick of me again in a few days.

    Anyway, three weeks after dad leaving me on the beach, on a Thursday morning, Fran put me in the car & took me to my new home! When I got out of the car I recognised the place – it was where I’d met Steve, Michael & Sue – perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad – if I was good & didn’t ever do anything wrong…

    … but I kept making mistakes! I tried not to, but I stole food – because when I’d stayed in all these different houses people were too busy shouting to remember to feed me properly. They’d also forgotten to let me out, so sometimes I panicked & pooed & weed in the house. Sue, Steve & Michael didn’t shout at me or smack me – which was good – I’d hated that when those other people did it & I soon learnt not to steal Steve’s pasties.

    It took a while for me to settle & I was scared of letting myself love anybody again but I couldn’t help it & I was having so much fun I kept snogging them – they just hugged me back.

    The worst time was when, about 2 months later, Steve, Sue & Michael all went on holiday at the same time. I stayed with Lynn & Rob who are lovely but I thought it was all starting again, & I was just waiting for the next new home & the next… I knew I must’ve done something terrible & tried to work out what it was but knew I could never change the fact I was a staffy cross. Three days later, Lynn put my basket & all my stuff & me in the car & I was sick all over – I was so scared about where I was going to end up. Anyway, the car stopped & I saw a front door opening & Steve & Sue were stood there with treats & a new toy. I weed all over the pavement because I’d been so scared & now I was so relieved & excited. I started squeaking & moaning cos I was so pleased. They put my basket by the radiator in their bedroom & I climbed in & peed all over it because it was mine, in my home & I wanted everybody to know that.
    I was gutted when Sue took all the wet blankets away & washed them & dried my basket – huh, what a meany! I couldn’t stop squeaking & Sue started crying too & saying she was sorry for leaving me & then Sue & Steve cuddled up on the bed with me & even let me under the covers as a special treat.

    Anyway, that’s my story so far. I know now that they sometimes go on holiday without me but they will always come back to me because they love me so much. I also get to go on holiday with them sometimes – I’m even going ‘camping’ (does anyone know what this is?) in a couple of weeks…
    So, to any dog who is feeling a bit lost & unloved – don’t give up hope, even if you are a staffy cross, hold on & keep on loving everybody you meet. Not everybody will let you down & if you don’t give them a chance you’ll never know. Good luck & lots of licks, Bertie xx

  13. Well written and a good piece to educate folks of alternative to surrendering to a shelter. I have been in a position where I had to surrender a dog that was a terrible fit for our home. Fortunately there was someone I knew that could take him in. He was purchased from a breeder…I was under the impression at the time I would get a better dog. To payback for our misdeed, we volunteered at a local shelter. Great experience and a dog found us in time that is a perfect match for our home!

    As bad as shelters can be, consider what could happen if they did not exist. Unfortunately they are a necessary evil.

  14. I am really glad you posted this. Brings back a lot of painful memories as I too, took my 2 dogs to the shelter. They would have been about 17 years old if they would’ve lived that long. But, I never gave them the chance. We were moving into another house and they did not accept pets. I didn’t even give consideration that there were other houses. These two were my babies and the best companions. They were pit/lab mix and not a mean hair on them. Not too many days go by that I don’t think about them and miss them, pray that the good lord is keeping them and that they have forgiven me so that when the day comes, I can see them and play with them again. I, now have 3 dogs and 15 cats/kittens which all but 2 are rescue. They have all been fixed, vet checked, shots and are fed the best food I can afford. I also donate to the ASPCA every month as it comes out automatically and I don’t even count it. I will do without before they do. They are my family the same as my 2 girls are. I hope that more and more will be saved by reading your blog and stop and think before they do.

    • Rick, never fear! Dogs are the most forgiving of all creatures, I believe. I am sure they will be waiting at the Rainbow Bridge, anxious to see you and give you all of the kisses you have missed. Don’t judge yourself because of what you had to do, especially if you didn’t know of the options available. The very best thing you can do is share what you know and what you have learned and make sure you help the next Rick that comes along with the same horrible decision to make. ❤

  15. This article made me cry.Because That is what I have thought about threw the years when life threw me a curve ball and end up in a bad situation. I never once had it in me to take any of my pets to the shelter, I took the road where they stayed with me . I couldn’t do it. Even when my landlord would tell me I couldn’t have my dog I moved. I would not be able to live with myself. But that’s what I would think about what would my very much loved pet feel if I put him/her in a car and drive to a shelter. There are to many options out there you can get plenty of help on internet to re home pet, Rescues will help put you in touch with people to help you to re home you pet or try to help you themselves. There are also programs in a lot of places that will try to help your pet stay with you.
    Me personally think that people who do this is because it is the quickest and easiest way to solve the problem. To many people use the term to much I made a mistake.
    I have been on medication so strong i didn’t want to take care of myself let alone my dogs but i loved my dogs to much and forced myself to take care of them and in turn that made me to force myself to take good care of myself. It is always a good idea to have a plan in place if something should happen to you. I have plan A and B and am looking out for the pets that I do Love so very much.

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