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 Petfinder.com.**