As a person who loves dogs, there are some days when the disgusting actions of unknown humans really bruise my soul; today was one of those days.
While driving to do a speech for work I saw a brief glimpse of mange-riddled naked skin and said to my co-worker (V; who was also going to be speaking), “shit, there’s a dog over there who needs help.” She didn’t see it but agreed we would stop after our presentation on the way back and see if it was still there, if so we would stop and take it to the animal welfare center. After the presentations, V helped me find the right place along the road back and I couldn’t see a dog; V spotted it and gave me a chunk of sandwich for him and off I went. People, the dog was a mess. Hell, calling him a dog is kind of a stretch; calling him a crusty mange-riddled naked-mole-rat with a pigpen-like cloud of stench almost visibly wafting around him would have probably been more appropriate.
“Well, hello there Mr. Stinky.”
He was curled up in the bottom section of a rotting drivers seat, he gratefully and delicately took the sandwich and and got up to follow me. His feet looked extremely inflamed and his toenails painfully overgrown, his poor face was a scabby-riddled mess and he had a flea infection from hell. He appeared to have about one square inch of hair. I attached a leash to him which (obviously) freaked him out and he tried to pull back to his “cushion;” I grabbed one of the extra blankets from the car (I had already prepped the back of the vehicle with towels and blankets so any infection/pests/smell could be contained) and picked him up and placed him inside the car and covered all but his head with a blanket (more for the smell containment than anything else, but I think he felt safer.) I didn’t tell my coworker this, but I knew we were taking him to his death. Not because she would disagree, but because I didn’t want her to be sad. To me, a clean quick death after a good meal while someone who cared told him that he was a good and wonderful dog who deserved better than he received and that he would be remembered was a hell of a lot better than being left to die slowly and painfully from secondary infections by some asshole who did wrong by this dog.
As suspected, the animal welfare center is already over-filled with wonderfully healthy dogs & puppies dropped off by other irresponsible dog owners and the chances of this rather gross dog made mostly of scabs, infections, and smell finding an adoptive home is less than likely. It is simply a matter of managing what few resources the shelter has to do the most good. He watched everyone doing everything, obviously nervous but not reactive, stoically accepting having his skin scraped and blood drawn. I stood there uselessly, using my hip to keep the table from wobbling and providing what comfort I could while they confirmed he was an approximately 1 year old intact male, 20lbs, complete with fleas, demodectic mange, swollen feet with overgrown nails and a few nasty secondary skin infections. He watched everyone with calm accepting eyes, obviously nervous but not reactive. He tolerated his skin being scraped and blood being drawn with no reaction. Surprisingly, he turned out to be heartworm negative. His eyes lit up when he was offered a packet of cat food which he rather delicately ate and he lapped some of the offered water, although he seemed to do that to be polite, not because he wanted it. He kept looking at the box the cat food came from, seeming to hope more would appear.
Decision time: I brought him in, I have to make the decision; do I take responsibility to foster this dog until healthy and find it a home or do I have him put down.
I can exhaustively list the many reasons why I can’t bring an additional dog into my home, but every single one of them can be boiled down to money and time. Do I have the funds available to feed and medically treat this dog until he is healthy and do I have any extra time to spend with him to slowly (painfully slowly) integrate him into the pack and train him to be a well behaved indoor dog before finding him the perfect home?
Not only no, but Hell No. Nope. Not even a little bit. I have nothing left to give.
This dog would add more stress, more stink, more pain in the butt medication schedules, more baths, more cleaning, more exhaustion, and not to mention less money and less time with the other dogs who do not get enough as it is. The logical and intelligent course of action would be to put him down and go on with my life, accepting that his miserable existence was not my fault and that he is not my responsibility and I did everything I could for him and ended his suffering.
That stinky little guy just stood there on that wobbly table watching everyone work around him, accepting everything happening to him as his lot in life and was still able to find joy in a pieces of a cheese sandwich, a packet of cat food and a kind hand. He has to be in more discomfort than can be described in words, but he didn’t lash out or become catatonic. He is strong and sweet and he deserves a hell of a lot better than what humans have allowed his life to become; but so many animals do.
I can’t save them all, but I saved his stinky butt.
I just couldn’t face putting him down when everything he has is treatable and he could live a good and happy life for the cost of some money (which I never have) and time (which I also never have). This was not a good decision for me, but it was a good decision.