Nearly thirteen years have passed since you were a puppy, and now you are old, mostly blind, and mostly deaf, doddery and pleasant, ready to lie about the house providing doggie ambiance, and retire in a sunbeam.
Today, Mom and Dad put you in the car, and they took you to a strange room full of nervous animals. Your tail wagged for everyone, even the cats, and the strange humans in the room. Then someone walked you away from Mom and Dad, picked you up, and put you in a small metal box with a wire front.
Mom and Dad didn’t come back for you.
Since you are old, you will likely not be adopted. Who wants to adopt an old, blind, deaf dog? Should you be allowed to compete for scarce adoptive homes against all the young dogs who are also looking for homes? Would being adopted even be good for you — suddenly moving, after thirteen years, to a new, scary place you can neither properly see or hear? What is the humane choice for you?*
And what do we say to Mom and Dad, who just dropped you off at the shelter when you got old? If we make them feel bad about this decision, they will not even bother to bring their next old, blind dog to the shelter for humane euthanasia — they will just open their front door and let the dog walk out, and he or she will become someone else’s problem. Maybe that dog will make it to a shelter. Maybe they’ll meet up with a bigger dog, or some angry kids, or the underside of a truck. Is it better for you that we can at least give you a quiet exit, and treats before you go?
This story repeats itself every day. I saw it happen yesterday, but it happened again today at a shelter in your town, and it will happen again tomorrow. The only way to stop this story happening is to work to create people who don’t think it’s appropriate behavior to drop a family member off at the shelter so someone else has to deal with its aging and death. The first step in that process is spreading the word that this is even happening.
*Note: Here’s a shelter which offers humane euthanasia for older or sick pets as a free service. I feel this is a good service shelters should not be ashamed to offer, and which people who do not have the $75-100 or so it can cost to euthanize a pet should not be ashamed of using. I vastly prefer this option to the “let’s let it suffer until it dies on its own” approach.