It’s funny. Just a few days after typing up the previous post, I received another reminder of my shelter days.
Driving on my road tonight well after dark (doesn’t that mean it’s light out? Well after sunset, anyway,) I came disturbingly close to hitting a dog, largely because he was very dark – and in the road. As he dodged off the road, he was stumbling, having no small difficulty in walking, and I could see his eyes were very white. I initially thought he might have already been struck and was injured, but the condition of his eyes, and his coat, told me he was more likely just elderly. And I thought I remembered seeing him before.
I stopped the vehicle and grabbed the flashlights that I’ve been carrying since my days doing animal rescue. The dog wasn’t hard to locate, and I was pretty sure I knew what house he belonged at. It was 11:00 at night and most houses on my road were dark, so I suspected I was going to have to wake someone up. The dog wasn’t going to let me lead him anywhere, not trusting me enough, and seemed able to see only in very limited ways. He was very unsteady on his hind legs but I figured this was simply age.
He led me down his driveway and to the front steps of the house, and I rang the bell and knocked. When the woman finally answered, she confirmed it was her dog and that he normally stayed on the porch. He was fifteen, and had reached that stage of health where he was going to be put to sleep this week. This is a sad decision to have to make, but there comes a time when you have to compare the quality of a pet’s life against the onset of uncomfortable or painful problems, and there isn’t much point in prolonging a life that is only going to be miserable. Fade off quietly before the days become nothing but torment? Got my vote. Why can’t we consider this for people, who can actually make this decision on their own?
I apologized for waking her, and she apologized for bothering me, but I blew this off, explaining I used to work for a shelter. She told me that’s where he had come from, fifteen years ago, and I told her he’d lived a good, long life. I said goodbye to them both (with his owner’s voice, he had become less spooky and let me scratch his ears) and left.
Stupidly, only afterwards did I put it together. She lived in the same county I worked for the animal shelter within, and adopted the dog fifteen years ago – that was 1994, during my employment there. There’s a very good chance her dog came from where I worked, and that I knew him way back then. I didn’t remember him (or her), but we handled roughly 7,000 animals a year – this isn’t surprising. Still, it’s intriguing.
Knowing he’s in his last days isn’t exactly a pleasant thought, but we all reach this point. The goal is more to make our days count as much as possible. Fifteen years is actually a good age for a shepherd, and he was wearing a collar and tags, something the shelter emphasized as much as we could. In that time, he’s had what certainly appears to be a good home, and was given the chance to grow old with care and love. Working at the shelter, we almost never got the chance to see what happened to the animals once they left us, but it’s nice to see a success story, even near its end. To know that it’s this far removed from the beginning is a good thing.