Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another story

Got tagged again but instead of listing 7 things, I'd like to give you another story of my past life.

I was asked to help mentor a Shelter Director for our city facility that dealt with Animal Control and sheltering animals from three cities. There were internal issues identified and the City Manager decided to place the shelter under the police dept management instead of Parks Dept. The Chief asked me to help the director learn the model used by the dept to supervise people.

Unfortunately when I got there, the director went out on medical leave. I didn't know a thing about running a shelter but with the help of the employees and volunteers we got it turned around. You can read some of the things we changed in the article below. Some harebrained ideas of mine didn't work. [like the "adopt me" vest I got for our animals thinking we could walk them in the park located next to us.

Bottom line, I just have to say this was the hardest (physically and emotionally) assignment I'd ever taken on. It is also one reason I'm trying to help our shelters now. We're almost ready to launch our project with our local SPCA. More details on that when we're off and running.

Now the story. Animal Control has had the bad rap of being just a cruel 'dog catcher' just like cops have had the bad rap of being party crashers. People forget almost all the people who get in both lines of work do so because they want to help.

In the first month I was at the shelter we were so shorthanded I helped do everything from clean kennels, feed, pick up animals and assist at the front desk. One of the most dreaded tasks was euthanizing animals because of space or dogs being a danger to the public. I was already aware of the 'burn out' of these animal lovers for doing this.

Two people are required to euthanize dangerous dogs. My senior AC officer who was all of 24 years old asked for help because no one was available to aid him in dealing with a pitbull. This dog had bitten his owner and small children and was deemed dangerous and ordered to be euthanized. He had to tranquilize it in order to give it its shot of phenobarbital. We went to the quarantine kennels and as soon as we were in sight the huge 120 pound dog lunged at the gate and snapped, barked and growled.

The officer put a pole harness on the dog and took all of his strengh to get it out. We took it to the room for the procedure and I held the dog while he gave it a tranquilizer [ketamine] via a pole injector. I was amazed at the strength of this angry, all muscle dog who was now so furious that he was foaming at the mouth as he continued to try and attack us. In moments he started to calm down and then relaxed enough for us to muzzle him and lay him down.

I held the dog's foreleg while the officer shaved it and then injected the phenobarbital. I was breathing a sigh of relief thinking this "monster" was not going to harm anyone any more. I was taken aback when the officer knelt down next to the dog and started petting it. While it went to sleep and ultimately stopped breathing, the officer spoke to it while petting it. He said in a gentle voice, "It's okay boy. It's not your fault you're like this. You're a good boy. It's not your fault." He wanted to make sure the last words heard and last things felt that this angry and vicious dog were ones of love and kindness.

So this seasoned cop still cries when she remembers this act of love and uses it to look to see how we can lesson the burden on shelter employees and help our animals. hugs.




17 comments:

Cynthia said...

Sheila, your story brought tears to this animal lovers eyes. I perfectly understand both sides of the animal shelter problem. It's difficult to put them to sleep...poor things...but I have seen abandoned animals all over the streets of Puerto Rico. It also breaks your heart. I have nine dogs and one cat. All strays. Animals need love and a home. You are doing a wonderful, difficult and important job. I admire your sense of purpose and dedication. <3

artbyakiko said...

What a moving story about the pitbull! It's so sad that things like this are happening everyday in so many places. Sheila, now I see your deep connection with the animal shelters. Hope your project will go well and help save more animals!

suzanne cabrera said...

Not to copy Cynthia...but my reaction was the same. Your story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing these moments in your life.

It's not difficult to see what a special person you are.

Judy Mackey said...

Me too! I've got tears in my eyes too. What a beautiful story of telling the poor soul good-bye in a sweet way.
Thank you for sharing.

Paintings by Irit Bourla said...

You are such a wonderful person and I love every story of yours but, you make me cry....

James Parker said...

Wow, Sheila, what a story. A great lover of dogs, but not a big fan of pit bulls, I'm stirred by the compassion of your co-worker. A tender word at the end of his journey...sadly, I've known too many dogs who never received that kindness.

dominique eichi said...

Sheila, You have a gift in the ability to write. I would suggest in a while from now when you have put down a good numbered stories with added drawing for you to make a book I am sure it will be quite a success. Very nice story. Thanks for sharing it. BTW here in San Diego they use those vest on the dogs to say they are up for adoption.

Natasha said...

It is not wonder that your pet portraits are so wonderful, you are a true animal lover.

Rob Carey said...

Sheila, would you believe my father worked for animal control in the LA area for thirty years? I wonder if you've met him... and, yes, he's a very compassionate person.

Art with Liz said...

Like everyone else, I also got a bit choked up over your story. What is so sad is that people don't realise that there is no such thing as a bad dog - only bad owners and bad treatment. We humans place our moral code on animals, especially dogs, and expect them to understand! LOL

Dean H. said...

A truly moving story, Sheila. Euthanasia really tears at the heartstrings. Saying "goodbye" wrings the very soul.

Spiritartartist said...

There are no bad animals, only bad people who make them that way.

Gail H. Ragsdale said...

Sheila, your story brought tears to my eyes also. "He wanted to make sure the last words heard and last things felt that this angry and vicious dog were ones of love and kindness." This is something we all need to remember whether dealing with an animal, or human. So many never know the touch of kindness.

Abby Creek Art said...

Amazing post, Sheila...and so heartwrenching. Pitbulls are wonderful dogs if given a chance in life. Sadly, they're often raised by people who shouldn't have dogs in the first place.

Thanks for sharing a beautiful story of compassion.

Karen Hargett said...

Sad story on so many levels but very touching. I've said it before you are an amazing woman.

Tracey Clarke said...

Another wonderful story about you.....how amazing are you?
I was a vet tech for 10 years...I know how hard it is. I really think shows like "Animal Precinct" and "Animal Cops" on Animal Planet are really helping to change the way people view animals and "dog catchers."....I knew I liked you, Sheila.
(And, by the way, what is a "real" artist??)

Karie said...

I expect there are many animals who appreciate the kindness you have shown Sheila, I love animals, they are kinder than most people but sometimes they do need the kindness of humans to keep them going, I really am overwhelmed by what you do.