How To Handle the Goodbyes? | Chandra

(This post addresses euthanasia...please do skip it if you need to. Believe me, I understand.)

A few weeks ago I started receiving the morning emails that list all of the animals that came into the shelter the day before, along with the outcomes from the day. Every day there are feral cats and stray dogs and typically a raccoon or a possum. There have been horses and goats and yesterday there was even a whole bunch of rats listed. Overwhelmingly the dogs are pit bull or chihuahua mixes picked up on the street as strays. There are also some who get brought into the shelter and surrendered by people who find them, along with a few owner surrenders and confiscates.

The outcomes start out at the top of the email with adoptions and fosters and end with the animals who were euthanized that day, and why. It's either medical or behavioral. Mostly behavioral.

Bradshaw recently changed their method of evaluating dogs and the euth numbers have gone way up. Most people, including volunteers, don't see it because the dogs never make it to the adoption floor. Delyse sees it and does everything in her power to fight for the dogs and manages to make some heroic saves, like Stanley last week. He was going to be euthanized for being too shy, Delyse swooped in, volunteers gave him a couple of days of lots of attention and treats, and Bam, he was adopted the first day that he was available. Those are the saves that have us all cheering.

Cherise & Stanley
I know there are dogs that legitimately need to be euthanized for the safety of our community, or because they are too sick for us to be able to help them. I also know that everyone is doing the best they can, given their own outlooks they bring to the situation, and the sheer number of animals the shelter handles. I may not agree with the way things are being done, but I know there are no easy answers either.

Whatever the reasons, or the politics, or the rights and the wrongs of it all, my heart hurts.

I've been saving the photos of each of the dogs who are euthanized, while not quite sure what I'm saving them for. Somehow I just want to honor them, to know that they aren't just disposable and forgotten. It's the same reason Laura doesn't erase dogs' webpages on PBSOC's site when the dogs are put to sleep; she puts RIP after their names and makes the page private instead because she just cannot hit the delete key.

I truly believe that it is important to honor these dogs, but after grappling with it for several weeks, and feeling myself tearing up over and over thinking about them, I've made the decision that it is more important for me to spend my energy doing good. Compassion fatigue is a real thing, and although I'm a relative newbie at volunteering, I do not want to burn out and not be able to be of use. I want to continue to be able to go to Bradshaw with a smile on my face and do what I can do and somehow have that be enough.

It never will be, of course. But if each of us just does something for the causes that speak to our hearts, it could add up to so very, very much. A few hours a week is all it takes. It doesn't have to be dogs, but something.

Volunteering has added so much to my life. It's given me a purpose and filled up my heart in a way I didn't expect when I emailed PBSOC asking if there might be a place for us. I so much enjoy the blocky headed, grinning dogs and all the people in PBSOC and even the hours I spend on my computer editing and helping out. It's all for good. And I need to find a way to keep going in the face of the sadness.

So, to all of the beautiful, beautiful dogs who haven't made it out, and who won't in the future, I honor you, but I'm not going to save your photos anymore. I wish your souls to fly free and I hope that you somehow felt our love. But, ultimately, for the good of all of the others who desperately need us to show up each day with an open heart, I have to let you go, and trust that it will get better.

This collage shows some of the pit bull type dogs who haven't made it out of Bradshaw this year, and I'm going to let it stand in for the others who will follow. Somehow, it will have to be enough.

Godspeed, sweet souls.



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