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This isn't one of those substantive diaries. I'm just writing about I dog I knew who was put to death a few days ago.

Her name was Tawny.

I volunteer for what I thought was a no-kill dog rescue. I started volunteering over a year ago and I've been down there three or four days a week pretty consistantly. The rescue is a kennel that can house up to about fifty dogs. It's a beautiful facility: clean, roomy, comfortable, with big play yards outside and heated floors inside. For most of the dogs that we rescue life in the kennel is a big imporovement over their previous experiences.

The rescue is run by volunteers: a corp of mostly retired folks who clean, feed, walk, groom, publicize, fundraise, admit, and adopt out dogs. It's a lot of work, often heartbreaking and stressful. Together the volunteers save between three hundred and five hundred dogs a year. I am full of appreciation for their hard work.

But I do not understand the decision to kill Tawny.

Tawny was turned in as a stray in April. She was nearly feral, a skinny hyperactive and hysterically frightened little pitbull girl of about six month old. She'd go batshit nuts at the sight of another dog. Like most puppies she chewed, but her chewing was epic; stressed and fearful Tawny chewed everything: her food dish, her water fountain, her bed, the door flap, the wooden framing of her kennel. She was not at all aggressive to people, but she was unresponsive to us: she just did't relate to people much. She didn't know that we could be her friends.

I sort of adopted her. I taught her to respond to her name by giving her a treat everytime she looked at me. She generalized that and quickly became exhuberantly friendly to everyone. I taught her to "sit" and discovered that she was a demon for fetching. Once tired out from playing she was a cuddly wiggleworm who loved belly tickles. She became a facelicker.

I started her in dog obedience classes and she was the shining star: sit, down, stay, heel, she did it all. Tawny loved to learn and loved to obey.

We worked with her on her dog aggression, too. By August I could put Tawny on a lead and walk her past all the kennels of barking dogs and she wouldn't react at all. She had a kennnel mate, a big goldie chow mix, that she loved. She was still fearful of dogs she didn't know and aggressive toward dogs that aggressed her, but it was managable. After all, she was small and easy to control.

Our behaviorist did a temperament test on her and she passed: cat aggressive, but not aggressive toward people at all. In fact you could give her a treat and snatch it back without an angry response from her. She'd look hurt and confused, but not mad.

We have, at the kennel, three unadoptable feral dogs. Tawny's kennel mate is a potentially dangerous dog since he likes to intimidate people and is big enough to do damage. If he senses fear in a person, he will go for their face. We had a big old German Shepard mix who killed small animals who lived at the kennel until he died of old age. Every now and then someone will talk about euthaninzing one of those dogs but no one has ever acted. When I started hearing talk of euthanizing Tawny as unadoptable I didn't take it seriously. After all she was only one class short of getting her dog Good Citizen certificate. She was blossoming into a little cinnamon colored pixie.

But they did it. I went in on Monday to take Tawny through her dog lessons and she was gone. The trigger, I heard third hand, was a fight she got into with the dog in the kennnel next to hers. He's a mastiff mix that has been consistantly aggressive toward Tawny for weeks: barking, lunging, calling out dog insults and challenges through the kennel walls. Of course she went for him when she got the chance. But since when has a dog fight been a reason for euthanizing a dog? Lots of dogs are antagonistic to all other dogs or antagonistic to only certain other dogs. Everyone who has a dog knows the extent to which their dog will tolerate others. One of my neighbors has a cocker spaniel that goes ballistic every time it sees either a human or a dog! At the dog rescue it is well known that certain dogs don't get along with others. The fault for the fight lies with whoever let two clearly inconapable dogs get in contact with each other. Besides, the mastiff wasn't hurt and Tawny only got some scratches.

I didn't stay yesterday. I left as soon as I got the news. I am not going in today. I will go back though. I want to help care for the other dogs. A whole bunch of new dogs just came in: frightened, sickly survivors of an animal hoarder. I'm not going to quit  supporting the dogs and the rescue over one bad decision.

But I feel heartsick and sad. I wish I knew how to post a picture of her: her intense,needy, appealing little face. I guess I just want someone more than just me to mourn her passing. Poor little Tawny. I'm sorry that there was no place in the world for you.

Originally posted to wren on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 12:05 PM PDT.


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Comment Preferences

  •  thank you that's sweet (5+ / 0-)

    Second star on the right and straight on til morning

    by wren on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 12:14:19 PM PDT

  •  {{{wren}}} (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo, Statusquomustgo, mieprowan, MKDAWUSS

    I'm so sorry about Tawny, wren. I didn't realize that "no kill" shelters euthanized healthy animals. Do you know if it's a common practice?

    Thank you for the work you do with animals. ♥

    PS - I added a woozle tag.

  •  you must be very angry about this (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo, Fabian, A Man Called Gloom, Katie71

    as well. I hope it helped some to write and post this here. It's a good piece.

    "So if you want a symbolic gesture; don't burn the flag. Wash it." - Norman Thomas

    by mieprowan on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 12:18:54 PM PDT

    •  I guess I am. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elmo, Fabian, lgmcp, mieprowan, Vtdblue

      On the other hand I think of the lday who made the decsion. She spends at least forty hours a week if not more unpaid runninng the kennnel. She deals with constant phone calls from people wanted to bring their dogs in or reporting neglect and abuse. I couldn't do it. The emotional distress would kill me. If it wasn't for this lady the place wouldn't bed open.

      Second star on the right and straight on til morning

      by wren on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 12:23:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  i've worked with shelters some (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        as a volunteer. But not no-kill shelters.

        However, the most effective shelters are not run by volunteers. It gets too hard for them, over time. Some rare people are good at it, but most start getting resentful.

        And the emotional stress from dealing face on with people who use animals unkindly is not to be sneezed at, even in a no-kill shelter.

        I live in Carlsbad, NM, a town that has its failings (very Republican) but we do have a pretty good non-profit organization that has managed to take over the city animal pound, move it somewhere else, and improve it a great deal. The city gives them some money and they make the rest from donations and sales at a thrift shop run by volunteers, and they are a foundation with some interest-bearing money as well, and they own the real estate in both cases.

        There are a few stalwart old ladies who are much of what keeps the thrift shop going (not to mention the Foundation) and they have a shifting cadre of other volunteers. The shelter, though, is run by paid staff. The animals must be cared for daily, etc. The shelter you've been working with is made very vulnerable by virtue of not only having a volunteer staff, but a volunteer manager.

        The best volunteer work for a shelter is:

        a. project oriented; i.e. projects that a group of volunteers can get together on, and work on; projects that will improve the shelter.

        b. adoption counseling help.

        c. fundraising activities.

        Not everyone may agree with all of this, but that's my thoughts, experience, and feedback from people in the biz.

        "So if you want a symbolic gesture; don't burn the flag. Wash it." - Norman Thomas

        by mieprowan on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 07:12:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  ((hugs)) (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    opinionated, revsue, elmo, marina

    If it were me, I'd look for a new shelter. That you weren't even given a chance to say goodbye or argue in her favor after all your hard work is unconscionable.

    "I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law" -Obama

    by heart of a quince on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 12:21:16 PM PDT

  •  There seems to have been some kind of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo, Fabian

    terrible miscommunication.  If "talk" of deeming Tawny unadoptable had been out there for a while, it was crazy to have you putting valuable time into her classes.  

    I feel it makes sense to direct scarce resources to animals who ARE adoptable.  The chow who went for people's faces -- euthanize him.  Tawny?  Hard to see why, under the circumsstances.  I think it would be good to talk calmly with some of the decision makers in this case, to try to figure out how you got on such different pages.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 12:25:41 PM PDT

    •  I agree (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      opinionated, elmo, Fabian, lgmcp, Vtdblue

      about the scarcity of resources and the need to decide which dog to spend the resources on. If it was up to me that decsion owould be made at the door--accept those dogs we intend to help until they get adopted and reject those which don't appear adoptable. Once we tell someone that we will find a home for the dog they bring in--well that's a commitment, seems to me. Even if they dog they bring in is a stray.

      Ths chow mix Lucky (ironnic name, huh?) is indeed a much better candidate for euthaniasia. Half the volunteers are affraid of him. I took him through obediennce classes, too, and he was a big butthead, compliant onlhy whenhe had to be.

      Second star on the right and straight on til morning

      by wren on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 12:32:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wonder (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        if prejudice against the breed had anything to do with this decision.

        •  to some extent it did (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elmo, Vtdblue

          Tawny hadthe body type of a prue bred "game" pit, ie a pit bred to fight dogs. She may have strayed from a backyard fighting dog breeder's home. There's plenty of those aroud here.

          But here's the thing; pits bred to fight dogs are bred to NOT fight people. Who wants their strong jawed, determined, brave dog to turn those skills on the handler? People who fight dogs need to be able to brek the fight up withut being bit themsleves, ehnce the culling out of people aggrassion in the breed.

          And tawny was true to type: even in the throes of cambat with another dog she did not show aggression to people.

          Seems to me that makes her MORE adoptable then the guard dog breed that were bred to have selective aggression toward people--like chows.

          Second star on the right and straight on til morning

          by wren on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 01:10:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah, you KNOW it did. Pits are the most (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            discriminated against and stereotyped dogs out there.  They put this dog down, and not other more dangerous dogs, because of that, pure and simple -- and it's a bloody shame.

            I'm sorry for your heartbreak.  That was a callous thing they did, for your sake and obviously for Tawney's.

            "I once asked a literary agent what writing paid the best, and he said, 'Ransom notes.'" - Gene Hackman as Harry Zimm in "Get Shorty"

            by Vtdblue on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 01:14:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Only if she never, ever (0+ / 0-)

            saw another dog in her life.

            And that is a helluva thing to ask of anyone who is looking to adopt.  What do you do at the vet?  If you need to board?  

            Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

            by Fabian on Wed Sep 09, 2009 at 01:00:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  honoring Tawny (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    opinionated, Fabian, Katie71

    What you must do- and I know how hard this will be- is to take this moment and learn from it. All animals, whatever their flaws may be, deserve life and love and respect and their dignity. Until this world understands that there is NO difference in quality of life or emotion between myself, my Mother, my cat, their dog, someone's horse, a polar bear, a wolf, an elephant and the cow, pig, or chicken raised in horrific conditions- until we understand this, there is no real humanity in this world. The problem is reconciling that with the little difference we can effect. As an animal advocate myself, I like to remind myself of the story Ted Kennedy used to tell about the starfish. Every single little life you save by direct action or by indirect action such as not eating or wearing an animal, saves a life and while we mourn the loss of this one life, your mission has to be to honor Tawny by helping the next starfish left standed on the shore. (and I am so sorry and share your heartache).

    •  I know (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elmo, Fabian, Katie71

      that's why I'm not quitting.

      I have decided tgo honor her memory by makinng a small monthly donation to Adoptabulls, a pitbull only rescue near Seattle. Also I have decided that when my elderly corgie mix passes away i will go to Adoptabulls and find an older dog socail male pit to be a companion for our GSD mix.

      Second star on the right and straight on til morning

      by wren on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 12:44:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I am so sorry (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo, Fabian, Katie71

    As I try to type this, I am holding Zoe, our little shelter puppy who is part Boston Terrier and looks like a miniture pit bull when she clenches her jaw.  I can only imagine how I would feel if she were put down.

    While I understand that sometimes we have to pragmatic about how to use our resources, my heart goes out to you and Tawny who probably trusted the person who out her down.  I hope that you can talk it out with the person(s) that made the decision.  The other dogs need your love and attention and it is not there while you are feeling left out of such an important decision.

    I give love on my Zoe (and shed a few tesrs) for a good while and hope her cuddly licks and wiggles reach out to you.

    •  I thought of my little Boston too (0+ / 0-)

      when I read this.  She wasn't a rescue, but she didn't come from the best environment and has always been kind of nervous and dog aggressive, but she's also the sweetest little girl.

      Wren, I'm so sorry that you had to endure the pain of losing a friend like that.  I'm glad for Tawny that she had you to love her in her too short life.  I think if I were in your position, I'd talk to the lady who runs the shelter and to find out her decision making process and maybe you can help her redefine the process to save more dogs in the future.

  •  Your story is almost identical (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo, Fabian

    to my friend's story.  That was a pit bull too.  She worked so hard and thought that he had come so far only to go in one day and he was gone with no real explanation.  I know how heartbroken she was and I'm sorry this happened to you.

    America is the wealthiest country in the world, yet nearly 50 million of our citizens have no access to death panels. That is a disgrace. John Oliver

    by ImABlondOK on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 01:02:58 PM PDT

  •  Not sure why they did that. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Of course she went for him when she got the chance.


    And the temperament test?  You said she was somewhat cat aggressive, not people aggressive, but you didn't say if she had been tested for aggressiveness towards other dogs.  

    Some dogs are without a doubt, aggressive towards other dogs, especially dogs they don't know.  Some dogs will react aggressively to any dog that enters their space - and not just with the lunge and snap that says "Get the hell away from me!" but physical attacks.  

    Proper canine aggression escalates step by step, allowing the other dog opportunities to break off and leave.  Posturing, lifting the lips, snarling, growling, lunging and snapping aren't fighting - they are messages.  Flat out aggressive dogs don't bother with any of these, they just attack and don't give the other dog a chance to avoid the encounter.

    Dogs bred for fighting are bred to be submissive to and to bond with humans and to be intolerant of and aggressive to other dogs.  The human-dog bonding is what makes pit bulls so lovable and attractive to people - but if they have the dog intolerance/aggressiveness, the only home they could go to is one that keeps them forever apart from other dogs.  

    Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

    by Fabian on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 01:08:17 PM PDT

    •  Yes (0+ / 0-)

      Upthread I mention that Tawny was ;likely bred to be a fighting dog. Howevder that did not make her unadoptable. Lots of people have dogs that are incompatable with other dogs and must be in the house when the people aren't home and walked only on a leash.

      Seems to me that a dog that has an instinct for guarding has the potential for doing more harm to people than a dog that has an instinct to fight other dogs.

      Tawny did need to go to a responsible home. But they ALL need to go to responsible homes!

      Second star on the right and straight on til morning

      by wren on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 01:14:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  See this link (0+ / 0-)

        for "guard" dogs and canine social behavior.  Livestock guardian dogs are quite remarkable in that they not only master pack order and other canine behaviors, but they also master prey/livestock behavior to the point that sheep and other herd animals not only are comfortable around them, but allow the dogs to clean and care for their newborns.

        Dogs are what we make them, in both nature and nurture.  We create angels and we create demons.  My late dog was 90% LGD - very patient, very loyal, very tolerant of other dogs.  That was the 1/4 Great Pyrenees.  His brother was put down before he was a year old for incorrigible aggression against other dogs.  That was the 1/2 Akita.

        People told me my dog was good because of me.  Not really.  My dog was good because his LGD genes were dominant.  He was what he was.

        Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

        by Fabian on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 01:42:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I am so sorry.... (0+ / 0-)

    It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. Ansel Adams -6.5 -6.75

    by Statusquomustgo on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 01:08:43 PM PDT

  •  I'm leaving (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for an appointment soon but i want to thank eeryone for your comments and concern.

    I plan to honor Tawny's memory by pledging a monthly donation to Adoptabulls, a Seatle based pit rescue group. I will continue to vbolunteer at my local rescue but i will no longer make monetary donations to them.

    I will be far more assertive inn the future if I hear any talk of euthanizing a dog. if I agree to take a dog through dog lessons again i will ask up front for a promisr that the dog will be kept util adopted.

    I have to go now but when I come bak I will gladly read any additional comments.

    Thanks everybody

    Second star on the right and straight on til morning

    by wren on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 01:20:37 PM PDT

  •  An objective look at pit bulls (0+ / 0-)
    and aggression.

    In short, every pit bull must be treated with caution, especially puppies, because of their breeding.  

    Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

    by Fabian on Wed Sep 09, 2009 at 01:16:32 PM PDT

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