Now when I meet a dog whom I know is going to be euthanized, I no longer get upset about it or at least I've learned to turn down the volume on that upset so I can carry on with my day, do my laundry, vacuum the floor.

I may spend some time with the dog but usually only in its kennel because often it's in no condition to be taken outside. It's usually a dog which even under more ideal circumstances would be forcing its owners to consider end of life options.

The more appreciative the dog is with my company, the harder it is, of course, so I have to turn down the emotional volume even further. And when the dog leans into me or licks my hand or tries to play, I am already as cold and soulless as a polished black granite block. Everything, the dark, the light, bounce off me. Nothing pierces the surface. Nothing enters. Nothing is allowed out.

I hold this old Jack Russell on my lap. All his teeth are rotten and I try not to breathe in his foul breath when he looks up at me with his foggy eyes. He is incontinent, maybe something wrong with his kidneys; his hips are ruined; he knuckles over and he teeters and falls when he walks; his vision is going, of course; he has a severe heart murmur; later, I am told, he is infested with fleas. But this dog, like every old dog I've ever met, cares not about his ailments, pushes them all aside and spends his time enjoying the company of a human. He does not realize or perhaps doesn't care that I've turned myself into a distant, impenetrable thing.

He nudges my hand with his muzzle. I give him the touch of my hands. I hold him, I scratch his ears, rub his chest, pat his back, hold him. Hold him some more. I give him my hands. I cannot give him anything else.

I don't think about his confusion, his loneliness, his abandonment. I don't think about how he must feel forsaken - but I know of course he feels forsaken. His owner was his god and his god has forsaken him. I don't think about the coward who threw this dog away, this coward who couldn't carry this dog to his final moments of life, or maybe the person was too lazy or too stupid or too selfish. I don't think about those things until later. Later I think maybe this person was just an asshole.

How many billions of us humans are here weighing this planet down, complaining daily about the mundane, always wanting more even though we've already taken over this whole goddam world. Everything is ours already and we bitch and moan and kill for more and then we don't even want it, get tired of it and throw it away. And yet, here is this pathetic, sick, abandoned and about to be euthanized animal who has nothing in the world, who is about to lose his last small foothold in this world, and right now, at this moment, it is everything I am not. It is happy. It is hopeful.


Rest in peace.



28 Comments to “The second last day”

  1. selkie says:

    asshole doesn't cover it- I hope karma comes hard at the end of his life and he dies unwanted and alone. Poor poor baby.

  2. Cathy says:

    Your honesty is what keeps me coming back to this blog. And your devotion to animals is what makes me share it. Thanks for writing.

  3. sukiesiamese says:

    Thank you for writing your blog. And thank you for being there for these guys. And reminding us who read what humanity should be, should mean.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Oh Fred. You have once again reduced me to tears. People suck. May this happy little guy have a wonderful afterlife. Sigh.

  5. Thank you for being there with him and sharing it with us. You're a gifted storyteller. RIP.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I ALSO BEG TO DIFFER WITH THIS AUTHORS COMMENTS, I WOULD WANT EACH AND EVERY ANIMAL THAT HAD TO BE EUTHANIZED TO HEAR A SOFT VOICE AND A KIND TOUCH AND FEEL THE LOVE FROM ME ( THE HUMAN) AS HE PASSES ON TO THE NETHER WORLD AND THEN HIS SOUL IS COMPLETE BECAUSE AT HIS LAST MOMENTS SOMEONE STILL CARED ABOUT HIM ENOUGH TO GIVE HIM THIS TOUCH AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION.... I SUGGEST YOU NOT THINK ABOUT YOUR SELF AND YOUR FEELINGS AND START THINKING ABOUT WHAT IS BEST FOR THE ANIMAL WHOSE LIFE IS ENDING AND YOURS IS NOT... I THINK IT WAS WELL PUT BY SELKIE WHO SAYS KARMA WILL COME GET YOU AND YOU MAY FIND YOU DIE ALONE AND WITH OUT ANYONE TO CARE EITHER, YOU DONT HAVE TO HOLD ON TO THE EMOTIONS WHEN A DOG PASSES, LET IT GO, YOU DONT HAVE TO BECOME ATTACHED, BUT YOU DO HAVE TO BE COMPASSIONATE NOT COLD AND UNATTACHED, HOW HORRIBLE THAT YOU COULD EVEN DO THAT?????? CHANGE OR GET A NEW JOB AND LEAVE THE ANIMALS TO SOMEONE WHO CAN SHOW COMPASSION AND A EMOTIONAL CONNECTION,,,,, WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE ?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful, heartbreaking post. Those of us who do rescue sometimes have a hard time of it. Often I say, that's it, no more, I can't take losing yet another one. But someone has to try to make up for all the irresponsible, thoughtless and sometimes downright cruel people in the world.

  8. Sandy says:

    Your writing often move me to tears; this story is particularly painful. Please don't stop writing and helping these dogs. You make a difference.

  9. To Anonymous who writes all in capitals....I believe you misread the message in Fred's blog post. The very fact that he is sitting in the kennel, holding this poor old flea-ridden, incontinent fellow, should have told you that this is a man whose empathy to dogs is unquestionable. What he IS saying is that, in order to keep doing this type of volunteer work (note: VOLUNTEER), one must be able to steel one's heart to reality....that not all dogs can be saved, that not all dog owners are compassionate, that not all dogs will be held by their loved ones in their final moments. The most difficult job in shelter volunteer work must be visiting those dogs who are facing euthanisation, taking them for their final walkies, cuddling them on their final day when their a@#$%^ owners have taken a pass. Fred, please keep on doing what you do. There's a special place in heaven for you.

  10. May we all be so lucky to find someone as compassionate as you in our end days... thank you for being there.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Dearest Fred: Since hurt people hurt others, it could be the person who typed in caps is hurting very badly and is striking out from ignorance of not knowing you as we all do. We KNOW the wonderful human being YOU ARE FOR caring for everyone, not just animals, and this sweet fella about to take his last breath, whose last touch was from someone who is not afraid to join his heart with this dog, despite trying to keep painful emotions in check. So hard to do, so very hard. WE ALL LOVE YOU. DON'T EVER FORGET THIS, PLEASE FRED. Let's just send loving thoughts to the person who typed in CAPS, and let go of the rest. He or she needs it as much as this dear dog.

  12. I would think that the person writing in caps has never done what Fred does, day after day, dog after dog. If you don't steel your heart in some way, it will break, and then you are completely useless to every other dog in the shelter. RIP little JR, you'll be at the Rainbow Bridge soon, running, jumping and barking to your heart's content!

  13. CJ says:

    Thanks for the honesty you always bring to your writing, even when it's hard, even when it's about something so unfair. I had to pause and play with my dog part way through to hold back tears - thanks for once again making me appreciate what I am lucky enough to have. And most off all, thanks for being there for the old Jack Russell, and shining a dignified light on the end of his life.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I cried when reading about the little dog. Those of us who are older have loved and lost many dogs throughout our lives. And know the pain. I think I understand what Fred is saying. He gave the little dog comfort and steeled himself to be able to go on doing the work he does. Helping needy animals, seeing the cruelty they endure and not being able to save them destroys the soul. It is a brave and strong person who can go on in spite of this. We all cry for our own pets but these people cry for everyones abandoned pets. Too many people say "don't show me that" "don't tell me " and close their eyes to the animals pain to save themselves from hurt. But those who do see and steel themselves and go on in to the darkness to help or comfort an animal when there is no hope for it are remarkable people. Thank you Fred, though I cried for all my dogs of the past I do appreciate your words.
    Anonymous

  15. Anonymous says:

    There also maybe a reason the owner lost contact with the dog. An older dog may have had an older owner who from health or mental problems was unable to give the little once loved dog the good end he or she may have desperately wanted at one time. We all know of the dogs rushed to be euthanized by uncaring relatives or the city once the owner dies. It is a nightmare many older pet owners have. But whoever relinquished the dog to TAS for someone else to take the final responsibility is the one we should all disdain

  16. Blanche Axton says:

    Boy, you struck to the heart of what most of us in the shelter and rescue world feel and do and deal with. If you could give nothing else, but your time and your hands, you gave that dog more than he had when you walked into his kennel.

    It's a hard place to be, but you went there. Voluntarily. And that old dog benefited from it, never believe he didn't.

  17. GoodDog says:

    Today I went to the vet's office to pick up the ashes of my dog who died last week. In the parking lot on the way in there was an man walking with a puppy with an injured paw. He would walk and the dog would limp behind him, he would sigh like this was sooo much trouble for him to walk to his car with this injured pup slowing him down. I should have walked over and picked up the dog for him and carried it to his car, but I was too preoccupied with my own grief. Now I just want to kick that man in the shins and SCREAM - doesn't he understand what he has? What I wouldn't give to carry my girl and comfort her one more time. Instead all I have to carry is her ashes....

  18. doglover says:

    Why the death sentence? All dogs are adoptable. As a person who rescues dogs from an ontario pound, I have yet to turn a dog away, young, old, toothless, blind, deaf, arthritic, ridden with parasites, they all deserve our help, our love. Was he not offered to go into rescue? To let this dog die as if he didn't matter with no one to comfort him in his last day/hour is cold and heartless. He should be given life and the chance to be loved and give love. I will take him and make sure whatever time he has left is golden. Can someone contact me. www.newhopedogrescue.net

  19. Anonymous says:

    As someone who adopts the oldies there is no greater joy in life then to bring love and sense of security to those in their final days. no matter the amount of time - days, weeks, months, years left the goodbye is always hard however the gratitude shown by them forever imprints on the soul. perhaps animal services would consider a hospice/end of days volunteer program for those who will go on up ahead - if only to bring them to a home for those final days.

  20. Linda Boag Moores says:

    What an incredible expression of your love and feelings for the dogs you so beautifully illustrate each week. It brought tears to my eyes because like everyone else whose connection to their dogs surpass almost every other feeling I cannot believe that someone would desert their best friend when he needs comfort most.
    As for anonymous screaming at you, it exposes why radicals are not favourably viewed by others simply because they misunderstood what you were saying. I look so forward to your posts.

  21. Candice says:

    I don't know how you do it, Fred., but I thank the powers that be that you do. And, I thank you.

  22. All-Caps Anonymous is a frigging moron.

    Thanks so much for giving this poor old man some love in his last hours, Fred. Beautifully written post. And I understand trying to shield yourself from the emotional pain, too much and one becomes useless to the animals that still remain.

  23. Dear dog lover,

    Sometimes the easy thing to do is keep a dog alive because we hate to see it die. I, however, would argue that that action is far more cruel and selfish. Imagine that dogs pain and suffering first and your self-righteousness second.

    To the the anonymous sad sack that hides behind a computer screen: if you had ever worked in a shelter you would be able to identify with the incredible sadness that comes with the job. A sadness that eventually requires some barriers. To you I suggest getting up from behind the computer and heading to a shelter to volunteer, only then should you take it upon yourself to judge.

    To the author, you are doing an incredible thing, far more than most us, and for that I thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Holly McDaniel

  24. Lenni says:

    Sobbing. Like, gasping for air sobbing. Thank you for the post, and also I am so sorry for this post. I wish I didn't know, I wish I knew more. That dear dog, what sweetness in his eyes. Rest in peace.

  25. Anonymous says:

    moved to tears. please never stop doing what you do. incredibly talented writer and more importantly, incredibly compassionate and genuine. thank you

  26. Crying. Angry. Thankful.

    Crying at the thought that this is just one of many, many, many dogs abandoned by asshole owners at a time of their lives when they need them most.

    Angry that animals are still just considered "things," not living beings who can suffer not only physical but also emotional pain. Angry that there are neither compassionate end-of-life programs at shelters, nor just punishments for people who mistreat or neglect animals.

    Thankful for people like you, Fred. For your compassion, for your willingness to endure, for your wonderful writing and photography. Even -- no: especially -- when it breaks my heart. I can cry and pray and hope to adopt more dogs in the future.

    And I'll hug my little pound dog Mitzi a little closer as soon as I hit "publish" on this comment.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Today I took a blind, skinny flea and worm infested dog from its horrible life and was once again amazed at the trust an animal will give you. How they forgive us never ceases to amaze me. I sit here now with my old foggy eyed, deaf incontinent senior. Changing his diaper, carrying him everywhere and loving every moment of our time together. I can't imagine not being there for his final moments. I adopted him as a senior and agree that only a selfish coward would dump an old dog and not allow it the peace of dying in familiar arms.
    Thank you for making the poor old russell feel special, even if just for a little while.

  28. deva says:

    Bless you, Fred.

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.
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