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(reposted from November 2008)

Yesterday was a very fine fall afternoon, a good afternoon to take Kiki for a longer walk than usual. I fetched him out of his kennel and out we went.

Kiki stayed a few paces ahead of me on his leash. Every so often he'd pause and look back at me. Sometimes he'd walk back and nudge my hand as if to suggest that maybe we could walk faster.

I'd heard that Kiki had bitten one of the other dog walking volunteers and so I stayed attentive to any indication that he might try something like that with me and, indeed, at one point he did get impatient with me and got a bit too mouthy. I put a stop to it, though, controlling him with the leash and saying a gruff "NO!" and that put an end to that.

I wondered if the mouthiness/biting could have had anything to do with the seizure he had the other morning. Was the behaviour just bad manners or was it indicative of some frazzled brain function? Kiki's personality seemed changed since his seizure. He was certainly less energetic. And his eyes seemed like they were clouding over but was that a recent change, post seizure, or something that I just hadn't noticed before?

We walked along the grassy patches around the south side of the CNE for about half an hour and then I sat down at a bench on a hill overlooking the Gardiner Expressway. Kiki looked at me and realized we were going to stay put for a bit so he laid down a couple of feet away on the grass. I sat back enjoying the sunshine and watched the traffic. Kiki did exactly the same, turning around a couple of times to make sure I was still there, and then settling back to contemplate the highway. I watched Kiki and thought that he was, at that moment, content. At least I was able to give him that much.

Just before I got up to bring Kiki back, he nudged my hand, gently this time, and yowled and said something to me but I had no idea what he was trying to say.

So that was yesterday and as it turned out, that would be Kiki's last walk. His biting had become a major liability issue (I found out he had bitten others as well, not just that one dog walker) and with the seizures on top of that there was no way he could be put up for adoption. A rescue that had expressed interest in taking him changed their minds when they found out about his illness. The rescue just didn't have room for another dog that wouldn't likely be adopted out anytime soon.

I had brought in a bone for Kiki this afternoon but by the time I got to TAS, he'd already been tranquilized in preparation for his euthanasia. I stuck my head into the room where he was kenneled and saw his front paws sticking out from under the kennel door. I didn't walk in any further. I didn't want him to see me and possibly get excited. Maybe I didn't want to see him either, sedated, less than the dog he was. And maybe I also didn't want to see him because despite everything, I could have taken him out of there and brought him home and looked after his health and dealt with his biting and given him at least a more tolerable final few days or weeks or however long before the underlying illness took him over. I could have saved him but I chose not to. I stood, once again, face to face with the limits of my own compassion and generosity. Not enough.

There's that saying we hear a lot in the dog rescue world - you can't save every dog in the world but for the dog you save, it is the world - or something like that. Well, that's nice but what are you supposed to say when you don't save a dog? What does that mean? Where's the platitude for failure?

This is what I see: We are on a grassy plain and Kiki is on leash walking a few paces ahead of me. Every few steps he slows and looks over his shoulder back at me to see why I am walking so slow. He wants to walk faster but knows he's not supposed to pull so he tries to contain his exuberance. We walk until we reach the edge of a hill and just as we're about to take the first step up, something further up top sets him off - a scent, a sound, I don't know what really - and he starts to strain at the leash. He pulls and I try to pull him back but he keeps pulling and then the leash breaks. For a moment we both stand there, surprised, and I'm about to say something to him, to call him back but we both know he doesn't have to listen to me anymore. He takes a step away, starts his ascent up the hill. He walks up the hill. Then he trots. Then he runs. And even as he's climbing, he keeps looking back at me. One, two, three times and then he is gone.

11 Comments to “Everything that rises must converge”

  1. It's dogs like Kiki and the heavy hearts we are all feeling reading this ('cause I am pretty sure I am and won't be the only one) that keeps us all going and working and advocating... You have to be willing to stand in the middle of the muck and sadness and heartbreak if you want to clean it up. Thank you for being so wiling Fred, and all the others involved in rescue work.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely heartbreaking.

  3. deva says:

    I think it is important that he is remembered, just for himself. Thank you for doing that.

  4. Anonymous says:

    So sorry to hear about Kiki.

    "You can't save every animal in the world, but to the one you save, it IS
    the world."

  5. Flossy says:

    Fred, the fact that you go there and walk the dogs, take these great photos and write with such compassion and often humour is so very important. I am so glad that Kiki got to walk with you and sat on the hill just enjoying the scenery while feeling safe and happy.....sure wherever Kiki he is thanking you for that day and hoping you are safe and happy too.

  6. rika says:

    This is how I “met” you, Fred. I just had a very similar experience, and it was my first time (unfortunately, more were to come). Thanks to this post, I was able to get through all the pain and sorrow... eventually. So – thank you for sharing it, one more time.

  7. Antonia Z says:

    Once again, you break my heart.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I'm new to your blog. I wanted to say that you write with such compassion - you break my heart some days. I rescue Great Danes and I know the saying that you wrote of. I think we keep it close to our hearts because we know that we can't save them all as much as we want to. I think the saying helps to keep us sane while we let the ones we can't save go.

  9. siouxee says:

    Heartbroken. I don't even know what to say. I choked up.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Deva is right. But it is a very sad thing...

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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.