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June 25, 2022

Finding Our Way Through with Love: Humanity & Dogs in Crisis

It’s Saturday morning. Humanity feels in continual meltdown. My husband is out hauling wheelbarrows full of gravel to the perimeter of our log home to protect against wildfire danger. The U.S. Supreme Court just overturned Roe v. Wade, taking away a woman’s innate, fundamental, God-given human right to choose what happens over her very own body. The same radically-politicized court took away New York’s rights to restrict the circumstances in which a person may acquire a gun. Seth Meyers and Trevor Noah are joking about what will happen next on a New York subway or in a traffic jam when the next citizen goes rogue.

In Texas, thousands are dumping their dogs. In the shelter in San Antonio, the euthanasia list for healthy, adoptable dogs is being updated every fifteen minutes. People are standing in line this morning, waiting to surrender the family dog.

Shelters are full across the country with people surrendering their dogs. At Happy Day Humane Society in Sterling City, Texas, people drive up routinely with the family dog in the back seat, open the door, tie the leash to the gate, and back away without her. The manager finds two-to-three dogs routinely tied to the gate, left behind without a word. The tiny shelter in Sterling City is burdened with three mamas just giving birth, bringing the total dogs to twenty-seven. The shelter in Houston is closed to Pitbull intake, owing to a mesquite fire nearby and fleeing homeowners abandoning dogs. No one wants to take in the longer-term power breed, as they take up valuable kennel space. Hundreds of these dogs are being euthanized.

It all feels more than any one person can take. I try to talk to my friends in Texas about the wisdom and morality of keeping an AR-15 in their closet, because I feel the need to break into humanity and get an answer, somewhere.

I need it, my Texas friend says, in case there’s a revolution.

I think of my friend here in Colorado in a similar conversation a few years back. He recited the very same lines, as though he were reading it on the dark web, the same one my 27-year-old nephew was scrolling during his heroin-addicted days before he died. All the while, I get the visceral, sinking fear, that there are thousands – maybe millions – of white men in particular feeling the same disenfranchisement and disempowerment that my African American male friends often do – and clutching their guns tightly, with a white-knuckle death grip held fast to the handle.

We’ve always felt disempowered and disenfranchised, he said, but just now, you’re feeling what we’ve felt for centuries.

Thinking about the external world elevates anyone’s stress, exacerbates my fears and makes me want to Google,

How do I become a Canadian citizen?

Until, I think of the dogs. Those in harm’s way. After talking with three foster-based rescues and one shelter, volunteering at my local shelter to walk, groom, and visit with a long-term seven-year-old Rottweiler/Lab mix and grant writing for a Texas woman rescuing disabled dogs who were shot and hit by cars this past week, the desperation intensifies. No matter where I turn, the need to help where it matters arises like a volcano.

We all have to help, somewhere. Life is in a state of crisis.

Back in San Antonio, I check the website, to find dreaded confirmation. There, the family dog is standing in line next to his person, feeling confused and maybe a bit excited, for he is out on this Saturday morning. There are other people with their own dogs doing the same. They approach the front door, step inside, and sheepishly tell the front desk person,

Here, you take him. Find him a good home. He’s a good dog.

He hands over the leash, turns and leaves. His dog tries to follow. Why wouldn’t he? Softly, he wags his tail. And watches his person walk away. He gets taken to the back, where are dozens like him in just one room out of several. Some are barking from all the stress, melting down in anxiety and confusion. Others, are feeling desperate and aggressive, jumping on the kennel door, feeling trapped and confined. Still others, are lying on the floor in depression.

And all of these, with rare exception, did nothing to deserve their fate. Shelter dogs are not damaged. No dog has ill will or bad intention. Thousands of these dogs are being surrendered for human-derived, human-caused, failures in judgment, lifestyle, economics, or situations.

The reasons for these owner-surrenders matter not. Blame lies in that ephemeral realm, somewhere between helplessness and anger. And frankly, useless.

All of these dogs (not to mention, cats) wait. Some get days. Others, weeks. For that American dream of a forever home.

For some, it may come. Few are being transported (blame humanity again, Why not – on rising fuel costs and fewer transports bringing them cross-country to available homes) to the Pacific Northwest, Northeast, and Canada.

If they are fortunate.

For others, they only wait hours before they are they are forced or dragged to the euthanasia room. They know they’ll never walk out again. They know it like they know the smell of evil, because dogs are just that intuitive.

Right now, this is happening all over Texas and other parts of the South. In many of the Red States where some are too poor to pay attention and others, too heartless to care. Still others are too distracted with their own concerns to care about what’s happening to vulnerable, loving, deserving, innocent, beautiful dogs.

It makes me think of the man in Ukraine, shot by invading Russian soldiers trying to save the family dogs. I love the enlightened people who rescue dogs. I am certain he is up in heaven, if there is one, holding those beautiful dogs. I join him in such devotion.

Ever wonder why a rescue dog guardian gets so angry or distraught with the woman trotting around an ordered-and-paid-for-from-a-breeder Labradoodle down a sidewalk in Cherry Creek? Or gets frustrated with the Millennial walking with the pre-ordered, or bought-off-Craigslist French bulldog on the Pearl Street Mall?

It’s because in those moments, our hearts are spent and our minds, reeling, from knowing that the very deserving, beautifully awaiting, ever-grateful-if-you-will-only-give-me-a-chance, homeless dog in those beleaguered Southern shelters, is dying for an opportunity to live the life he was given.

Can’t find one, you say? Sure, you can – Just walk into your local humane society – the one in the caring Blue States where dogs are treated as family, or dare to volunteer and foster in the beleaguered Southern ones — and look into that pair of brown / blue / golden eyes. In there, you’ll see all the affirmation of life and will to live that you’ll ever need to see.

Then, hug that dog and hold him close to your heart, because love is what will get us all through these calamitous times.

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Denise Boehler  |  Contribution: 17,490