That One Dog – Why Shelters Euthanize, and is it Right?

The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.
- Leon Trotsky



My friend adopted a dog from a local shelter about four years ago.  She named him Bowie.  She adopted him knowing full well that he was scheduled to be euthanized for aggressiveness.  She didn’t care…she bonded with him, and she was going to save him.

Are you readying yourself for a sad story here with an awful ending?

Well, you’ll be disappointed.  My friend worked with Bowie and just two months after she adopted him, he was a different dog.  He will never be a social butterfly, but he is a happy, loving part of her pack now, and is not the sniveling, cowering, reactive mess he was when she adopted him.  She was able to take the time and patience to rehabilitate him.  I sincerely get a kick out of this dog, too.  Clever, smart, funny, and very well dressed.  He’s always in formal attire…what’s not to love about him?

"I don't always pose for the camera, but when I do I look fabulous."

“I don’t always pose for the camera, but when I do I look fabulous.”

Here’s where I’m going to throw you for a loop:  I don’t necessarily disagree with the shelter’s decision that he needed to be put down.  They may have been right.

I know what you’re thinking right now…

Okay...put the knife down and give me a moment to explain

Okay…put the knife down and give me a moment to explain

Bowie was at a shelter with a limited amount of space.  Shelters and rescues are trying to save as many dogs as they possibly can, and they only have a certain amount of dollars, space and resources with which to do it.  Think about it:  there’s only so much room on the ark. Sometimes you pick up a dog who is too resource heavy, such as Bowie was.  The amount of money that it could have taken to rehabilitate him, plus the cage space he was taking up, could have saved 15 dogs instead of just him.  There are too many dogs, and not enough home.  Rescues and shelters are doing triage, and trying to save as many as they can.  And they’re doing a great job of it.

I tend towards thinking analytically, and frequently believe that, as Machiavelli put it, ”The ends justify the means.”  It’s a tough call to put down a (physically) healthy dog solely for the reason of saving 10 other dogs, but I will never judge someone who has made that call.  As a matter of fact, I will defend that decision.

I could never understand why people couldn’t see the logic behind the simple truth:  save this one dog, or save many dogs.  It doesn’t seem to be a very difficult number to crunch out.  1<10, right?

Do you even math?

Do you even math?

But then I learned something about that one dog.

That one dog is bringing community together.  That one dog is bonding shelter workers and volunteers in hopes of saving that one dog.  That one dog is bringing awareness to animal abuse/neglect in a way that those other ten dogs possibly couldn’t.  That one dog makes no sense financially, but emotionally, that one dog is untouchable in riches and rewards.  We worked together. We educated, and we were able to save That One Dog.

That One Dog may be what keeps a volunteer able to volunteer.  That One Dog may bring in a donation from a person whose heart was touched.  That One Dog may prevent hundreds of other dogs from suffering due to education.  That One Dog may be what prompts a dog owner to spay/neuter their dog.

That One Dog is actually priceless.  They may be taking up resources, but the average dog who comes into a shelter can not possibly create the bond and achievement That One Dog can.

Not every dog can be saved. We know that. Time and resources are a finite thing.  There simply isn’t enough of either to go around.  But I will no longer casually dismiss saving a resource-high dog as “vain” or “money better spent elsewhere”, as I may have done before.  We humans created this mess of abused, neglected and homeless dogs. It’s up to us to fix it.  But to do that, we need to work together, and to work together, we need something to bond over. Something that brings us together.

What we need is That One Dog.

That One Dog – Posie

Posie came in to Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter as a stray emaciated with advanced demodex.  She had a great deal of time and love invested into her, and she went being That One Dog to having a new family and is a happy, healthy dog.
Consider helping That One Dog currently under the care of Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter by donating to their cause. Best Friends Medical Relief Fund was created to help with the cost and care of That One Dog.  Please consider a donation, because That One Dog could make all the difference.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


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