That One Dog



My friend adopted a dog, Ziggy, from a local shelter about four years ago. 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 her dog, training him, 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 just adorable.


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…



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Ziggy 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 Ziggy 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.



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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?


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.



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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.


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. While I will never shame a rescue or shelter for making very difficult decisions, 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.


And sometimes what we need is That One Dog.



From the Vicktory dogs, who garnered attention about the cruelty of dog fighting, to that hopeless rescue dog in your local shelter, who rallied the volunteers and community to pitch together to rehabilitate and find their forever home, That One Dog can sometimes have an impact so profoundly larger than the rescue of a single dog. Here's to That One Dog, and to the volunteers who never gave up hope.




Kerry Stack

Darwin Dogs

Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

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