I Couldn’t Save Them All
I walked down row after row of desperate dogs in dire need of a miracle, not quite able to stomach the thought that we would only be able to help some of them. It's a burden I wouldn't wish on anyone.
#Savethe200 is a campaign to save the unwanted dogs of Dublin, GA, a city about two hours south of Atlanta. Their county animal shelter was recently shut down by the Department of Agriculture, and they have until March 23rd to remove 200 dogs from the shelter, or they will have to euthanize the remaining dogs.
Angels Among Us Pet Rescue in Atlanta wanted to help. They're a fantastic rescue that I volunteer with in my spare time. Along with several other volunteers, I was tasked with helping to evaluate and choose which dogs we would take. There were about 60 of the 200 dogs left when we got to Dublin -- the rest were adopted or rescued by other rescues. Many of the dogs left were some of the tougher cases.
Once we arrived in Dublin, I was shocked by what I saw. Some of the dogs had been living in the kennels for months or years, and the level of anxiety, frustration, and desperation was unlike anything I've seen before. I recently read about a new study showing that excessive time in a kennel can cause dogs extreme stress to the point of temporary mental illness, and that's what I saw there. Anytime one dog was taken out of it's kennel, every other dog would go berserk with frustration and overarousal.
So one by one, we started evaluating the dogs. After hours of evaluations that left us covered in fleas, mud, and poop, we ended up choosing six dogs that we felt we could realistically place into foster homes, and eventually adoptive homes. All six are wonderful dogs, and just needed a chance. But despite how wonderful it felt to save those six lives, I walked out those doors leaving over 50 dogs behind. Their faces are still haunting me.
I couldn't save them all. Angels Among Us couldn't save them all -- few rescue groups could handle the financial and emotional strain of an intake of all fifty dogs, even if they were all perfectly adoptable. Since leaving, I have actually seen others make comments asking "why couldn't you save them all?" and "why didn't you take more?" I find myself feeling obligated to explain about foster homes, and finances, and space restraints -- but I know that most of my explanations would fall on deaf ears. It can be incredibly disheartening, but I have to remind myself that those people didn't walk in our shoes, and didn't have to make those difficult choices. It's much easier to talk about "saving them all" than it is to actually do it.
The wonderful thing about the #Savethe200 project is that it has brought together rescue groups from all over the country, all working together for the betterment of the animals. These dogs have been through enormous emotional trauma, but they are not beyond help. There are only a few days left before the Department of Agriculture returns to the shelter, but it's my hope that the community will continue to work together to give this shelter the dire help it needs.
If you'd like to help, visit their Facebook page here. It takes a village to educate people about responsible pet ownership, and to save those that have already fallen victim to the consequences when shelters become overburdened. Dublin isn't the only shelter that needs this level of cooperation among rescue groups and the general public. That cooperation alone has the power to minimize the number of healthy, adoptable dogs that are euthanized, no matter the circumstances.
So, no... I can't save them all. You can't save them all. But we can.
Want to see the six sweet pups saved by Angels Among Us? They are all available for adoption in the Atlanta, GA area.
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