I Couldn’t Save Them All

Lowery, one of the dogs saved by Angels Among Us.

Here I am with Lowery, one of the dogs saved by Angels Among Us.

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.

Lowery (photo by Mark Stanley)

Lowery (photo by Mark Stanley)

Curious George

Curious George

Latca (Photo by Mark Stanley)

Latca (Photo by Mark Stanley)

Squiggles (Photo by Mark Stanley)

Squiggles (Photo by Mark Stanley)

Capella (Photo by Mark Stanley)

Capella (Photo by Mark Stanley)

Hawk (Photo by Mark Stanley)

Hawk (Photo by Mark Stanley)

tweet it post it Share It Plus It Print It

Positively Expert: Alex Andes

Alex Andes is the owner and head trainer of Peach on a Leash Dog Training & Behavior Services in Atlanta, GA.


5 thoughts on “I Couldn’t Save Them All

  1. emmalee72

    I'm just going to share the Starfish Principle with you... if you haven't heard it before. It's from Loren Eiseley.

    "Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

    One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

    As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

    He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

    The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

    “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

    To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

    Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

    At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean.

    As it met the water, he said,

    “It made a difference for that one.” “

    Every time anyone says "you can't save them all", I think of the latest adoption and smile. I saved that one, didn't I?

    I think it is very easy to lose sight of what you have achieved when there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish that need throwing back in the sea, but something crazy happens when you start doing it. The Star Thrower story isn’t finished if you ask me. If you ask me, the story is just the beginning. Because I bet the wise man understood that he could make a difference, even just a little one, and he probably spent the day helping the young man throw as many starfish to the sea.

    I wish everyone would hold that in their heart and know that if we all made a difference – just a little one – every day, then soon, we’d be an army. And an army can make a very big difference indeed. Keep doing what you're doing and be so very proud

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Episode 833 - Dogs and Wolves

Dogs share a common ancestor – the wolf – but how did wolves turn into dogs and what can we learn from wolves that might help...

Episode 832 - Dogs and Aggressive Behavior

Aggression is a serious behavior issue that is all too common in our domestic dogs. Aggression expert Michael Shikashio joins...

Episode 831 - How to Treat Separation Anxiety

Why do dogs become anxious when home alone and how can this be prevented? Dog trainer Lisa Waggoner joins Victoria and Holly for...

find a vspdt trainer
Schedule a consultation via skype or phone