Saturday, September 13, 2008

The shadow side of animal rescue

This morning I will be presenting at a Pet Haven new volunteer orientation. Many will have no idea about what truly getting involved with animal rescue means. Some will want to stay on the perimeter of animal rescue work, and focus on only what feels good - that's okay. Others, will soon find, that it's not okay and will step across the line to immerse themselves in the hard work of animal rescue. For me, it happened not longer after i found Pet Haven back in September of '06.

In the work we do, we dream of a day when it will no longer be necessary to euthanize an animal - of a day when there will be no more homeless animals, and we can save every single one of them. Yesterday, a very difficult decision was made to euthanize one of our foster dogs - a beautiful 4 year old am staff, Sophie, who unfortunately attacked another dog, unprovoked, and in the process an individual trying to break up the fight was bitten. Sophie does not have a mean bone towards people. For a multitude of reasons, which includes but was not limited to: what is in Sophie's best interest, our ability to safely place her in a home where she would not be a risk to other dogs, and potentially humans if a fight broke out ... the heartwrenching decision was made to let Sophie go.

Last night, i spent her last hour with her at the University of Minnesota, and when i came home sent the following email (i've pulled excerpts) to the dog division leadership team of Pet Haven:

"It is with a heavy heart that I send this email out. I know that what has transpired in the past few days with regards to Sophie has impacted many of us. This is the extremely hard part of the rescue work that we do, and in many ways I am glad that these decisions are extremely hard and that it rips our heart into a million pieces, because it means that our hearts have not been hardened.

I understand that this was discussed at your most recent leadership meeting this past week and the consensus was that Sophie needed to euthanized. I supported that decision....A decision to euthanize is never taken lightly at Pet Haven and it is never done without lots of discussion and turmoil. All things considered, and despite how difficult the decision was, I believe we all know that this was the right decision."

Sophie is an incredibly beautiful dog with a beautiful soul. What I will tell you is that the hour i had spending with her warmed my heart. She got lots of treats (would sit for them and gently take them out of my hand... and after a while also started giving me high fives). We snuggled up in the room they let us hang out in at the U and i gave her lots of kisses from all of us. I whispered to her that she would soon be happier than she could even imagine, and that i know lots of her furry friends would be greeting her as she crossed rainbow bridge.... i know i've asked Shen and Shadow to show Sophie the ropes when she got up there :) I know this has been hard on many of us..... i ask for you to take a moment tonight, or whenever you get this email, to pause momentarily .... and to send loving energy to Sophie. She is free now. As she took her last breath, and my tears flowed like a broken faucet, i realized at that moment that my sadness had nothing to do with her, it had to do with my wish that we could've done more, yet accept and honor the reality, that we truly did all we possibly could for this sweet girl. I ask you to hold Sophie in your heart tonight."

I went to sleep last night with Sophie in my heart, and I woke up at 4:30 this morning filled with Sophie's spirit. I will forever remember her last moment ... that final sigh, that final breath ... and I imagine my sweet Shen, with Shadow right behind her, grabbing onto her paw and saying "Come on Sophie... let's go! We've got so much to show you .. it's really cool up here!"

and to my best friend, I shared the following in an email to her late last night:

"Tonight as I made the decision to be there with Sophie I realized it would not be easy, but i needed to do it, for Sophie and also for me. I realized that I needed and wanted to open up my heart, to allow myself to be touched by Sophie's spirit .... and i wanted her to know that she is not alone. As I held her and I stroked her ears, i realized just how short and how precious life is. I want to live my life as if every day is my last.... I will continue to have my heart broken with the work I do in animal rescue - I know that. And I am okay with that because I feel myself come alive in more ways than I could even imagine when i allow myself to be vulnerable and to be touched in such a deep way."

Please hold Sophie in your heart, if only for a moment.

No comments:

Post a Comment