After noticing that our last few blog posts have been obituaries, I thought now would be the perfect time to touch on a very sensitive subject in the rescue world, euthanasia. This word has so many roads, twisting and turning all leading to the same destination. You can put descriptive words around it to try and change the meaning like ‘humane’ but it will always end with the same result. It is one of the most contradictory practices in animal rescue. I personally have always thought euthanasia in any form was unacceptable. To end another animals’ life is so horrific, why would anyone want to sentence another living being to death? I mean, isn’t that just a fancy word for murdering another living being?
After being in rescue for the time I have, my opinion has changed drastically. A lot of times, we like to focus on ourselves without ever realizing it. Of course, I don’t want to put my dog down, they are happier on earth with me. My dog would be miserable without me; they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves all alone. And on the other side of the coin, my dog is at peace but I’m not. Sure, my dog is not in pain anymore but I’m in such a state that I can’t even fathom life without them. So why would euthanasia be the best option? Behavioral? Medical? Lack of resource? Mental?
When a dog is put down due to behavioral problems, that can be a very tough call. So many people, myself included, think, “well there is still hope, they just need more time to adjust, I can live with all of the extra precautions”. What it all boils down to, in every category is quality of life. Joey and Nash are perfect examples of this. They were living their life, day to day, in a safe, loving home. People cared for them. They had food, water, toys, beds, blankets, treats, I could go on forever. They had play time in the yard and most importantly, a safe place to call their own. Despite all of their basic needs being more than cared for, these two boys never felt safe. They both always slept with one eye open, waiting for the next bad guy to get them. They were constantly on edge and a walking panic attack waiting to happen. Do you know those times where you look at your dog sleeping, dreaming, so soundly? Well Nash and Joey were ever able to experience that until the day the first sedative went in their blood stream. Strong sedatives could be administered daily for them to continue living, but the best equivalent I can think of is people who spend month in a medical induced coma. Sure, they aren’t in pain or suffering, but they are not here mentally with us. When they get to this point, Hard Knocks Rescue and Training steps up to pull the plug. We set aside our own feelings and emotions and do what’s right by the dog, not what’s easy for us.
Medical problems are a difficult decision as well. This type of euthanasia is the most understandable to many. But what happens when YOU aren’t ready for them to go and there is a $6000 treatment that will be extremely hard on the dog? Sure, it may buy them a few more months, but what will their quality of life be during this time? Will they be mentally, physically, and emotionally ok? I hear a lot of people say, “I’d do anything for my dog, no matter what it takes to make them better, money is no object when it comes to them.” That is a very noble mindset to be in as long as you are considering your PETS’ quality of life and not your own. Once again, I am guilty of this. I spent thousands of dollars on my Lilly putting her through surgery after surgery, and willing to spend far more money on making her well again. She pulled through and is a happy healthy 7-year-old. For years I swore I would do whatever it takes to extend her life. After seeing what toll it takes on dogs to go through chemo, hard surgeries, even prolonged hospital stays, I would think about what quality of life she would have over the amount of time she would have. Quality over quantity. I feel like after all the unconditional love and loyalty dogs give us, quality of life over quantity of years is far more important. We take on the burden to make that tough decision so that they can be at peace. We sacrifice our time with them, so they won’t suffer.
Another common reason euthanasia is needed is lack of resources. This particular situation breaks my heart tremendously. Whether it be lack of education, training, or something as simple as supplies to adequately care for the dog, euthanizing a dog due to lack of resources is far too common. Hard Knocks Rescue and Training strongly advocates for proper education to be available to the community. For situations like when a family dog of 5 years meets a toddler for the first time and the dog bites the kid on the face, that’s not the dog’s fault.
PROPER INTRODUCTIONS ARE SO IMPORTANT!
Is your little dog attacking little squirrels in the yard, tearing up their kennel, wreaking havoc on your home when you are away? Or maybe they growl and bite when you startle them? Did you get a puppy and it is just way too much and you just don’t have the time it's going to need?
TRAIN YOUR DOG, LISTEN TO YOUR DOG, RESPECT YOUR DOG’S CUES.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of organizations out there that have their heart in the right place but do not have the funds to function adequately. These rural shelters, overcrowded animal rescues, and boarding groups are giving it their all 24/7. When the funding runs out, they are responsible for keeping each and every animal in their care healthy and manageable. Once every stone is unturned, every plea for help has been heard, with no help in site, these places have the tough decision. Some of you know the feeling of being so overwhelmed with people/animals in need and no help to give them. You just stare into their eyes knowing your desire to help is there, but you can’t. You wouldn’t want to just stand there and watch them suffer. Once again, it’s all about quality of life.
Well that was a depressing blog post and I absolutely hated writing it, but it needed to be done. I hope this helps explain some of what Hard Knocks Rescue and Training believe in. Our goal is to be able to rehabilitate every last dog that comes into our care. Our reality is that not every dog can be helped. Just know, if they cannot be helped and come into our care, each of our directors will be right by their side, holding their paw, fighting back tears (unsuccessfully). Each dog we have had to send over the rainbow bridge will always be remembered. Their life was not lived in vain. Each has a lesson we take with us, and each goes with an incredible amount of love and respect.
Not a day goes by that we don't think of you...
Lisa Maasen, Jennifer Marbrey, and Nikki Hinsdale are Partners in Hard Knocks Rescue & Training, Inc. They have years of experience within the rescue and training community, and a drive to see its teamwork bring positive changes to the dogs in most need.