I hadn’t planned on writing about the two dogs abandoned at the Waterville Humane Society last week with their mouths full of porcupine quills until I picked up Wednesday’s paper. Then I changed my mind.
In a published letter to the editor, the writer criticized this newspaper for not seeing “the positive side of the people” who left the dogs outside of the closed shelter, where they stayed for hours through the snowy night with their mouths full of quills.
She went on to say that she wished “more people would do what they did” and they were simply “people seeking a good home for dogs they can no longer afford.”
Sigh. The subject of my column this week was set for sure.
A quick recap. Workers arrived at the shelter at 7 a.m. one day last week to find a four-year-old Great Dane and a four-month-old terrier in an outdoor run outside the shelter. Through the night the dogs had tried to get the quills out of their faces and the area was blanketed in their blood.
Their wounds were infected and they had high fevers.
A note was tucked into the door of the run and it read, “The black one is Magnum, the white one is Bud. The family is heartbroken, but we could not afford them.”
It is not unheard of for people to dump their animals at the door of closed shelters. It happens because unfortunately there are cowards among us and some of them have pets.
The writer of Wednesday’s letter and the online comments from some other readers defend the dogs’ owners, saying their decision was better than abandoning them alone in the woods somewhere or shooting them.
I suppose that’s true, but that’s a pretty low level of expectation of care.
Please don’t misinterpret this as having no sympathy for pet owners facing financial hardship. I understand the anguish involved and the lengths that people will go to in order to keep their pets, despite those hardships.
I understand that people sometimes feel forced to relinquish their pets to a shelter because of their inability to care for them.
It’s a heart-wrenching experience to witness.
But here is how it is done by people who love their animals, who have cared for their animals, who really are heartbroken and who have a little something that the owners of those two dogs clearly lacked, respect and courage.
Courageous people forced to relinquish their pets do so when the shelter is open, take time to tell staffers about the animal’s history — are they friendly, do they like other animals, what is their personality like, are they healthy, are they on medications, do they like children — because all of those things better enable the staff to ensure the animal is adopted into the right kind of home.
In the Waterville case, the dogs were in need of medical care, after normal business hours, that the family said they could not afford. A tough position for sure, but there are better options than the one chosen.
The town’s animal control officer could have been called and asked for assistance. There are two emergency vet clinics where medical help could have been sought. There is a veterinarian credit card that enables some pet owners to pay small monthly installments when faced with an unexpected veterinary bill.
If the pet owner was responsible, they would have an established relationship with a veterinarian, and many times a reasonable payment plan can be worked out.
And certainly at the very minimum, the owners of those dogs could have called the emergency clinic and asked for advice on how best to keep the dogs comfortable. They could have had the decency to have kept the dogs warm at home through that cold, snowy night and taken them to the shelter in the morning when staff was there.
That, however, would have taken courage.
That would have meant watching the dogs suffer with those quills through the night.
Easier to leave them abandoned in a strange place to suffer outside, I suspect.
No, I don’t suppose I see the “positive side” of those people.
What they did to those dogs isn’t about poverty. It’s about cowardice.
Renee Ordway can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.