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This isn't one of those substantive diaries. I'm just writing about I dog I knew who was put to death a few days ago.

Her name was Tawny.

I volunteer for what I thought was a no-kill dog rescue. I started volunteering over a year ago and I've been down there three or four days a week pretty consistantly. The rescue is a kennel that can house up to about fifty dogs. It's a beautiful facility: clean, roomy, comfortable, with big play yards outside and heated floors inside. For most of the dogs that we rescue life in the kennel is a big imporovement over their previous experiences.

The rescue is run by volunteers: a corp of mostly retired folks who clean, feed, walk, groom, publicize, fundraise, admit, and adopt out dogs. It's a lot of work, often heartbreaking and stressful. Together the volunteers save between three hundred and five hundred dogs a year. I am full of appreciation for their hard work.

But I do not understand the decision to kill Tawny.

Tawny was turned in as a stray in April. She was nearly feral, a skinny hyperactive and hysterically frightened little pitbull girl of about six month old. She'd go batshit nuts at the sight of another dog. Like most puppies she chewed, but her chewing was epic; stressed and fearful Tawny chewed everything: her food dish, her water fountain, her bed, the door flap, the wooden framing of her kennel. She was not at all aggressive to people, but she was unresponsive to us: she just did't relate to people much. She didn't know that we could be her friends.

I sort of adopted her. I taught her to respond to her name by giving her a treat everytime she looked at me. She generalized that and quickly became exhuberantly friendly to everyone. I taught her to "sit" and discovered that she was a demon for fetching. Once tired out from playing she was a cuddly wiggleworm who loved belly tickles. She became a facelicker.

I started her in dog obedience classes and she was the shining star: sit, down, stay, heel, she did it all. Tawny loved to learn and loved to obey.

We worked with her on her dog aggression, too. By August I could put Tawny on a lead and walk her past all the kennels of barking dogs and she wouldn't react at all. She had a kennnel mate, a big goldie chow mix, that she loved. She was still fearful of dogs she didn't know and aggressive toward dogs that aggressed her, but it was managable. After all, she was small and easy to control.

Our behaviorist did a temperament test on her and she passed: cat aggressive, but not aggressive toward people at all. In fact you could give her a treat and snatch it back without an angry response from her. She'd look hurt and confused, but not mad.

We have, at the kennel, three unadoptable feral dogs. Tawny's kennel mate is a potentially dangerous dog since he likes to intimidate people and is big enough to do damage. If he senses fear in a person, he will go for their face. We had a big old German Shepard mix who killed small animals who lived at the kennel until he died of old age. Every now and then someone will talk about euthaninzing one of those dogs but no one has ever acted. When I started hearing talk of euthanizing Tawny as unadoptable I didn't take it seriously. After all she was only one class short of getting her dog Good Citizen certificate. She was blossoming into a little cinnamon colored pixie.

But they did it. I went in on Monday to take Tawny through her dog lessons and she was gone. The trigger, I heard third hand, was a fight she got into with the dog in the kennnel next to hers. He's a mastiff mix that has been consistantly aggressive toward Tawny for weeks: barking, lunging, calling out dog insults and challenges through the kennel walls. Of course she went for him when she got the chance. But since when has a dog fight been a reason for euthanizing a dog? Lots of dogs are antagonistic to all other dogs or antagonistic to only certain other dogs. Everyone who has a dog knows the extent to which their dog will tolerate others. One of my neighbors has a cocker spaniel that goes ballistic every time it sees either a human or a dog! At the dog rescue it is well known that certain dogs don't get along with others. The fault for the fight lies with whoever let two clearly inconapable dogs get in contact with each other. Besides, the mastiff wasn't hurt and Tawny only got some scratches.

I didn't stay yesterday. I left as soon as I got the news. I am not going in today. I will go back though. I want to help care for the other dogs. A whole bunch of new dogs just came in: frightened, sickly survivors of an animal hoarder. I'm not going to quit  supporting the dogs and the rescue over one bad decision.

But I feel heartsick and sad. I wish I knew how to post a picture of her: her intense,needy, appealing little face. I guess I just want someone more than just me to mourn her passing. Poor little Tawny. I'm sorry that there was no place in the world for you.

Originally posted to wren on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 12:05 PM PDT.


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