Plucking Dogs from Death Row

March 14, 2007

It seems that at BARC, it’s the volunteers’ responsibility to get dogs moved from the “hold” area to the “adopt” area. Apparently, if left up to BARC staff, this really wouldn’t happen and all dogs would be euthanized. To add insult to injury, getting from hold to adopt is a painful process that involves less than willing staff that don’t share the same priorities as the volunteers.

Of the four adoptable wards at the shelter, two are almost empty. This is not good. This means a lot of dogs aren’t being given a chance. The volunteer coordinator asked if I wanted to help get dogs moved over to adoption or if I wanted to walk dogs. Honestly, I wanted to stay in my sheltered little world of walking dogs. They’re happy, I’m happy, life is good. Something beyond my control made me tell her I’d move dogs.

I don’t like being involved in making the choice of which dogs are considered adoptable and which ones should die. But I followed the volunteer coordinator’s husband, Randy, into the North Ward. The entire walk, I had to convince myself I could do this. It’s about the dogs and not about my fear or trepidation and that I wasn’t going to cry.

On “death row,” there are three wards, each with about 20-30 dogs. I took a deep breath and walked into the first ward. I was taken aback by how dark it was. I don’t know if that was on purpose to keep the dogs calm or because some sick tortured soul designed it that way. It was damp. Each kennel was maybe 3′ x 4′ with an orange metal grate for the floor and a small shelf where smaller dogs could jump up and sit. Most of the kennels had chewed up plastic water bowls. I thought I saw a rat run by.

The first dog I saw was a big ole Rottweiler. This was painful because one of my own dogs is a Rottie and I have a soft spot for all Rotties. I went down one side of the ward and up the other. Kennels were full of pits and pit mixes (another type of dog I have an affinity for). Most were shy, some growled, some were covered with scars.

We pulled four dogs out of that ward. I waited in line at the vet tech’s office while Randy checked out the other wards. He identified two more candidates. So the process began. Dogs were weighed, heartworm tested, vaccinated, and wormed. I wish the process had been just that fast, but it wasn’t. I’ve had speedier service at the DMV.

As each dog was cleared, I transported it to the adoptable side of the shelter. Me and each one of the pardoned dogs took a nice trot out in the sun before I assigned them to their new kennel, a palace compared to where they’d been. Two of the dogs made a particular impression on me. One was a fat mama who was maybe a Bull Terrier mix. She’s a sweetheart with silky soft fur. The other was described as a Golden Retriever mix. I don’t know where that game from. She’s hard to describe–mid-sized, reddish, super sweet. I’ll be keeping an eye on these two.

I volunteer on Sundays. I never sleep well on Sunday nights. I do manage to go to sleep around 11:00 p.m., but always wake up at about 3:00 a.m. and stay awake for the  rest of the night. Weird thing is that so far, I’ve never considered *not* volunteering–even though I know it’s the reason for my sleepless nights.

I didn’t sign up for this when I volunteered at BARC. However, after a couple of visits, I realized my measly four or five hours per week of volunteer time is really needed. I feel like it’s making some kind of difference, even if that different is only saving 6 dogs out of 70. That’s better than zero dogs out of 70.

It may drive me crazy. It may drive my husband crazy. I’ll keep going there. I plan to spend my lunch hour there tomorrow.

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