The devastating aspect of working in the shelter is the death. My favorite quote, I think, concerning animals dying is from a show called Animal Practice. It debuted on NBC this past fall and didn’t do very well in the ratings. To be honest, it wasn’t that great of a show. But there was one line that has stuck with me and that resonates in a shelter environment: “Not all dogs go to heaven. Some just go in the ground.”
The story that spurred on my recollection of this quote, however, was not the cause of humane neglect. I have many stories like that this week, but instead this week I choice to think about Patience. Patience was an adorable black cat with the biggest cheeks and greenest eyes one could image. She was without a doubt a lover. I impounded her and did her lost report. When every an animal comes to us we have to take their picture, scan them for a microchip, and do a thorough description of them. This method allows owners to try and reclaim their animals. For cats, it is rare that someone comes looking for them. So they wait until their stray period is up. After the holding period, if they are friendly enough they go up for adoption to wait for the next person who will take them home and be stupid enough to let them outside.
Patience was more or less just another one of these cats. She was gregarious, outgoing, and full of sweet kindness. She hung around for the five-day wait period. Our vet examined her. She was spayed. She went up for adoption. And on the first day she was sitting in her kennel to be adopted out, I went to grab her to take another more faltering picture of her for our website. When I went to grab her, Patience was unresponsive. She didn’t move as I opened the kennel door. She didn’t turn her head as I snapped my fingers behind her head. I took her to the room concerned, rapidly getting distraught. Carrying her I felt her limp body sink into mine. I put her on the bench in the room, banged on the door, ran my fingers through her fur, shouted at her. Nothing. I called to my coworker to take a look. She was convinced it was “just her personality.” Idiot. I called to another one of my coworkers. After seeing her, he rushed back to vet services to see what they thought. Upon entering the room a second time, this time I smelt it. Death was coming. If anything is dying one will only have to smell it to know it is true. The vet scooped her up in his arms and carried her back the exam room, surely knowing what I did. For two days vet staff tried to treat her. They gave her fluids, forced feed her, and put her under a heat lamp. Not a thing worked. Determining that it must have been a stroke, on the second night they put her down.
Patience crushed my heart because for her, death was the end. People tend to ignore this part of death. Especially when we consider our own. For over three fourths of the world there is an after life. Whether that’s heaven, reincarnation, or hell there is something. There are definitely mixed opinions on where the animals go when they die. Lots of people believe that animals don’t have souls; which I think makes their deaths all that much more shattering. But some people believe life goes on. And maybe it does. But for Patience she is no longer sitting in the shelter. She is no longer waiting, hoping for someone to take her home. I don’t know if she went to heaven. But I do know she went in the ground.