I just returned from doing one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, and while it was the first time I had to do it, sadly I know it will not be the last.
As many of you know, I have been volunteering at an animal rescue for the past 9 months. One of my volunteer roles with the rescue is that I foster dogs. Being a foster mama to the fur babies while they wait for their forever homes is a very rewarding experience. I have the opportunity to give them a safe, loving home while they wait to be adopted and I can provide valuable information about the dogs, which can help them get adopted faster.
Over the weekend I brought home this little darling fur baby named Peg…
She’s a one and a half year old mix breed that came to our rescue from a humane society. I don’t know much about her life up until she entered our adoption center, but I do know that it was probably a sad one filled with nothing but confusion and fear.
I have watched this sweet angel shake uncontrollably for the better part of 5 days. I have listened to her howl and cry when left alone, and watched her cower in fear when I tried to provide comfort and companionship. I have watched her bolt back to her crate and curl herself into the back corner of it at the mere sight of me walking into the room. I have watched her searching in a blind panic for a place to hide at every unexpected sound or movement. I have seen the terror in her eyes and felt the fear coursing through her tiny body every time I needed to pick her up and move her out of her crate to clean it. I have laid on the floor next to her crate at night, waiting for her to fall asleep, because she seemed to be especially scared in the dark and a living being seemed to provide some sort of comfort.
I can only imagine how difficult this poor little baby’s life has been up until now, and I can’t fathom forcing her to continue living in a world she does not understand and so clearly does not enjoy. So, along with the staff at the rescue, we made the incredibly difficult decision to euthanize her and end her suffering. There really aren’t words for how hard it is to make the decision to end the life of a rescue animal, knowing that their lives have been so rough. There’s always that hope that maybe there’s a happy ending out there for each and every one of them, just around the next corner. Sadly that’s not the world that we live in and that isn't always the case. So I did the only thing that I was able to do for Peg in the 5 short days that I was her foster mama. I kept her warm. I kept her dry. I gave her a soft place to sleep. I gave her fresh water, and yummy food. And I tried to cram a lifetime of love and compassion into 5 days. Then I held her in my arms and did the only humane thing that could be done for her, crying for her while I said goodbye. Then I made her two promises:
The first was to always remember her.
The second was to keep doing everything I can to help end the suffering of other homeless animals out there like her. Which finally brings me to the title of my post: What does it truly mean to rescue an animal?
We live in a world where most of us go about our daily lives with blinders on, stressing about our first world problems. We don’t want to think about the unwanted animals, the abused children, the mentally ill living on our streets. It’s too overwhelming looking at all the problems in this world and it’s too hard to face that there are no good solutions. So, it’s easier to bury our heads in the sand and fool ourselves into believing that everything will work itself out in the end. Sadly, that just is not the case, especially in the world of animal rescue.
We all want “rescue” to equate to saving a life. We look at euthanizing an animal as cruel, and we condemn the ones making the decisions to do so. But I ask you this: is it really rescuing them, when we are forcing them to continue living in a world where they are so clearly miserable? The sad reality is that sometimes rescuing an animal does not mean prolonging their life. Sometimes rescuing an animal means doing the exact opposite.
We domesticated these animals, and forced them to adapt to our world. Over the years we took away their ability to survive on their own and made them dependent on us for their every need. At the end of the day it’s about them, not us. To truly rescue an animal is to do what is right for them, not what will make us feel better. And sometimes the only right thing to do is to give them a peaceful end to their suffering.