I had to travel to the Animal Care & Control shelter on Hillegas Road last week to get a picture. It was for a story on the rash of strays that had been picked up, and how owners need to remember to check the animal shelter when their dog disappears.
I didnt enjoy it. There are some places I just dont like – including hospitals and the animal shelter.
As far as shelters go, the place isnt bad. Here and there, the floors are soiled with droppings or yellow puddles of liquid, but thats inevitable in a shelter full of dogs, and it appeared to get cleaned up pretty quickly.
The smell was obvious, which is also unavoidable in a large room full of dogs, but it wasnt overpowering.
Some of the dogs were excited to see anybody walk by, wagging their tails like mad and standing and putting their paws against the hurricane fencing that makes up the cages.
Were they happy to see me, though? Or were they just desperate?
Despite the efforts to keep the place clean and fresh and all the wagging tails, the place is still what I call the saddest room in town.
And the saddest part involves the dogs turned in by their owners.
There was the fat pug. It was brown and round and a little more than a foot long, and it sat motionless, like stone, staring. It didnt blink or bark or wag its tail, which was somewhere in the back of its fat body.
A shelter employee looked at the papers on the front of the cage. The dog was 8 years old and was surrendered by its owner. Someone didnt want it anymore, so there it sat abandoned in a cage with a concrete floor. The employee let out one of those sorrowful groans, Oh.
Id wonder about what the dog was thinking, but I doubt it was thinking anything. It was just traumatized, its brain frozen, unable to comprehend what had happened or why.
Dogs are like that. They marry their owners no matter how ugly or smelly they are and are happy. They dont handle divorce well.
There was one big dog, a good 80 pounds, Id say, with long, light brown hair. He was a year old. Hed been surrendered, too. Unlike the other dogs, he didnt jump up and wag his tail and put his paws on the fencing and look for affection. It sat, motionless, leaning against the side of the cage, not blinking, not barking. Instead it was dazed, emotionally destroyed, I suppose. That happens to dogs.
The employee said something about the dog having bad leash skills. I guess that means it prefers to take its owner for a walk. Give me a leash, I thought. Ill teach it. But I knew that would never happen. Theres no way I could take that dog. So I walked away.
God, I thought, I could never work here. I couldnt spend all day walking past all these dogs, forsaking them every day. You want to look at the dogs and say, Sorry, but you know they wouldnt understand and even if they did it wouldnt do any good.