Tag Archives: dogs

So Quiet

10 Aug



Originally published in 2010 on Daily Kos, by yours truly.

We spent ten thousand years domesticating these animals, and we throw them away like toilet paper.” – Bill Anderson


When I was but a young twenty-something, I lived in Santa Cruz for a few years. And I volunteered in their SPCA-run animal shelter for some months of my stay there. This is a story about that.

I haven’t been back to Santa Cruz since I left in 1988. Living there left a legacy in my mind and emotions, though. I’ve blogged here before about my experiences with street people there.

This one is about homeless people of other species than the human.


The Santa Cruz animal shelter wasn’t a huge shelter. It comprised a number of dog runs, some cat cages.

It wasn’t real fancy, but it was functional. My jobs as a volunteer included hosing the poop into the drains, feeding, and working to help adopt out dogs.

The dogs had to be tough to survive, because of the space constrictions and high turnover. If they had diarrhea, they were tagged to go. Just that was enough.

I remember one dog that I personally got adopted out. Big tall dog, like a cross between an Afghan and a wolfhound.

A guy came in one day, wanted an Afghan. I was there and was asked to help, and I thought; “Have I got the dog for you!”

So I went and got the gangly, awkward, big blond dog, and spent some time with her new owner in the socializing area. Told him what a great dog she was, etc. She really was a sweetie.

It was such a rush to hear, a few days later, that he’d come back and adopted her.

Then there was this other dog, a husky-like dog, who was there for much longer than usual before euthanasia. Great dog. Nice dog. Really well socialized, and strong.

The whole place just about broke out into a party when that dog got adopted.


The staffers were very positive about my being there, very appreciative. But so stressed out. More and more all the time. Because of having to do so much killing. I watched it happen to more than one of them.

Animal shelters that have too much intake and not enough adoption rates have poor choices, other than humane euthanasia. It sounds so soft when one puts it that way.

In other words, people who work these gigs have to kill dogs and cats every week, sometimes dozens of them per human pet-killer.

It’s hard on them. The employee turnover is high. People get angry.

The staff told me stories, like about the woman who brought her cat back because she’d changed her interior decorating and the cat didn’t match any more.

And these human people (I don’t consider all humans to be people) do this in full knowledge that this is the best possible outcome for the dog and cat people who have come into their care.

To do the best to get them adopted, but when space runs out, to gently put them down…er, kill them, as kindly as possible.


I wanted that animal shelter to hire me. Ultimately, they didn’t; and it pissed me off a lot at the time.

In retrospect, I think they were right, though. I believe they may well have seen me better than I saw myself..that I would not have been able to handle it.

But I wanted to, so much. I wanted to be able to be part of this noble thing these people I admired so much, were dealing with. This business of gently sending off the unwanted, because there was no better choice. Because so many humans are so cruel about abandoning their pets, including the ones they breed.

One week I found out that the staff was required to attend a euthanasia seminar in, I think Santa Rosa? A bit up north, anyway. I asked if I could come too; I wanted to show solidarity.

I hated it that they had to deal with this terrible thing in the back room, while I got to wash dog poop down drains (no biggie) and talk people into adopting dogs that were close enough to what they thought they were looking for.

They said okay; they let me go. In retrospect I imagine they may well have paid for me to go, but that didn’t occur to me at the time.

This was all a very long time ago, so my memory only holds certain facets of the experience. I remember that it was a decent looking animal shelter, outside. Nicely kept up.

Inside, I remember being somewhat overwhelmed by the size, all the cages. They gave us a tour.

And then they collected all the dogs that were to be killed today, in a big room with a high ceiling, like a gymnasium.

This was the daily lot. These were just the dogs that had to be killed today. They’d saved them for the seminar.

The next surprise was how many of them looked like purebred dogs.

Well, in all fairness, they probably cherrypicked them for the nice dogs. I expect they did the really poorly socialized ones elsewhere. It wasn’t like the people from the Santa Cruz animal shelter didn’t already know how to euthanize dogs, including difficult dogs.

Because what we were looking at here was maybe thirty really nice dogs, all upbeat, looking pleased that something different was happening; “Hey, got out of the cage, these people seem nice, how about that? What’s next?”

Then the seminar vet trainers came out with the needles. The staff from the Santa Cruz shelter were all taught how to insert the IV, to give their assigned patient the pentobarbital.

One dog at a time.

As the dogs were killed, they were gradually, gently, piled in a heap near where the killing was going on.

At the end, what I remember strongly was the smell of urine and feces.

But even more, I remember how quiet it was. So, so quiet, in that high-ceilinged, echoing room.


Then it was my turn. They took me seriously, those people at the Santa Cruz animal shelter.

I got to kill a puppy.

They directed me back to the puppy room, and taught me about peritoneal injections. They do cats that way, too.

I killed the puppy. I tried to be careful.

It wasn’t really all that hard.

When I occasionally question myself, try to remember what or whom I’ve killed, or what or whom I’ve seen dead in my life, I tend to forget that puppy (though it was important, that killing of that puppy).

I never forget the quiet pile of dogs, though. They haunt me.

So quiet.


You’re On Your Own Now

16 Jan

Haiku For Hate

Because you are you
Your transparency fails you
You are always wrong.

We’ve always known you
You hurt us and you meant it
We have your number.

We gave up on you
Saw through your wiles, cast you out
A long time ago.

Don’t dare to smile now
Your fakery gets you naught
We know what you are.

Stop wasting your time
We don’t like you anymore
Get lost. Go fishing.

We know what you want.
To hurt and use and then laugh
We’re not buying it.

We’re done with your games
Go find your own evil ones
Leave us to heal some.

What, that’s not allowed?
The healing beds aren’t given
We’re on our own now.

Well, what?

Thanks, Lily!

25 Dec

Nothing Says Merry Christmas Like Torturing Your Cat, Poisoning Your Dog, And Accusing You Of Being Full Of Devils.

Thanks, Lily!

Fortunately, you haven’t killed any of us yet, and I got Jess out and she was promptly adopted into Cat Lottery Win. Meanwhile, everyone else nonhuman is consigned into quarters unless supervised. Because you are so fucking batshit crazy that I don’t want you within 500 feet of any of us without a wall in the way. Or me.

Thank Dog you don’t know about drones.

A happier story

21 Dec

Also, a happy story

Our local shelter manager is a friend, and a good one indeed. I’ve been having problems with my knees and ankles and feet, and since I don’t drive, this limits me. I bicycle out to do errands and shopping and come back home, mostly.

So when it comes time to get my pets shots, I tend to put it off, and that’s not always a good idea. Also I am bad with needles.

I suck at asking for help, too. But a good friend will help with that, too.

So I emailed Angela, our shelter manager, and asked her if she could come by and give my dogs DHPP shots. “Sure!” she replied. 

It’s always nice to see Angela and her daughter, who is totally into the whole shelter routine, and a terrific girl in so many ways.

Angela suggested she give Mad Charlotte a booster too. Charlotte is my tortoise shell cat whom I kept from a litter of foster kittens because she was so easily freaked, and I identify with that. It was clear she stood poor chances at adoption. I consider her my familiar.

So we arranged an appointment, and Casey and Falcor rushed the gate, as usual, delighted to see some of their favorite humans. I’d put Charlotte in the back cat room I use to sequester foster kittens when there are door issues.

Falc and Case were kind of amazed at being asked in – we never go in here, Mom!

Angela administered their booster shots in no time at all. The dogs didn’t even notice, so busy were they loving on our friends.

Then it was Charlotte’s turn. She was hiding up on a shelf and scrabbled down to a dark corner of the closet, mewing angrily. “Hi kitty!” said Angela. “Hey Char!” said I.

Angela gradually worked her way into the corner and probably gripped Charlotte in some manner, and gave her the shot. “Not bad -she didn’t bite or scratch.” 

Whew. What a relief.

Ashlyn assisted during all of this, and it was time for her present. Kids like having choice, it’s huge. So I rounded up an assortment of rocks and marbles and fossils and told her she got to choose six for a Christmas present (or holiday present, whatever)

I knew there was a reason I collected this stuff.

I then reimbursed the shelter for the costs of the vaccines, and added a donation to say thanks for being there and helping me keep my pets a little safer.

Probably the best day ever in the midst of heartbreak…I’ll never see Jess again, because what we learn in rescue is that the nonhuman’s welfare must always come first. But what we also learn is that we matter, that their lives are changed permanently by our decisions. 

And thus we grow. And find friends.


14 Apr


I live with two dogs and two cats. They all need me to let them in and out. 

This is because I worry. I worry that if I made them their own door, they’d get in trouble. Casey the Border Collie would freak out at some noise and claw himself over the fence and run off. Jess the Calico Cat would take to working the streets and never come back again.

Charlotte the Mildly Autistic Tortoise Shell would likely still hang around and sleep on my spot on the couch. She likes being an indoor-ish cat. Caught herself a big mouse on the stoop this evening though. I was effusive with praise. Jess hung back and looked at me a bit plaintively, perhaps suggesting that she’d had a role in this fine capture of this exceptionally impressive mouse?

Likely. I’ve seen them tag-team before.

My other inhouse non-human here is The Fabulous Furry Frolicking Falcor. All my pets are rescues, and he and the cats date from last year. Falc is a border collie-Great Pyrenees cross, and is okay left in the yard, but still, I worry. What if something horribly terrifying happened while I was gone? I’ve only been his human since last summer. We haven’t done the thunderstorm thing since the weather hasn’t been cooperating. 

So, I do the door thing all the time. I keep my non-human peeps here in, I keep them out occasionally. But it all seems so rude on my part. 

There is an ex-pet door, covered over with plywood, that I could uncover and rework. I could also fit it with a movable cover.

Point being, I spend a lot of time here on my turf. I like to keep doors closed because of flies. (mosquitoes are technically flies.) So why am I being so controlling about this door thing with my nonhuman friends? 

I can probably fix this by knocking out a little sheetrock, maybe cutting back a few two-by-fours some, and making some kind of flap and then working out an interior barrier with plywood and slotted hardware. 

Yes, I can.

R Ballew, This Is Getting Old

5 Apr

Please go away, R. Ballew.

Yes, I understand that you are very likely a man, and now that you have this code inspection job in the City of Carlsbad, New Mexico, it must amuse you no end to drive around in the City’s truck, on the City’s nickel, and look for women living alone and work your small efforts to terrorize us, via mailing us relentless citatations about things we are not doing, and things that are not illegal.

Sorry, R. Ballew. My yard is not full of filth, or appliances either. Who hired you to do this, R. Ballew?

Why me?

What did I ever do to you, R. Ballew? Besides offending you with my dog-keeping existence and the Horror of the Refrigerator In The Yard And Then Under the Carport.

Well, I horsed the refrigerator into the back storage room, R. Ballew, because it’s not totally dead, I can use it for the shelves for storage, oh and also R. Ballew, some places don’t go around sending code enforcement people around freaking out about solitary refrigerators under carports, because Some Places are Civilized. Some Places have Beer Fridges. Some places have Outdoor Freezers, and nobody goes around having heart attacks about their being in the Public View.

Oh, and about the filth? I bet you real money I clean up my dog’s poop more often than you do, R. Ballou. 

Next time I see you around you in your City truck across the street, scribbling away, we’re going to have a talk, R. Ballou. Even if I have to go out there in my underwear, you coward. 

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