A Dream of Life After the Pound (2004)
The 32 dogs look up with sad eyes or wag their tails as animal control officer Linda Cordry walks the row of chain-link cages toward a door concealing a gas chamber.
"These guys are mine," Cordry says with weary resignation. "These are basically on Death Row."
Liberty County Animal Control and the humane shelter that shares its small cinderblock building have been crammed to capacity with dogs and cats since Army troops from neighboring Fort Stewart deployed to Iraq. Both agencies say it's no coincidence.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have prompted national efforts to alert deploying soldiers to alternatives to abandoning animals when they leave for war. But the hundreds of unwanted pets turning up in this southeast Georgia military town indicate many aren't getting the message.
Smells of dank fur, urine and bleach linger inside the Animal Control offices, where donated food in dented cans and torn bags are stacked in a corner. Dogs are doubled up in several of the 4-by-10-feet cages. Two of the 14 cat cages hold mothers with litters of nursing kittens.
Cordry says she's found an abundance of dogs in military neighborhoods -- from emaciated dogs in back yards of vacated homes to puppies left in Dumpsters.
Many of the abandoned pets are wearing collars, but with their tags removed. Animals with collars get up to 10 days before they're euthanized. Those without collars are spared for only three.
"We get in so many with personalities, we know they had to belong to somebody," Cordry says. "It's hard to say, 'Today's euthanasia day -- let's load them up and go for it'."
Terry Wolf of nearby Savannah has taken in 85 abandoned dogs from Liberty County since January through her shelter, Southern Comfort Animal Rescue. She's found permanent homes for about 40, and foster homes for 25.
Wolf says she's looking for people who truly want a pet, rather than those seeking to make a patriotic gesture.
"I had one lady, she was very interested in a dog, say to me, 'I want a soldier's dog.' And that made me question her commitment," Wolf says. "We're not putting yellow ribbons around their necks here. They're all dogs of war to me."
From See Spot Die:
People take their cats to the shelter and say they want to get rid of them because the pets don't match the colors of their new decorating scheme. They want a new cat, one that's color-coordinated. Some people go on vacation and drop off a pet; they don't want to spend the money on boarding; they say they'll pick up a new pet when they get back.
The result: four out of five pets are left unclaimed. Those unclaimed are given a lethal injection of sodium pentobarbital. Then they are thrown into a large plastic hamper, wheeled outside and tossed like bags of garbage into an incinerator. Nationwide, between 12 million and 20 million unwanted pets are killed each year. The numbers are inexact, because this is one subject few want to research. Man's best friend has become man's biggest victim.
When people get tired of their pets, most don't want to deposit them at the animal shelter; they know what's likely to happen to them. And so they engage in a quiet little fantasy, imagining they're a Robert Redford, climbing to a mountaintop to release an eagle. They're not abandoning Fido -- they're setting him free. Often they choose parks or affluent neighborhoods. Perhaps some wealthy family will pick him up. Or maybe old Fido will revert to the wild, learn to fend for himself, catching squirrels and whatnot.
But pets are not wild eagles. Animal control officers know that a roaming dog is much more likely to be squashed by a speeding car than to learn to live in the wild. The Service has trucks that do nothing except travel the country, picking up tens of thousands of dead dogs and cats each year. The animals that survive forage through garbage cans and alleys, desperately trying to avoid starvation.
From On the Sublime and Beautiful by Edmund Burke:
Such sounds as imitate the natural inarticulate voices of men, or any animals in pain or danger, are capable of conveying great ideas.
And from Colette -- reprinted in the collection Earthly Paradise:
Animals love happiness almost as much as we do. A fit of crying disturbs them; they'll sometimes imitate sobbing, and for a moment they'll reflect our sadness.
I guess this is my version of Friday dog/cat blogging.
If you've ever truly loved a pet, there's nothing more I need say about today's image.
I had a cat, named Putzer, who hung out -- sitting or sleeping on my lap as I wrote or worked on art -- for twenty-three years. She was also my daughter's play companion, and, for sixteen years, the two were inseparable. We reminisce often and tell Putzer stories. She will always be -- family.