Twilight years

I did not realize how disturbed i was until i got home, and found myself still reminiscing about the dogs i have seen in the dog pound. I found myself analyzing and rationalizing their circumstances, and all i could do was feel pangs of sadness for them.

The last row of the dog kennel has special significance. I knew that aggressive dogs were kept there, dogs who could only be managed by teams of experienced staff brandishing a pole to literally keep the snapping dogs at arm’s length; neglected dogs who were at risk of being broken out by their incorrigible owners and pets of staff members who were away. Then i discovered another type of dog kept in that area – dogs awaiting euthanasia.

There was a senior dog in the last pen. His age showed on his face. His facial hair was turning white. A Ridgeback cross i reckon. He laid sadly on a dog bed. His sadness was evident. How do i know that? I can’t explain, but you could feel the vibes emanating from him. He barely looked up when i stood in front of his pen; just remained quietly curled up, as though he knew what his fate was, and he was resigned to it. I would normally have called out to the dog, or entered the pen to pat them or play with them, but this dog, i couldn’t. I felt hypocritical, and so i walked away without a backward glance.

As i was cleaning out the pens in the other rows, i met an eight year old arthritic Labrador. She could barely walk, yet she dragged herself to the gate with her usual albeit dampened down Labrador exuberance. I entered the pen to scoop up her poop and the stench hit me. God, the odour. What on earth happened to this dog? This sort of smell, i have come to appreciate, is the smell associated with neglect in animals, and poverty in patients. The Lab wagged her tail weakly as i bustled around her pen to tidy up her bedding so i could hose the pen clean. I left her pen to work on the others.

Minutes later i heard a loud bang. I froze, listening intently, waiting and hoping i will not hear the sharp shriek of pain. I didn’t. The dog beds are flip-opens. You put the beds down for the dogs to lie on, and you flip them up onto the wall if you want to hose the floor. Some dogs have a tendency of bashing the beds when they are up so they come crashing down. If the dogs are not agile enough, they get crushed underneath. I am not so worried for the larger dogs, but more for the puppies and smaller dogs because the consequences will be catastrophic.

I took a leisurely walk down the row of pens, curious dogs glancing at me as i strolled past. And i discovered it was the old lab who flipped her bed. She managed to dismantle the bed, and was standing on top of the rocking platform quivering and wondering what on earth to do. She gave me an apologetic look. I felt sick. This old dog wanted a bed to rest; she tried her best. And i wonder whether her former owner knew about her plight, and whether they would take her back in a jiffy, because i know a true dog owner’s heart will break if they see their pet in such a state. I have learnt that not all people who give up their dogs are heartless, and that cruel circumstances can sometimes force the cold hand of fate. Maybe that’s why dog pounds have a clause that all owners who give up their dogs must sign – that they waive all rights to inquire about the fate of their dogs.

I entered the pen and tried to coax the dog off the rocking platform. She could not and dared not. The unstable platform was straining her arthritic joints, and she was frightened. I walked up and attempted to re-hinge the bed with the dog still on. She leaped off once the bed stabilized and gave me a grateful look. I patted her on the head, and left to do the remainder of my chores.

I am perturbed. I think it really is a shame to treat a lifelong companion in such a shabby way when they hit their senior years. To subject them to the chaos of a dog pound, and confine them to a small enclosure is just…unthinkable. And these dogs still find it in their hearts to accept and forgive. It honestly makes me sick.



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