Thursday, July 23, 2009


Although we see our share of injured and ill animals at the shelter, we don't often come across actual cases of "animal cruelty." That makes me quite happy. Unfortunately, we've had two dogs come in under that heading this week, and we'll try to feature both.

The first one is Chester. He's a good example of what would be "cruelty by neglect," or as I'd label it, "cruelty by ignorance." An animal control officer arrived on the scene, and found this poor fellow trying to re-define the term "hot dog," locked up in a car. It was 104° outside, and the owner later pointed out that the windows in the car "were open an inch or two." Regardless , when they dropped a thermometer through the window, the officer found that it was 137° inside the car. Let me repeat that, because so many people don't realize how extreme this can be: almost 140° inside the car. That is quite often hot enough to kill a dog in 15 to 30 minutes' time.

For two full days afterward, Chester was pretty much a basket case. He trusted absolutely no one, and didn't want to be touched - or near people at all. Even working with him as slowly, deliberately and carefully as I could, the best I could do was get him to eat out of my hand for a couple of minutes before he'd slink back to the far corner of his kennel. The other folks at the shelter had similar luck, and although everybody was pulling for him, it was determined that he would ultimately be completely unadoptable. The decision didn't set well with anyone, but what else can be done with a dog you can't touch, handle, or even approach?

The following morning at feeding time, Chester was waiting happily at the front of his kennel, pleasant as you please. And by about lunch time? I got a phone call from Sophie: "Hi! I'm at the shelter. Guess who's laying here with me, getting his tummy rubbed right now? Guess!" Literally overnight, Chester had gone from near-paralytic and unapproachable to friendly, outgoing and begging for play and affection. People have long vaunted the resilience of dogs, and Chester made me realize just how deep and strong that streak of resilience can be.

Later that day, he got hit litmus test - outside in the play yard, with a whole pack of Pit Bulls, an American Bulldog, and even a little Australian Cattle Dog pup. Chester was right in the middle of things, still a little bit shy with the people around him, but having a great time. Unexpectedly, he pulls on his leash a bit, and is definitely not a shrinking violet when it comes to the pecking order with other dogs. He's far from a bully, though - when he got too uppity with Colleen (a particularly submissive Pit Bull), Jenny (the Most Awesome Pit on the Planet™) put him back in line with a sharp bark from a neighboring yard. Given a little time to adjust to having so much friendliness around him, I think Chester's going to turn out to be quite the affectionate gentleman.

UPDATE 7/31: Chester was euthanized after contracting parvo. He was a good, sweet dog for all the days we knew him. Chester, you filled our hearts and they're a bit broken now without you.


Anonymous said...

i thought chester went to a rescue group?

Shelter Diaries said...

It's a bit complicated, as so many tragic things tend to be.

Apparently, the foster go-between that picked up Chester did so a couple of days early, so he wouldn't be euthanized before the rescue group had space for him. There was an issue with a different dog (not involving Chester) that required the foster to bring him back for a couple of days, since the original rescue group had balked and wouldn't come for him as planned.

Unbeknownst to anyone at the shelter, the dog in the kennel next to Chester's was infected - and badly so - with Parvovirus (in the unlikely event that a vaccinated adult contracts Parvo, there are usually no real 'early warning signs'). By the next morning, the infected dog was in extreme pain, and had spread the virus to at least two other dogs, Chester included.

Although Chester might actually have been strong enough to survive the virus, there was nowhere to keep him and no rescue group available to quarantine and treat him. To prevent his own suffering - and the extremely high risk of contagion - Chester had to be put to sleep and cremated.

Perhaps the worst part of it all is that the foster - the person who is probably most responsible for giving Chester a fighting chance at all - feels they are to blame for his death. And nothing could be farther from the truth.