People Suck: A Visit To The Animal Shelter


On Thanksgiving, I posted this on Twitter:

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Unfortunately, all your finger crossing didn’t help, since a few days later, my sister’s cat died. My family doesn’t have especially good luck with animals and Thanksgiving since this is now the third pet to have gotten fatally ill on or near Thanksgiving.

A long time ago, I had two cats that became mine when my roommate moved out and just left them there. Way to be responsible, roommate.

Anyway, I ended up with two cats. A few years later, on Thanksgiving eve, one of them got very ill. I had just moved to Boston less than a week before and I hadn’t had time to find a vet. Try finding a vet that’s open the night before Thanksgiving in the wee hours in a new town where you know no one. I found one that would be open on Thanksgiving and was going to take him in the morning, but the next morning, he was already gone. He died in his sleep.

So, when my sister told me that her cat was sick on Thanksgiving and she thought she needed to take him to the vet, it didn’t bode well, although I didn’t say as much, because you never know. Two days later, he came home from the animal hospital and died in his sleep.

My family has always had animals and we always will. My mom is firmly in the dog camp. Dad and I lean more towards dogs, but we don’t mind a good feline. My sister is a cat person with dog tendencies. While I can see her owning a dog, she will always have cats.

Because we’ve always had animals, we’ve seen a lot of them come and go. We are very aware of the difference in life spans and we know that we’ll end up a sobbing mess in the end, but the benefits of owning pets far outweigh the agony of losing them. It’s worth it, even though the end is always so difficult.

Our way of mourning the loss of an animal is to go out and get another animal. Some people see this as gauche, but I don’t. We’re not replacing the animal that died; we’re filling the vacant post in the family that they left. There is no right way nor wrong way to mourn, and that has always been our way.

So, when my sister’s cat died, after a few days, she wanted a new cat. She asked if I would go to the shelter with her to pick out another one.

Another of my family’s ways is that we always adopt animals from shelters. We’ve had purebreds before, but they’re always rescues that no one else wanted. Why buy one from a breeder when there are so many amazing animals in need of homes? Buying from a breeder has never made any sense to me. Besides, I’m inordinately fond of mutts.

I didn’t get my dog directly from the animal shelter, because I wasn’t looking for a dog. I got her from an animal rescue who got her from the shelter. I went into the pet store to buy cat food, and came out with a dog and several hundred dollars of doggy accoutrements. Had I been intentionally looking to get a dog, I would have gone to the shelter.

My cat came from the shelter some ten odd years ago, and that’s the last time I was at the animal shelter. I had forgotten how hard it is to go there and was wholly unprepared for my visit on Saturday.

We went into the cat room and there were at least 30 cats in there all in tiny cages like a Japanese pod hotel for cats:

A pod or coffin hotel. (

It was awful seeing all those kitties in cages. There was a family with two little girls in the cat room with us. My sister had her eye on one of the tiger tabbies they were looking at. The family decided to get one of the females instead, so my sister got the cat she wanted, an eight month old brownish tabby.

He had been there over a month, because when he was brought in, he was running a high fever and vomiting. He very nearly died. They suspect that he had been poisoned. POISONED. Seriously, what kind of monster poisons a kitten?

He’s perfectly healthy now, but he spent a month of his short life in a cage. Poor thing. When my sister brought him home, he went full on crazy kitty for nearly twelve hours. He was probably trying to take advantage of having more than two feet of space while he could. He didn’t realize yet that he didn’t have to go back into the little cage again.

During the interminable period for all the paperwork to be filled out, an older woman came in who was turning in her dog. She was telling anyone who would listen, as a way to assuage her guilt I suppose, that she had no choice but to get rid of him, because she was afraid that he’d jump on her and knock her over.

There’s always a choice. There are plenty of things you can do to keep a dog from jumping; training is number one through one hundred.

When you decide to take an animal on, that responsibility is for life. Not just when they’re cute little babies. Not just when they’re young and healthy. Not just if they’re well-behaved. It is your responsibility to train your pet. It is your responsibility to keep that animal safe and fed and happy.

If your first instinct when something goes wrong with your animal is to turn it in to a shelter and make it someone else’s problem, do not get a pet. You are not worthy of having one. Your pet is your responsibility. Period.

Instead of saying all of that to the woman and flipping her off (I really did have my middle finger’s ready–she made me very angry), against my better judgment, I decided to leave and visit the dogs.

There were so many of them! My heart hurt that I could do nothing for any of them. I already have a dog. I don’t have a yard. I rent an apartment and I’d have to pay another $1000 pet deposit for another dog. I can’t get another dog now. I knew that when I went to visit the dogs, but there’s something about seeing row after row of abandoned, neglected, malnourished, mistreated dogs that makes you want to do something, provided you’re not an inhuman monster.

I went to every single cage there and greeted every dog. All I could do was provide a moment of human-canine interaction. All I could do was show them that not all humans are monsters by giving each and every one of them a small gesture of kindness. Nothing gives you a sense of how awful human beings are better than visiting an animal shelter. We are a disgusting species.

Yet, there are good people out there. like me and my sister. Before I left the dog area, I wished that each one of those dogs, and the thirty some odd kitties in cages, could find good homes with people who would love them for life, not just when the going is good.

Visiting the shelter hurt my heart. I wished I could do more, but my sister and I each made a donation, and we did save one life on Saturday. There is one less animal in the shelter. There is one more space that is now open for another animal to be rescued. It’s all we could do. When I got home, I gave my dog and cat huge hugs.

Please consider adopting from your local animal rescue. There are so many animals that need homes.