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All of you know how much I love my dog(s), Annie, and if you’re like me, this will tug at your heartstrings. And if you know someone who needs to read this, please forward it to them. And if you know someone who’s abandoned their dog, please don’t tell me their name, because I’ll be tempted to send Guido and Little Louie after them.

This is a real letter from a veterinarian. It’s longer than I usually post, but I hope you’ll read it anyway. I’ve included some little stories for you along the way. xoxox, B

“I have been writing this post in my head for nearly 3 years and until today, I’ve never been brave enough to post it. But recently, some people doing similar work and facing much the same reality have used social media to speak up about a topic that for so long has not been discussed. Their bravery has given me the courage to finally share my thoughts and experiences about something I’ve needed to for so long.

Today I euthanized 5 dogs.

This is not an uncommon task for a vet to perform and getting into the profession you are well aware of the fact this is something you will have to do in your chosen career. However, the dogs I put down today were not sick. They were not injured. They were not old, and they were not unhealthy in any way. They were not untamed, and they were not aggressive. They were perfect, healthy, normal dogs. There was no reason for them to lose their lives today other than they were failed by humans because of the current overpopulation crisis of domestic animals, particularly dogs, and because so few people are prepared to accept and try to understand.

The euthanasia of healthy animals by animal welfare organizations and shelters across the world is something we need to start talking about, but it is not an easy topic for someone who is in this line of work to discuss. One, because how can you possibly put into words something that is so deeply personal and difficult to come to terms with in your own mind, and two, how can you risk the possibility of losing such important funding that keeps welfare organizations and shelters alive by drawing attention to something the public at large simply knows very little about and so few people understand.

The dogs I put down today were so excited to see me.

How lucky they were to have someone in their kennel, giving them attention, and maybe, just maybe, they’d even be so lucky as to be taken out for a walk – Their tails were wagging and everyone was jumping for joy. One of them was nervous and scared of me. This was a dog that had likely never had much in the way of attention or love from a human being.

I have tried everything possible to make the task easier for myself and for those who assist me. I have tried doing it in their kennels, I’ve tried doing it on the grass outside so the dogs can walk for a bit to experience one last bit of freedom and fresh air. I’ve fed them last meals, I’ve done it in the clinic, and nothing makes it easier. The only thing that makes it bearable for me is to sedate them first so they are sleeping when their lives end and not wagging their tails looking at me – I know this is a luxury many other people doing this work do not have access to. Today I chose to put them down in their kennels after I’d sedated them. Letting them leave on a bed and blanket they have used for comfort for the past few weeks or sometimes even months.”

My darling Annie and her brothers and sisters and their mother were found on the edge of town, scavenging for food. If a shelter hadn’t rescued them, they all would have been dead in less than a week, but look at her now! She’s the smartest, funniest dog I’ve ever been blessed to have in my life and that’s saying a lot.

“I take care to make sure no other dog or animal is a witness, but still, the others around them must know. Usually, the dogs bark endlessly at any small movement or sound but there is nothing more deafening than the silence of nearly one hundred dogs while ending the life of one of their neighbors or friends. They must know, and I so often wonder if they are thinking if they are next or when their time will come.

In their final moments, I tell each of them that I am sorry, and for those who leave behind friends, puppies, or siblings, I promise them that I will take care of them and do my very best to find them homes or see they are cared for properly. These are trivial words compared to what I should be saying to them, but it’s hard to give them the apology they so deserve in the short time it takes for the life to leave their little bodies.

What I should be saying to them is that I’m sorry you never got the opportunity to experience what it’s like to sleep on a couch, and I’m sorry those who did get to sleep on a couch once have ended up being unwanted and failed by the humans who took them into their homes in the first place.

What I should be saying to them is that I’m sorry you never got the opportunity to experience what it’s like to sleep on a couch, and I’m sorry those who did have ended up being unwanted and failed by the humans who took them into their homes in the first place. I’m so sorry they were born into a world that didn’t have space for them and so many others.

I’m sorry they weren’t pretty enough, or the right breed to be one of the chosen ones, and I’m sorry that for months–or for some of them–nearly a year, countless people walked past their cage and decided not to choose them or to leave and rather choose to buy a puppy somewhere else instead.

I have tried my best to cope with it as I know many others do too – by doing what I believe is everything humanly possible to find unwanted dogs and cats homes. I spend hours of my time holding them while they pose for photos, writing posts for Facebook, advertising them, and putting their stories and personalities into words as best I can, all in the hope someone decides to choose them. I talk to people and encourage them to adopt but this does not always work.”

When we were sitting down, my sweet Molly was taller than I was. Here, she was helping me unpack when we first moved into our house. Such a loving, loyal, and noble girl. Have you read my post about the day she died? I dare you not to cry. She was a rescue my late husband found in the Texas Hill Country. Someone had shot her in the ear with a BB gun.

“I have spayed until 10 pm because if I can just do one more spay it might help. Like so many others in this line of work, I have done hours of work behind the scenes and out of the public eye for no benefit other than hopefully having to euthanize one less healthy animal. I have done my fair share of adopting too, having adopted 8 dogs, and I regularly contemplate whether I could take on another one or two despite my home already being near overrun. But it is still not enough, and the burden of this crisis and war we are fighting against overpopulation is not to be borne by only a small group of people across the world who are prepared to sacrifice so much because they are not ignorant to the reality of what is going on around them.”

The day my precious Sam died, I wanted to go with him. When we first found Sam, he was scared and emaciated beyond anything you could have imagined. Even so, he pawed at the air with first his right front foot, then his left, waving and dancing and using what little strength he had to be adorable. Our vet said this little man had the worst case of heartworms he’d ever seen and his ribs and hips looked like he’d been kicked unmercifully. There was no guarantee he would survive through the night. Thank you, God for saving Sam and leaving him in my care for another 10 years. My heart still aches for him.

“It is something that everyone who has ever loved an animal has to accept as their fight, too. Which is one of the reasons I am writing this post and have been trying to write it for so long. Everyone has a way in which they can contribute to this fight and many are simple.

Volunteer – Spend time at a local animal shelter or organization so you have a better understanding of what is happening out there. The animals in shelters love attention and walks even if it is only to make their time there more comfortable until it must come to an end.

Donate if you can, especially towards sterilization programs. We must stop these animals at their source. The more puppies and kittens we can prevent, the fewer healthy dogs need to be put down.

Adopt if you are in a position to get a new pet. There is no reason to go out and buy a dog or cat when such perfect ones are looking for homes. If everyone could choose to adopt, the world would be a much better place for it.

Thank you to those who continue to support me and my work, especially through donations towards my sterilization programs. Every donation that helps me do a spay gives me the strength to face another day, and I have a lot of hope that we can change the world one spay at a time. I only wish to create more awareness about the crisis we are facing, and I hope those working in this line of work feel my words here have done this important topic justice. I do hope that in my lifetime, I could live in a world where no healthy animal is euthanized due to lack of space, lack of homes, or lack of resources available. I’m not sure if I will ever get to see that be a reality, but I think we all know by now that I will never give up trying!”

Thank you for reading, sweet friends. A letter from a veterinarian is heartbreaking, but together, we can do something about this unthinkable tragedy. You’ve seen pictures of just a few of my dogs, all of whom were found on the street, starving and near death. I didn’t hesitate to take them in. I didn’t wonder if there was a better, cuter, or smarter puppy I could buy and raise. And in return, these dogs have been some of the greatest blessings of my life.

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  1. Pricing of pet food, vet care, litter, etc….. Becoming prohibitive to many.

    Concerns, for our pets health, with vaccines/food ingredients/flea-tick treatments.

    Cat litter, perhaps gathering like minded friends in my community, buying bulk ingredients, voila, home made litter. Where to store? Someone in the group, with dry storage.

    Brava, posting this.

    • Thanks, Tara, and I hear you. Having a pet is expensive, so I’ve made a provision in my will, designating an amount and the person I want to care for Annie. I couldn’t ask this person to take on another pet and not provide funding. xoxox, Brenda

  2. this is heart breaking , i know been volunteering in a shelter till recently , and the whole situation is tough .. the price of vet care is a lot , a spay in canada can be 700 dollars , yes a spay , add on meds , special diets ,, some of it , doesnt have to be that way .. i trully appreciate your message,,

    • You’re so right, Gay. Prices of everything have skyrocketed to the point that owning a pet may be a luxury, but I don’t think that’s why some people dump their animals on the side of the road. A person who loves their pet would want to find a home for them. Even when I didn’t have a penny to my name, I wrote a will that provided for my pets. I left the person I wanted to take care of them my car and my furniture. My pets are my children and I want to ensure they’re provided for as best I can. Thanks so much for your comment, Brenda

  3. Thank you for posting this thoughtful letter!

    Domestic dogs on the prowl often starve or dig into trash for a paltry meal. But cats are efficient hunters! The price we pay for feral and outdoor cats is about 2-3 birds per day, per cat. Feral and outdoor cats are responsible for the death of millions of birds, and likely extinction of many species. Please keep cats indoors and spay feral cats so they can’t reproduce. I’m a cat owner and love my adopted pet, who never goes outside (outdoor cats don’t live as long either)!

    • Barbara, Spicy Cat is one loved little cat! I hear you about keeping cats indoors because nothing nice happens to cats outside. My beloved Blanche Dubois got out, was bitten by a rattlesnake, and died. Oh! I felt so guilty and awful. I still do when I relive her death. xoxox, Brenda

  4. One of the things I love most about you is the way you love your dogs. It’s unconditional, forever, and you inspire me to want to fill every room in my house with a stray animal. Aside from not being able to afford it my husband wouldn’t go for that.

    • Awe, thank you, Jackie! I love them the same way they love me. How many people do you know who love you unconditionally? They fill up my well, and I hope I do the same for them. xoxox, Brenda

  5. Some of the people who need to read this are the ones who have puppy mills. They don’t care about the dogs. The dogs are just workers who contribute products to the assembly line. Those people care more about money than lives.

    • Bingo, Carla! I agree with you 100 percent. I can’t imagine keeping a mama dog pregnant for most of her life. That’s not love. I’m not sure I’ve seen you here before, but thank you for reading and leaving me a comment. xoxox, Brenda

    • Thanks, Hilda! It’s beyond sad. It’s criminal. I hope I don’t know anyone who’s ever abandoned an animal because that person isn’t someone I want to know or trust. Hope all is well with you! xoxox, Brenda

  6. Oh, Brenda. I am aware of this sad practice and do what I can to support our shelters. I also, along with my neighbors take care of the feral cats that live in the woods behind our houses. We’ve trapped them and had them spayed, chipped, and given shots and then released them back into the woods. We don’t feed them unless the weather is extreme. We put styrofoam coolers in the woods for them without blankets, and leave clean water for them as advised by the vet. We lost our two rescues a few years ago. We were so heartbroken we didn’t think we could handle another loss. We will though, as soon as I am healthy enough. Happy Easter to you and Annie.

    • You have a HUGE heart, Doreen. You and your neighbors have gone the extra mile to take care of the feral cats. I stand in awe, and I know what you mean about not being sure you could handle another loss of a pet. I think about that often, especially as I get older, but I can’t imagine being here without a furry family member. Annie is my constant companion and best friend. You’ve been in my prayers for some time now. Heal, sweet friend. xoxox, Brenda

  7. Very touching! Brings tears to my eyes. Animals bring such joy to our lives. Sad when others do not feel the same and abandon them – treat them poorly etc. I have always gotten my cats from the SPCA.
    My cousin has a farm animal sanctuary on Vancouver Island. What do I do to help? I collect cans on my walks and also can donations from my neighbours etc to take to recycling. I aim each month to send her $100 to help feed the animals.

    • Rosemarie, I cried the first time I read this. You have a big heart, and I’m bowled over by your creative idea for raising money for the animal sanctuary. You are the absolute best! Sending you tons of of my love, Brenda

  8. Do you really know people named “Guido and Little Louie”? I can’t imagine how someone lives with themselves after abandoning an animal or starving them and physically hurting them like your Sam. Guido and his friend might be too good for people like that.

    • Rita, LOL! My first husband and I named the guys who used to break into our home, Guido and Little Louie. I write about them in my memoir. It became our term for anyone unsavory, and yes, I used to know someone like that. He will be in my next book, and I pity anyone who came under his wrath. Thank you, Brenda

  9. While I feel a lot of compassion for these animals, as I read this all I could think of was this dear veterinarian who is under so much stress. Veterinarians, per the CDC, have the highest rate of suicide among healthcare professionals and are 2 – 4 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population. As a Grief Recovery Specialist I have seen this first hand.

    It isn’t just from the stress of having to euthanize animals but often from burnout and the challenge of dealing with clients who have unrealistic expectations about treatment options and cost,

    A gentle reminder to treat your veterinarian with patience and respect. They are doing an incredibly tough job.

    • Your informed comment needs to be the subject of an entire blog, Marla. I’ve read the same thing and can understand how this happens. Right now, there’s a veterinarian shortage where I live. Some vets retired during Covid, while others got used to working fewer hours. The animal emergency hospital where I sometimes take Annie often puts a sign on their door: “We have no emergency room veterinarians. We’re sorry if this inconveniences you.” “Inconvenience” is not the right word to use, especially if you have a dire emergency. It can mean your pet will die because there’s no one who can help them. That sign terrifies me! Thank you, Brenda

  10. Sorry – I can’t read this. My son’s cat was soooo very sick and it happened so quickly. Poor Martin is now in a better place but my son and I sobbed and sobbed; even though it’s been over a year, we still cry about Martin. Very sad, very sad that bad things happen to poor animals who have no control over their lives and deserve a loving/caring home.


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