Painful Decisions

by Susan Linden on Wednesday, October 31, 2012

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in View from the Rescue Desk

Last week we took a very handsome four-year-old boy into rescue. He had been relinquished to a shelter in Chicago earlier in the week. A volunteer had contacted us about him. Although she knew little about this dog, she said he seemed to be a very nice boy. We agreed to take him. One of our volunteers drove to Chicago to pick him up.

Dalmatian in Chicago shelter

Most of our Dalmatians come from shelters, and often we know little about them. Animal control is run by counties, and every shelter is run differently. Sometimes the shelter has a veterinarian on staff, as well as experienced employees and volunteers who are trained to do temperament testing. More often, there is no veterinarian, few employees, and many volunteers, all of whom may love animals but who have little or no experience in judging temperaments or behavior.

This boy was left at a shelter that gets thousands of dogs every month. When dogs arrive, they are given one basic vaccination and then put in a kennel. That’s it. There is no evaluation, no human company, nothing more. Kennels are hosed down daily with the dogs inside of them. Dogs leave the kennel to be adopted, go to humane societies or rescue groups, or to be euthanized.

We have taken in 355 Dalmatians over the past ten years. Nearly all have been healthy, happy dogs that did well in their foster homes, were adopted, and lived, or are living still, happy lives. A few have come to us too old or too ill be adopted and those have remained in their foster homes until the right time came to send them to the Rainbow Bridge.

Until last week, we had euthanized only three dogs for aggression towards humans. This boy became number four. For him, a human hand meant trouble, and he lunged and snapped, and even tore clothing. He was clearly not going to be adoptable, and was even too dangerous to keep in an experienced foster home. We did take him for a nice long walk in a green field, and gave him lots of chicken treats before he died. Our hearts broke and we shed tears for him. This is never, ever, an easy decision, and it is never taken lightly.

This boy had clearly been severely neglected. Some of his nails were so long that they curled around under his paws. His urine was the color and consistency of mud. While he must have been uncomfortable, he did not appear to be in pain and his condition cannot explain his behavior. We have taken in dogs that have been hit by cars and have serious injuries but who nevertheless had wagging tails and gave plenty of kisses.

We know nothing about this boy’s background, but our best guess is that he was severely abused in addition to being severely neglected. Was he punched and kicked on a regular basis? Did someone use a shock collar on him, or use other sorts of pain-inducing “training” tools? We will never know. It was clear that this mistreatment was done long enough and intensely enough to change him into an extremely fearful dog.

Ending a dog’s suffering is sometimes the most humane thing that we can do.

What we do know is that dogs love humans, and ask little of us in return. It is up to humans to treat dogs kindly, learn as much about them as possible, train them with love, and share the joys of life with them. So that this poor boy’s life was not in vain, do one wonderful thing today for the dog that shares your life: a nice long walk, a special treat, a rollicking game of fetch. Let your dog know that you care.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Debr October 31, 2012 at 1:39 pm

The four short years of this dog’s life must have been miserable. It is too bad that he didn’t know what it was like to be loved by a family, and to FEEL like a young dog. Even though it was a hard decision to make, it was the right decision. He left this life with the Dalmatian Angel(Susan) by his side, and not in some cold, no-emotion animal control. Run Free little guy—you deserve it.


Kathy Campbell October 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Thank you Susan. You know you made the right choice-although it is never easy nor the one anyone of us wants to make, it was the best for this little guy. He’s safe, happy, loved & running freely & safely now with all the other rescued Dals from Dalmatian Rescue of Illinois that have gone happily before him to the Rainbow Bridge. I just “crunched” the numbers & although it never seems like enough, that’s a 98.873% success rate!! I know we’d all like it to be 100% but this is so much better than the chances many may have had without Dal Rescue. Sending many hugs, wagging butts & sloppy kisses to help you through this, (& know that the foster here IS making progress!).


Lynda October 31, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Or, it could have been his breeding. About fifteen years ago, in the small town DH (he’s a veterinarian) and I live in, there was a “breeder” of Dalmatians who had the world’s sweetest boy and the bitch from hell. Pongo was a doll baby, sweet, loving, and tractable. Perdita defined “bitch.” Their offspring were very much like them. The boys were marshmallows and the girls were aggressive, foul tempered, and untrustworthy. It was uncanny how even two generations away from the original pair, we could track the temperament issues back to Pongo and Perdita. Needless to say, we pushed all the owners involved to have their pet spayed/neutered.


Robyn November 2, 2012 at 11:27 am

The last act of kindness was a lovely walk in a grassy field and some homemade tidbits of chicken. This boy received kindness and attention for his final time on Earth…likely the only time he ever got love and compassion from anyone. Thankfully, Dalmatian Rescue of Illinois was there to supply comfort and make the hard decision to end his suffering.


Karen McNamara March 8, 2013 at 9:31 am

This story broke my heart, but you did the right thing. His poor life was miserable. Every day it amazes me when I hear about these trusting dogs being so abused. Thank You for the ones you save.


Carol Mills March 15, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Every day I look at my Ollie and thank God we have him with us. What wonderful work you all do! It saddens me that there are people like that out there. Every hole dug, every toy chewed, every look he gives me as he runs happily down the drive way looking back at me as we start our daily walk, is just a piece of my day that I woudn’t trade for anything in the world. He’s the love of my life!! Dals give so much joy!!



Jennifer November 21, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Kudos to your organization for making the most humane decision for this boy. He is now at peace.


Terri Bylina November 12, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Susan, What a beautiful new beginning you have given that poor little boy, he will be at peace now with no pain or suffering. Without Dalmation Rescue, I would not have my wonderful boy Cooper, he is now totally blind and deaf, but he still is our JOY! Thank you so much for finding him and letting us have the pleasure of Loving and Caring for him. At Dalmatian Rescue you are all Angels!!!!!


Daniel Morse March 19, 2015 at 3:04 am

My dalmatian is the most amazing gal. Our pack is down to 3 from 12. She was found in the highway in Southern California. Since the day she jumped into our car she has destroyed most of my dress shoes, countless shirts and stuff. Age has softened her.

Last year she attacked an other rescue, her and her best buddy in the pack and killed the poor girl. The dog that died had issues with her from the start. Poor economy and other reasons I could not find her a home.

Dalmatians are a breed that once has an idea in their had, it is hard to let it go. To her credit, there has never been an other dog she had issues with and loves the rest of the pack.

The choice to put the boy down is understandable. However I do feel he could have been rehabbed. It would have taken a special person with special skills. sadly it is hard to find such on short notice.

Someone in a rural setting I feel is best as the limited exposure and quieter environment lends to rehabbing. Fewer triggers.

Ms. Spots wanted her human to be hers. The dog that died always had a bad attitude and even bit me in a panic bite. I still have the scars on my face under my beard. May we all think of the boy that was put down and remember him. That this will not happen again. That he feels love over there.

Rest in peace good boy. Rest and be at peace.


rosanne mchugh June 6, 2015 at 1:02 pm

In February we had to put Dice down after he came down with a rare form of diabetes resistant to insulin. We adopted him from you almost 8 years ago. He was almost ten and by far the best companion ever. I will not even refer to him as a dog because he was family. We live downtown now and he loved walking at the lake and going to Burnham Harbour where he could go into the lake. I have to congratulate MetVet on S. Michigan Ave. for their kindness and compassion when we put him down. I only hope that I go so peacefully when my time comes. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and they didn’t even charge us because he was so well loved. A great end to a great man. Miss you Dice.


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