Thursday, February 10, 2011

No Guarantees

I should’ve brought Tommy to the nearest animal shelter after I picked him up at Beverly and Rampart, but all I knew about shelters at that time was that countless dogs, particularly pit bulls, were put to death, and I didn’t want to see that happen to him. But I wasn’t in a position to keep him so I had to do something.

The Lacey Street shelter was closed the day he woke up in my bed, so after walking him around the Franklin Hills, I brought him to my vet to board him. I returned the next day to take him to the shelter.

A cacophony of barking dogs, out of sight behind cement walls, greeted me as I stepped out of the car. Tommy was on high alert.

Inside I loitered around the reception area while a couple signed papers and talked to a shelter worker at the front desk. A few other people sat waiting. I walked down the hallway and checked out the bulletin board crowded with cards and flyers of lost dogs. I hung a FOUND DOG flyer with Tommy's picture.

Cages filled with cats were stacked along one wall. I didn’t see any dogs though they made their presence known. The barking was relentless. Tommy’s agitation grew so I stepped outside with him.

A woman led a medium-sized dog past us, exacerbating Tommy's excitement. He barked and whined and bucked up just as a shelter employee, a man in a navy blue jumpsuit, walked by. With a nod of his chin he said, “He’s aggressive, huh?”

I knelt down to calm Tommy. “No, he’s just excited.”

I told him I wanted to place first adoption rights on Tommy but I wasn't sure how it worked.

"So I leave him for 5 days and if no one has claimed him, I can take him home?"

The guy shook his head. "No guarantees," he said.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"No guarantees."

"But if I have first adoption rights and come back after 5 days..."

"You know how many pit bulls get put down here every day? No guarantee he’ll still be here when you come back."

I was horrified.

He shook his head. "If you want to save this dog, don't leave him here..."

And with that he sauntered through the glass doors into the shelter leaving Tommy's fate in my hands.

I walked to the car and drove back to the vet.


  1. You made the very right decision!


  2. Wonderfully told.

  3. Kari, sometimes I wonder! No... no, I don't.

    Thanks, Hiker.

  4. What a lucky dog. We are never sure what to do with found dogs because we know what goes on in the shelters. Luckily, the only dogs we've found were later claimed by their owners.

  5. That made me cry. Thank you for taking him home. I have had 3 I found, Sprocket died about a year ago. Daisy was adopted from a rescue who found her. So now its Mouse, Roscoe and Daisy.

  6. Thank goodness that employee had the sense to tell you the truth. Lucky, lucky Tommy! I wish every shelter hired a guy like that to mill around by the doors. People need to be honest with themselves about what happens - not just pretend that someone else is going to do the right thing. Good for you for taking a chance on Tommy!

  7. OH SUE! You are the best. I am sure you wanted to leave the shelter with some of the other "no guarantees"! What a tough spot to be in but I cannot imagine any other outcome.......And now look where you are: buying a new house with a yard for Tommy! "Your house - a very, very, very fine house...with two cats - and Tommy - in the yard, his life used to be so everything is easy 'cause of you..." :) Love you!

  8. Thanks for your wonderful comments. You animal lovers are good people.

    T2, at first I was mad at that guy but later I realized his honesty was a great thing.

    Liz, have you seen "Year of the Dog"? I could so relate to the main character, something I would only admit in the company of dog lovers.

  9. Susan your big heart is why we all love you. And of course Tommy.:-)

  10. Susan - I'm glad you stopped by Arwen's Pack for a visit. I just read some of your older posts here and I'm hooked! You're a very talented writer. Glad to be here!

    The Lost Dogs is heartwrenching. While wonderful and uplifting, there were 2 specific "scenes" in that book that stretched even my comfort zone. The first one sent me into a rage so powerful...I've never felt such malice towards another person. And the second one reduced me to sobs. Sobs.

    So I totally understand not reading the book itself. You really don't need to - you have a Pittie, aren't scared of them, and by loving him, you are showing the rest of the world why their fears are baseless.

    Love the coming home story- and yes, that handsome boy DOES look like Tommy Lee Jones ;)

  11. Terri, you're a sweetheart.

    ForPetsSake, welcome! Thank you so much for your kind words. I love your deep, heartfelt words about The Lost Dogs, a story that invokes rage and sorrow. You're braver than I am for getting through it.

  12. Thank heavens for that man's brutal honesty and for your kind heart, Susan. It's all quite miraculous. If ever I come over to Pasadena, I hope to have the honour of you introducing me to dear Tommy and your kitties.

  13. Great writing :) very moving. By the way, just realized Andrew was born in the year of the dog (2006) -- perhaps why he has such a love of Tommy? :)

  14. I'm glad the man was honest with you. I don't know how many thousands of animals are killed in LA's shelters every year, but it's a travesty and it doesn't have to be that way.

    You are Tommy's blessing and he is yours.

  15. I worked at the Lacy street shelter for three months. It was my first public art job. I can tell you from experience, they come in the front door but most leave out the back door; in bags headed for rendering plants the city is contracted to.

    Five days; less if the shelter is crowded

    Brutal huh?

    I take animals to that "adjacent city" but if I was to adopt I'd consider going to LA shelters where the need is so much greater. In fact, I have

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  17. btw: I think we're surfing the same page

    check this out....

    the antidote to my previously depressing comment

  18. Shell, I think I can speak for all Dena bloggers when I say if you ever come to Pasadena, all of us and our kitties and canines would have a party in your honor.

    Kathleen, thanks for stopping by. Apparently people born in the Year of the Dog possess the best traits of human nature, so it makes perfect sense that’s Andrew’s sign. Tommy looks forward to seeing him again.

    Petrea, it truly is horrific and doesn’t have to be that way. It’s a senseless approach on so many levels.

    PA, rendering plants? Oh, I just googled it. Ugh. Basically an industry based on these death chambers.

    Well, your comment was depressing but only because the truth is depressing. Thanks for the link about the pet adoption festival. It’s good to see the happy stories coming out of the shelters. And they’re not entirely to blame for the horrific system.

    Thanks, Jean. Tommy and I are both lucky.

  19. Not even five days? That's just about the saddest thing ever. You have to read the book about the Michael Vick dogs. It's sad, but for most of those dogs it's a story of resilience and survival.

  20. Very sad, Margaret. I'm still not brave enough to read The Lost Dogs. Maybe someday.

  21. Wow, pretty powerful story. I am glad you told the truth about what really happens. Often the pit bulls don't even get a chance to get put in a cage where the public can see them to adopt them. So miss understood. We need to spread the word to stop having litters at home. Because perfectly healthy adoptable dogs are being senselessly euthanized every day. Thanks Susan for your love and bravery.

  22. All us dogs need people we can depend on! The problem is good people are in short supply.

  23. dogrescuer, you know better than anyone about the senseless deaths of healthy adoptable dogs. It's a tragedy.

    Cafe, so true - not enough good people to care for all the canines (and, ahem, cats).