On Saturday I went to visit with the 22 dogs seized in a dog fighting bust in Pierce County. 22 souls without a name, but each with a unique personality and spirit that makes you want to fight for them.
There’s the teeny brown puppy. The smiling little tan girl. The giant block-headed fawn boy who just wants a good ear rub. The white spotted girl who can’t contain her excitement or get enough attention. The tan girl who shivers in the corner and won’t make eye contact. The little brown boy that shivers with both fear and excitement, not quite sure what to make of this new kindness from humans. The black boy covered in mange with the ripped up ear. The little brown one who actually smiles when you approach her kennel. These are just a few who captured my heart on Saturday.
These 22 souls are being held until their owner can be brought to trial, and because they are considered evidence, they are only permitted basic health care, and cannot be altered in any way that would tamper with their status as “evidence.” This means none of the dogs can be spayed or neutered. Several females are in heat, which we actually celebrate, since at least we know they’re not pregnant. Some are suspected to be pregnant, such as the sweet fawn girl with the swollen belly, despite the fact that she is so emaciated that you can see every vertebrae in her spine. One little black dog has a broken leg that never healed correctly and she can’t put any weight on it. Since her condition is considered evidence, we can’t fix it to make her more comfortable. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to look at their scarred and broken bodies, knowing they’ve never known the comfort of a warm bed or a loving family.
Most of the dogs seem to be in good spirits, and even though we can’t interact with them beyond ear rubs and butt scratches through the kennels, many are just soaking up the new found love and attention they never received in their previous life. A few of the dogs are too terrified to do anything more than tremble in the corner of their kennels. Some of the volunteers have been bringing books with them and simply hanging out next to these kennels, tossing the occasional treat in, to let the dogs know they mean no harm. Sadly, the shyest ones show little promise for adoption – they are just too badly broken. Our only hope is that we can show them a little kindness toward the end of their lives. We can’t even compassionately release them from the misery of this life due to their status as evidence. Perhaps even more heartbreaking than the hopeless cases are the happy and otherwise adoptable dogs, who could eventually succumb to the stresses of living in a kennel for months on end. These dogs’ lives depend on their ability to stay sane while awaiting trial. Once the trial is over, we can then more thoroughly assess the dogs’ level of adoptability, and hopefully get them into foster care, where they can learn the socialization they so sorely missed out on. Even then, they will be very special cases that will need to go to only the most experienced dog owners. Some may need to be only dogs, due to their fighting background; others may be able to find placement with the right canine companions. We just don’t know, and we won’t know until we can evaluate them. In the meantime, they need all the love and affection they can get while imprisoned, and I will surely be spending as much time as I can visiting them, no matter how much it hurts to do so.