Five minutes to heartbreak

Five minutes to heartbreak
Cindy on the left as her family walked into animal control. Cindy on the right after being left behind.

This is five minutes to heartbreak.

If you’re considering dumping a pet at animal control, please look at this picture. Take a good, long look and let it burn into your mind. This is five minutes to heartbreak…from happy loving dog to devastation.

On the left is Cindy the Doberman when she entered animal control recently. She started the day with the family she thought adored her. During that day, she thought she was going on a fun family outing. As she was wagging her tail and smiling her doggy smile, she ended up being left behind to an uncertain fate at animal control.

On the right is Cindy, shaking horribly, whimpering and afraid…a total psychological mess. This is five minutes to heartbreak. This is a spirit broken and a heart destroyed in the five minutes it took to leave her behind.  (See updated story.)

Borrowed time

When you leave your dog or cat behind at an open access shelter, the clock starts to tick immediately. Dogs and cats that come in as strays often have stray holds of 3 to 5 days. Those left behind have no hold time at most places. When they run out of space, someone doesn’t make it out alive. It’s the pet roulette played out daily at many animal controls.

A frightened dog left behind at animal control.

A frightened dog left behind at animal control - just five minutes to heartbreak.

So, after getting their heart broken, after unconditionally loving a family, dogs and cats left behind need to catch on to a rescue to live. They need to live to catch onto a rescue. They need to find rescue if they are ever, ever going to get a chance at another family. It’s not a good position for any animal to be in.

Unfortunately, many people do not realize that animal controls were not created to be a rehoming service. They are there to protect public safety, reunite strays with their family and to investigate animal cruelty cases. When they become a dumping ground for abandoned pets, the scramble begins to find rescue. It’s so much harder to do when a dog or cat has just lost everything they know.

The heartbreak

A depressed cat waits for rescue.

A depressed cat waits for rescue.

Every animal reacts differently to animal control. Very few are their sweet, charming self once they are left behind. Very few can turn on the adorable charm they need to find rescue. They are heartbroken, scared and shivering. Others act out in anger because they are scared, frightened and feel cornered. Some just freeze.

The five minutes become five hours and then five days. Some animals sink in deeper and deeper. As I write this piece, I have a loving, feisty calico on my lap as an editorial assistant. Once upon a time, her original family dumped her and her brother at an animal control. A no kill shelter pulled them both on the day they were to be euthanized.

Ellie's story

Our Ellie has come out of her shell and is now very much at home.

Our Ellie has come out of her shell and is now very much at home.

When I first met her, she was so much worse than this…curled up in a stress ball and shivering…sabotaging her chance at rescue. Luckily, her brother was one of those spunky cats that got people’s attention. Luckily, he swatted my husband on the head and we fell in love. Luckily, I’m a serial bonded pair adopter who would never leave a broken soul behind.

We gave her all the time she needed to get over her broken heart. We worked every day on building trust. She’s blossomed into this wonderful, chatty, loving soul. She is the bossiest, most entertaining and loving cat I’ve ever had. And, it took her several years to get there. She’s been with us 6 ½ years and still gets separation anxiety when we go out of town for more than a few days.

Pet promises

A brokenhearted dog waits for rescue.

A brokenhearted dog waits for rescue.

So, if you’re thinking of getting a pet. Think what you’ll be doing with the pet one-, five-, ten- or fifteen years down the line. When you get married, move or have a child, where will that animal fit into your life. What will you do when your life changes? Look at these pictures and see the effects of what happens when you break your promise to your dog or cat…that promise of a loving, forever home.

Stuff does happen – people lose their jobs and homes in a bad economy, owners get sick or die, something tragic happens to a family. But that isn’t the story behind most pets left behind in shelter…it’s not even close. Taking in a pet is taking on the responsibility of a life and a lifetime commitment. It is a big deal.

Cindy has been rescued by the Illinois Doberman Rescue. Here's her after picture as she heads to the vet.

Cindy has been rescued by the Illinois Doberman Rescue. This photo was taken on her way to her foster home after leaving animal control.

If you’re not up to the task, then take the time to find a good home for your pet. Reach out to friends, family and other connections to find a new home or find a rescue that will work with you. Don’t leave them behind in your apartment when you move or dump them on the street or in animal control. Your dog or cat isn't disposable like furniture or your old rug.

The good news is that Cindy the dog had an advocate in the shelter who quickly networked her to a rescue…she is out…she is safe and in the care of the Illinois Doberman Rescue. The same can’t be said for the others left behind where the five minutes to heartbreak is the end of the line.

Read this article on why Rehoming through Craigslist isn't the best move. Update - Cindy was adopted in late August. Read the updated story here.

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    Raining Cats and Dogs

    I am a crazy cat lady and puppy mill warrior that blogs to advocate and educate about pet issues. In American animal controls, millions of pets are abandoned each year and an estimated 4 million die just because there are not enough homes. It truly seems like it’s Raining Cats and Dogs.

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