DAYL President’s Page
Perfection in Excess
It was a Saturday night, and I had a hot date. I walked up to her apartment door in a suit I had bought three days earlier. I rang the bell, and the woman who would eventually agree to marry me opened the door. She was stunning, even prettier than I remembered, though I had met her only eight days earlier. She told me she was still getting ready, so she turned and walked back to her room, leaving me just inside the door.
That’s when I saw him. She had told me on the phone that she had a dog, but not THIS dog. A giant, mini-horse of a dog. Thick drool hanging from his lips. Big, floppy black ears framing a tan head and face that looked like a cross between a t-rex and a teddy bear. He was handsome– gallant, even– but timid. I’ll never forget him poking his front half (yes, he had halves) around the corner, looking up at me with his big black eyes, and then turning and galloping back into the bedroom after Rachael. I had just met her six year old Great Dane, Beau.
That night, I didn’t just get a future wife, but I got a dog, too. He was the best boy, and he even came with lessons for all of us– that a dog can be in a shelter and still be perfect. That you really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. And that we all could be more compassionate, patient, and gentle with one another.
For a few weeks, he cowered from me and drooled all over himself and the furniture in fits of anxiety during my visits. But Beau would soon transition from being my future wife’s dog to our dog. He became my Beau, too. I brought my lab, Grace, over one night, and it was like the two pooches talked– after that, I was in. He warmed up to me, even though he didn’t like guys, especially tall guys. He huffed like a horse and flopped his big paws in my lap on the couch, even though he didn’t usually let his guard down. And he gave me a whole lot of his love, even though he was devoted to his mom.
Rachael and I had to say goodnight to our sweet prince last month, redefining the word “bittersweet”– his seizures forced us to say goodbye two hours before we got the keys to our first home, our dream house for our future family. We moved the next day, leaving behind years of memories of our big, goofy guy at our last place. While we lost so much with Beau’s passing that day, we now realize that Beau gave us so much more to take with us.
If you met Beau, you know he was utterly unique– huge, imposing, impressive, but also scared, anxious, and wary. He was a living, heaving, drooling Scooby-Doo. Someone was real, real bad to him when he was younger, and he had the scars and pockmarks on his face and hindquarters to prove it. Beau ended up at a big dog shelter in Palmdale, California (outside of LA), when he was about two or two and a half years old in 2010. He lived in an outdoor kennel with a dirt floor. The rescue had dozens of other large dogs, mostly mastiffs and danes. He would get walked and let out periodically, but he couldn’t roam the property like some of the other big, lazy mastiffs. People would come visit him, but no one ever took him home, as his anxiety was apparent, steering adopters to other dogs. Beau was forgotten and left behind for almost two and half years on that dirt lot.
My wife was headed into her last semester of law school in LA when she hopped on Petfinder.com and saw Beau’s picture in December 2012. When she arrived at the rescue, Beau was expecting her. He walked up and executed the notorious Great Dane “loving lean” against her leg. Rachael was sold. The shelter keeper cried, overjoyed that someone would take him. She said she had nearly given up on finding him a home.
While Beau wasn’t free from baggage, he ended up being the find of a lifetime. Despite the fact others failed to discover the treasure that he was, he ended up being perfect, loved, and an indelible part of our family. He’s even in our wedding photos. It wouldn’t have been the same day without him.
Beau is proof that 6.5 million animals entering shelters every year in the US are not getting a fair shake, and 1.5 million of those dogs and cats are meeting a fate– euthanasia– that is a terrible waste. This is a problem more serious than Bob Barker’s calls to neuter your dogs and cats during episodes of the Price is Right– this is an epidemic with real consequences and unimaginable pain. Dogs and cats are confined to cages for their own safety and the public’s, draining our tax dollars until many must be put to sleep, as public shelters don’t have unlimited resources (namely, unlimited tax dollars).
Every dog and cat breed is overbred, either intentionally by well-meaning devotees of a certain breed or designer hybrid, or otherwise in nature’s course. Every city in America copes with stray animals that bear public health consequences (diseases like rabies can be fatal to humans) and public safety concerns (for example, dog attacks that result in the death of homeless Army veterans, among others of our neighbors). With 1.5 million dogs and cats needing euthanasia every year, it’s apparent that we don’t need to breed more dogs and cats. Paying for a dog or cat only contributes to the problem further, no matter how responsible the breeder or pet store. And, whether you know it or not, the fees for purchasing dogs sometimes pay for horrible “puppy mills” where puppies are bred and kept in unsanitary, inhumane conditions.
Dallas Animal Services (“DAS”) runs the fourth-largest shelter in the country, and DAS has taken in more and more animals over the past decade. But thanks to the hard work of countless rescue and foster organizations (and volunteer groups like DAYL’s intrepid Animal Welfare Committee), and reforms from DAS Director Ed Jamison over the past two years, the shelter’s live-release rate (i.e. the number of animals being adopted out or placed with rescues or homes, but not being euthanized) has climbed from 57% (2015), to 82% (2018). In December 2018, that monthly figure climbed above 90% for the first time, meriting “no kill” status for the shelter (as all shelters deal with a small number of animals too sick or temperamentally unsuited for adoption).
Rachael and I are convinced that Beau sat on that dirt lot for two and a half years to convince at least one of you– hopefully more– that a shelter dog is worth it. That they’re not all broken, hopeless, and dangerous– but instead, many represent an incredible opportunity. And today, it’s easier. Pet adoption is different from when we were all kids– you don’t just have to walk in blind, with your fingers crossed, hoping you are bringing home a pet that will work for your family. You can search online and filter for dogs and cats that are comfortable around children or other animals, or by age and size, depending on your family’s needs. Foster and rescue networks do a great job vetting these dogs and cats for future homes and ensuring that their placement will be successful.
You can be a part of the positive trend of rising live-release rates and decreasing euthanizations. Sure, adopting a dog can be some work, but all dogs are a lot of work. A purebred puppy will keep you up many, many more nights, and run up a much bigger cleaning bill, than a housebroken older rescue dog. And helping a senior dog also helps combat higher euthanasia rates for older dogs in shelters. DAS is currently at 107% over capacity, and adoption fees were recently waived to help save more of these animals.
But adopting or fostering a dog isn’t the only way to help. Our Animal Welfare Committee has, for years, contributed to countless charitable animal rescue causes around town, participating in the SPCA’s Annual Strut your Mutt fundraiser, raising funds for Mazie’s Mission and Dallas Pets Alive, or collecting dog and cat food and toy donations for pets for senior citizens through the Senior Source with its annual Cans for K-9’s and Felines event every spring and fall. No matter what your passion with animals, AWC is a great way to get involved and help. Contact our committee co-chairs Shaun Hassett, Rachael Nelson Gearing (the hot date you read about earlier), or Vu Le, our AWC Co-Chairs, to attend their next committee meeting on June 20, 2019 at the Belo.
While we miss our big boy like nothing else, we hope he’s inspired you, as he has inspired us, to continue the worthwhile work to rescue and protect animals. (Rest assured, we will be making another trip to the shelter soon.) DAYL stands ready to give you that chance– join us! Thank you!