Our grant contract for 2020 wasn’t renewed. We tried calling the media, we tried fundraisers like getting 10% of sales in restaurants, we tried begging for extensions, but we’re too late. Our grant expires on January 1, 2020 and it’s December 31, 2019, unless we get $10,000 by midnight, we’ll have to close our doors, and we have 237 dogs and 56 cats. We called NPR stations to make announcements, we had news articles written, “Animal shelters closing, loving dogs and cats need adoption parents.” We sold 32 dogs and 8 cats but it wasn’t enough. We called up the local pound and they’ll take 15% of our animals. I don’t have anywhere to put them. I love them, but there’s no where to put them. It’s 9 am so I start breakfasts. We have enough dog food and cat food for today. I open up each cage one at a time and, while petting them, give each one fresh food and fresh water. I pet each one for a few seconds too.
Then, there’s a button I push at my desk which opens each dog or cat door so they can go into their outside cage and go potty. I push the button and most of them go. Then, the majority came back in and curl into balls. Then, after I make my rounds, I take out a styrofoam bowl and a small package of Cheerios. I pour it in the bowl and take milk from the fridge. As I take out the milk, I see them: The euthanasia pens. It’s a big fridge and there are 300 pens in a cotton container. If I don’t come up with the money for rent and supplies by midnight I’ll have to euthanize them all. I know I shouldn’t grow attached to them, but I can’t help it. I love Little Lou, a pug puppy who loves jumping on my shin and licking my hand. I can see the joy in his eyes when he sees me. I thought it was because of the food, but he responds the same way when I come into his cage without food. And there’s Flounder, the dog we lovingly call our mysterious mutt. He digs outside sometimes, but he’s never harmed anyone. There are all these great dogs and cats and they just need a home, or we need this grant or a winning lotto ticket, of something, anything, a miracle of some kind.
I make my rounds and all the dogs and cats are doing well, for now. Sometimes I wish they were sick so I’d feel better about putting them down, but they’re not. They’re healthy, fine, but fucked. Fucked.
At 12 pm I make my rounds for lunch. I give the dogs and cats their vet meds (arthritis pills, flea/tic, heart worm, etc.) and I pet them, but in Lou’s cage I start to cry. 12 hours and I have to start killing innocent creatures. I’d just give them away if I just knew they had a good home. Lou licks the tears from my cheek. I go out of his cage, go back to my desk, and push the button so they can go potty.
When I get back to my desk, I try calling our past donors. I tell them that if they don’t donate now, I’ll have to euthanize them. But they all say they feel bad, but they’re still broke from Christmas shopping. Every last one.
So I try praying, “God, please help me save these animals. Help me find the money to keep them alive after midnight. Help me find money and great homes for these poor animals.”
I call the Humane Society who say they can take 5 dogs and 2 cats. It’s never going to be enough. I’ll never get homes for all of them.
I could let them loose on the street but they can’t fend for themselves and would die anyway.
I make a sign out of scrap paper and permanent marker that says “FREE PETS” and put it in front of the sign for our business. You never know. I even text local friends and family to see if they want any pets but no one replies.
It’s 5 pm so I serve dinner. I spend 5 minutes hugging, kissing, and petting each one. I tell each one I’m sorry and Mommy wishes there was something else I could do and I do but I don’t know what else to do.
It’s 7 pm. 5 hours ‘til euthanasia. I start to pace and twirl my hair around my index finger. God, give me another way. I just wish there was another way. Stupid grant should have been granted. Maybe I could hide them but where? Where? I open the fridge and get my PB&J. I see the bag of needles again. I shiver. I eat my sandwich. With nervousness, like with fun, the time passes rapidly.
I pray for more ideas but none come. I turn my cell phone back on and there are fifteen minutes before midnight. I go to cage 315 and take out an older dog named Ken. He’s 12. I take him by the fridge and hold him by the collar. I open up the fridge and open the cotton bag. 5 minutes until midnight. I take out the hypodermic needle. 4 minutes. Ken looks at me with poor me soggy eyes. 3 minutes. I put the needle down for a second, put my hand in the treat bag, and give him a meat treat. He wags his tail and scarfs down his treat. 2 minutes. I pick up the needle and squirt it a little to make sure it works. It does. 1 minute. I look at my cell phone on the table to see if any friends or family might have said they’d donate, but there are no messages so I start to watch the New Years celebration on my cell phone. I sigh. I find a vein on Ken, insert the needle, and quickly inject the serum. I watch Ken begin to die which takes 10 seconds as Ken screams in pain. I look at my cell phone and watch the ball drop. Happy New Year. I wipe my cheeks again. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.