An open letter to Jean (last name withheld), the person who dumped Cocoa at the pound

I don’t normally post other people’s blogs on here, but being in a high-kill shelter, this hit home, and it hit hard.

A day in the life of lunchy...

Hello.  You don’t know me, and for your sake, you’d best hope and pray that you never have the misfortune to meet me.

How do I know your name?  Because the people at animal control gave me Cocoa’s intake sheet.  You know, the one you filled out.  The one that said Cocoa was 12 years old and you’d had her all those years.  The one that said you were moving to a pet-free apartment and couldn’t take your faithful companion of 12 years.  You know, the one that you said was a “sweet old girl- a wonderful companion.”   The one that said you had limited funds.

Here’s the thing, Jean.  Oh, I didn’t ask if I could call you Jean but I’m going to.  Or I could call you a number of other names, none of which you’d like very much.   When I saw Cocoa’s picture on the…

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4 responses to “An open letter to Jean (last name withheld), the person who dumped Cocoa at the pound

  1. Here’s my “open letter” to the woman who wrote this blog post:

    This was one of the saddest blog posts I’ve ever read. Sad for the dog, whose 12 years came to an end. But mostly sad for you and for the state of “animal rescue.”

    Since 2004 I’ve split my career between animal welfare and social work. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that “at risk” animals (like Cocoa) are often the pets of “at risk” people: people who are struggling themselves, people who are living at or below the poverty line, people who can’t access decent health care. They’re the people who don’t have safety nets, the people who have been forgotten. The people who are trying their best in this fucked up world and want to cling to anything and everything that means something to them.

    And you know what? Often times, those people have one dependable relationship in their lives……their pet.

    I’ve worked in an animal shelter, one that euthanized dogs that didn’t find homes in time. We also euthanized dogs whose owners had abused or neglected them beyond anything we could do. My “heart dog,” Sarge, was 14.5 years old when he came home; he lived his first 14 years with a man who exploited him and was suspected of animal fighting, not to mention the obvious neglect of his daily life. In fact I I’ve adopted 7 dogs, several of whom were 10+ years old when I brought them home. Oh, the vet bills! The constant piss! The inexplicable barking! The walks where we carry them home b/c they won’t walk any farther! The meds! Fuck….the meds! [We’re selling our car to pay for our 11-year-old dog’s meds! And that’s after we sold the OTHER car to pay off her OTHER vet bills.]

    I’ve also worked for a veterinary school that specializes in shelter medicine. It’s no secret that homeless dogs exist, and a lot of them are old, sick, or otherwise at risk for entering a shelter and, maybe, dying there.

    It sucks. God damn, it sucks! So much death and suffering.

    One time I was working with an open-admission shelter and my job was to document the shelter euthanasia process. Watching 40+ animals in a row die on a table, be placed in trash bags, and then stacked in a freezer makes even the coldest hearts question humanity. I sure did.

    Did I mention I’ve also been a social worker?

    Mostly geriatric clients. Some were victims of physical or emotional abuse, some were victims of financial exploitation, and others just got lost in the system. At one of my jobs, my agency served as legal guardian for these individuals, who had been victimized by family members or simply had no one else who cared. One woman had a “friend” steal her identity, then was dumped — and I do mean “dumped” — in a nursing home so the “friend” could drain her bank accounts, take over her house, and sell everything this woman ever owned. (Except for the woman’s dog……that’s another story, which falls under “senior/sick dogs I’ve taken in.”)

    Most of my social work clients, however, had unremarkable cases. Most of them were clients because they needed more resources than they had.

    Isn’t it amazing how quickly money runs out when life happens?

    You know, when you fall in the shower and break your hip, and after spending a week in the hospital you get discharged to a rehab/nursing home, but you only have Medicaid so you end up in the really shitty one across town where your friends and family (if you have them) can’t easily visit? Really, doesn’t it totally suck when you FINALLY get discharged, but you can’t walk on your own anymore? And you have to see the physical therapist twice a week but you can’t drive (not that you had a working automobile) so you rely on subsidized senior transportation which takes FOREVER to show up, and next thing you know your entire day is spent waiting at the PT’s office to be transported home? And your in pain. A lot of pain. And you’re alone.

    Oh, and you have a dog. An old dog. And old dog who needs meds, but you can’t afford your own meds because in you’re in that fucking donut hole of coverage.

    You live in Florida, right? I just moved from Florida. You know what’s funny about Florida? People think it’s all about Disneyworld or West Palm Beach, you know? It’s like they assume we all live glitzy lives full of sandals and Lilly Pulitzer dresses. And what’s with the golf? No, I don’t play golf; I don’t even like golf!

    But then there’s this other Florida. It’s the one that has some of the highest poverty rates in the country. The one that has severe health disparities between the “haves” and the “have nots.” The Florida that’s paved by dirt roads, once you get out of the gated communities in the ‘burbs. The Florida I worked in one summer on a door-to-door political campaign collecting signatures and passing out flyers – the summer I realized not every adult could read.

    I digress.

    So Jean…..what do we know about Jean? Well, not much, like you said.

    Jean could be one of those “extreme” cases I described, though chances are she’s somewhere in the middle. Chances are, Jean was neither toodling around town in her Porsche nor scraping food out of the trash. Chances are, Jean had this dog whom she cared for for 12 years, and after 12 years it became time to say goodbye.

    Chances are, Jean was neither a rich socialite nor a potential social work client of mine, but someone in between. Chances are, Jean was someone just like me, someone who is doing her fucking best to make things work but sometimes dogs are sick and they’re 12 years old and it’s time to make a tough decision, based on the resources and supports you have available.

    Of course, Jean might have been a total asshole. I know what you’re thinking. “How could ANY pet owner abandon her dog THERE?”

    Sure, it’s possible that Jean decided that after 12 years with her companion, “Hey, screw this! Screw everything I’ve done for this dog for the past decade or so. You know what? I’m feeling frisky today, so I’m gonna “dump” this fucking dog!” And maybe she even went shopping for a new puppy after that, who knows.

    Chances are, Jean — who was probably like most Americans, living on tight budgets, though technically not in the red zone – called around to private veterinarians to ask how much euthanasia services cost. Chances are, Jean learned that euthanasia can cost several hundred dollars, not counting cremation or burial.

    Chances are, Jean then called the Humane Society and was told, “Sorry, we’re full.” Chances are, if Jean contacted a rescue group, they weren’t accepting 12-year-old-dogs with possible medical issues.

    But for 12 years, Jean was “dog person.” She was one of us. And none of us knows what options were available at the end.

    It’s interesting. “Animal people” talk about how we understand each other, like it’s some unspoken bond, because we all love our pets. But the moment someone violates our own personal standards and capacity for care, the judgment begins. We become bullies. We diagnose every “asshole” who does something we don’t agree with and post comments about what we would have done in that situation…..rarely, if ever, knowing what that situation actually is.

    That’s not compassion. That’s not what being an “animal person” is about.

    Compassion is lending a hand to our fellow pet owners when they need us most. Compassion is doing everything we can to share resources with other pet owners who find themselves in situations we aren’t facing. Compassion is helping to keep pets with the only families they’ve known. And compassion can be supporting a fellow pet owner’s decision to say goodbye.”

    I’m getting really angry writing this, and I’m sure I’ve pissed off most of you. But this is not about my feelings, and it’s not about yours.

    It’s about everyone else. Because we – as humane and compassionate people – need to do more to support our fellow pet owners and the companions they love. It’s about less public shaming and more solution-seeking. It’s about less judgment and more resource-sharing. In it’s simplest form, it’s about supporting the human-animal bond, on both ends of the leash.

    No pet was ever brought back to life because a blogger blasted the owner. But many, many pets have stayed in their homes because a compassionate human being lent a helping hand.

    And chances are, you and I will need an ounce of support and compassion one day, too.

    – Kim Wolf, New York City, Founder of “Beyond Breed” (

    PS: If you’re still with me (I hope you are!), here’s more food for thought:

    • The Revolving Door: A Poverty Problem, Not a Pet Problem:

    • “Those People” and the dogs surrendered to animal shelters:

    • Lack of resources for NYC pet owners:

    • Challenges facing senior citizens with pets (a fast-growing demographic!):

    • “All They Need is Love”:

  2. Thank you for posting. A happy ending to a shitty situation.

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