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Welcome to Shelter Life at the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

We began as the Oakland SPCA in 1874. Today, the East Bay SPCA includes two animal shelters and three clinics in our community.

This is our day.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Goodnight, Kobe

One of the first things I learned in my employment here at the EBSPCA was the motto "you can't save them all." As pessimistic as it sounds, its something that we all have to accept to avoid overexerting ourselves emotionally. None of us would last more than a few months if we didn’t accept the fact that there are some things that all the compassion in the world can't accomplish.

Its been a few months since she left us, but sometimes my mind turns to a dog named Kobe. She was a black lab/cattle dog mix, about two years old, who came into our Oakland shelter as a stray. When I first looked at her in her kennel, I wondered if she was sitting at an odd angle, or if she was just unusually flexible, because her back legs looked very small.

I hate to admit it, but I was a little horrified when she got up to greet me, and I saw the reason why she looked so strange... Her back legs were atrophied to about half their proper size, and fused in a crumpled position behind her torso. When she got up, they didn't even touch the ground; she walked entirely on her front feet.

None of our staff knew what had happened to her, or how she managed to survive on two legs. But it seems like someone must have cared for her at one time, because she was quite loving, if a little scared (even with her disability, she tried to escape several times when she first came in.) The first time I formally met her, I kneeled down next to her and held out my hand so as not to scare her. Her response was to scoot right past my hand and lay her head on my knee with a world-weary sigh. I almost cried.

Because she had such a nice personality, the shelter higher-ups decided to have her looked at by a specialist to determine her prognosis. Undoubtedly she would never walk on four legs again, but many dogs with paralyzed or amputated rear legs function quite well when strapped into specially made wheeled carts.

While the results of these evaluations were pending, Kobe was busy loving shelter life. She seemed to know that people felt sorry for her, because she took every opportunity to snuggle in close to someone and get some love. She seemed to relish being the center of attention.

Unfortunately, Kobe's was not the Cinderella story that shelter workers crave. It turned out that her back had been broken, and because of the way her spine had curved, it was likely that she would suffer from painful bowel and urinary tract issues for the rest of her life. She had already become severely incontinent during her stay with us.

We did have to say goodbye to Kobe, but I know I speak for more than one employee and volunteer when I say that I take comfort in the fact that her last weeks were spent being loved and pampered. She may even have received more love and affection in her short stay with us than she had gotten the entire rest of her all-too-short life. "You can't save them all" may hold true for all of us at the EBSPCA, but in terms of compassion, our reach will always exceed our grasp.

I just went to your website to learn about your shelter after receiving a fundraising letter in the mail. I was planning to donate until I read this entry.

I think you could've just put diapers, etc. on Kobe, rather than kill her. She seemed happy & sweet so I don't get it. Can you imagine if we euthanized every human who couldn't walk & was incontinent? Maybe someone would've been willing to adopt her, anyway.

 

Hi Judith:
Thank you for reading and responding to our shelter blog. We were all heartbroken when we learned from consulting with more than one veterinarian that Kobe was suffering and in pain. This is the reason we had to make the very sad decision to euthanize her. (The diaper issue wasn't a concern for us - we would have happily placed her in a home if she were not suffering.)

We are still quite heartbroken, as we were all really attached to Kobe.
Thank you again for taking the time to read about Kobe and for sharing your thoughts.
Best, Eliza, East Bay SPCA

 

Thanks for your response. From the description in the entry, it didn't sound like she was in pain but that a vet theorized she might be.

 

It's possible that Samantha (the original blogger) didn't have a chance to hear about the conversations that members of our staff had with the veterinarians.

We were completely heartbroken... there were many tears because we all loved Kobe. But we were told that Kobe was suffering, which lead us to make this very painful decision. I have no doubt that we would have done all that we could to find her a loving home - and knowing my co-workers and our volunteers as well as I do, I imagine one of us would have taken her into our families - but we just could not let this sweet girl go on suffering.

Thank you again caring about Kobe, as we all did.

 

Thank you for taking care of Kobe and comforting her during her last weeks of life. We know the pain of becoming attached to an animal and then finding no option but death to end its suffering.

I have seen so many abused and tormented animals since I moved to Oakland that my mind reels. When will it ever stop? Too many people here should never have children or animals in their custody, but they do, and there is so little oversight.

We don't blame OPD -- their hands are too full already -- and they do what they can. Thanks to them, a backyard breeding situation in our neighborhood was finally shutdown after the dogs began a fight to the death one afternoon.

We can't save all of the animals who find their way to us either, so we understand your grief. I only wish we had better access to affordable veterinary care and some real teeth in the law for those who abuse and neglect animals in California. All animals deserve more than many of them find in Oakland.

 

Judith, millions of perfectly healthy animals are euthanized at shelters every year - that's the tragedy. Save your anger for (and withhold your donations from) them. When EBSPCA does its best and then makes a tough call for a suffering, inoperable animal, it needs our support, too.

 

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