I stretched and groaned as I surveyed the pile of completed paperwork stacked on the two chairs next to my desk. It had taken at least an hour to pull together what was needed for the weekly trip to the spay and neuter clinic: kennel cards, medical records, microchips. Do all the animals have vaccinations? Are they recorded in the computer? Do all the 15-digit microchip numbers match with the correct animals? It was the kind of detail work that I least favored, but had to do, and as I did it, I also had to swallow my frustration. Year after year, I presented reports to the department showing that having a vet on premises one or two days a week was inadequate, and year after year my request for more hours was denied based on “lack of evidence.” When the pool of animals being sent home unaltered reached the hundreds and adopters started calling to complain about the three-month wait for a spay/neuter appointment, I was then told that I could no longer release animals from the shelter until the surgery was done. With only 20 dog kennels and one small cat room, conditions got even more overcrowded than they were before, and now adopters were complaining about having to wait a week or more to pick up their adopted pet, which by now was sick with kennel cough or upper respiratory infection thanks to the longer stay in the shelter. When I put out a call for help to our nonprofit partners, they responded by offering to do as many surgeries as they could for us on one day a week at cost. This was a godsend, but it was also a lot of work to prepare the paperwork and transport the animals to and from the clinic which was 45 minutes away from our shelter.
Turning away from the pile and back to my computer, I opened the internet browser and went to Craigslist. I tried to check the Lost and Found and Pets sections at least a few times a week, as people would often post there but not come to our shelter. We had made several reunions of pet and owner thanks to these listings, and I was always hoping for more. I scrolled down, down, down, not seeing anything familiar in the text or photos. I clicked onto the second page of listings and noticed that one described a missing dog in our jurisdiction. I clicked on the link and suddenly the room spun.
“I am missing my dog King. I just returned from a trip out of the country and found out that he escaped from my Father-in-Law's property. He is a male, five years old. I miss him very much and will do anything to find out where he is. He's my best friend.”
I looked into the eyes of the dog in the attached photo, a big black German Shepherd with a great smiling mouth and big pointy ears, and felt a wave of nausea come over me. I swallowed and pushed my chair back from the computer screen. I knew exactly where King was.