|This freezing pit bull had to be euthanized|
Take, for instance, Porteous recalling the most emotional situation she’s encountered during her regular visits trying to save the lives of Pontiac dogs.
“Last winter, we found one address with two dogs and we had continuously reported this address to the city,” Porteous said.
After last winter’s first major blizzard, the team of volunteers set out to visit homes in the city and make sure dogs were doing OK. They went to that house and found the heavy snow had snapped one of the dog houses in half.
A pit bull was inside that dog house, trying to take shelter. Once it broke, snow fell inside and around him. At some point, his back became frozen to the ground.
“He was on his back; still breathing, still moving,” Porteous said. “His eyes looking at us ... I think that hit everybody the hardest.”
Unfortunately, the dog couldn’t be saved. Volunteers were able to get the owner to sign over the dog to them, but in the end, he had to be euthanized.
|This dog was rescued and adopted to a new home|
Because the Animal Care Network volunteers don’t have any legal authority to seize animals or charge owners with cruelty, all they can do is try to reason with owners and sometimes, plead with them as well. Getting animals signed over is a “huge challenge,” Porteous said.
“A lot of these people claim these are their babies and they love them,” she said.
How those loving emotions can coincide with the way the owners treat their dogs is a mystery to Porteous.
“These people, they come and go, they see their dogs,” she said. “We don’t understand it. We’ll never understand it. We don’t even try to understand it anymore.”
After so many years of walking Pontiac neighborhoods, passing out dog food, providing dog houses and even helping arrange things like vaccinations free of charge to residents, Porteous said she often feels hardened to what she witnesses.
In fact, she said that at times, it’s a relief to see a malnourished, neglected or abused dog has died.
“The dogs we see in the backyards of these homes, they have a horrible life. These dogs just live on a chain, they don’t get fed or watered. They’re just languishing there,” Porteous said. “It’s not that we want them to die like that, but they’re not suffering anymore.”
More than anything else, though, Porteous said it makes her angry to find dogs frozen to death or so frost-bitten and hypothermic they need to be euthanized.
|Pam Porteous, manager of the Animal Care Network|
“If you couldn’t keep these dogs, couldn’t feed them, call somebody. Call us — we pick them up for free.”
All 15 of the frozen dogs discovered by the group this year have been pit bulls, a breed notoriously unprepared to weather cold temperatures.
Pit bulls have extremely short hair, no undercoat and in most cases, may be practically hairless on their stomachs and underside.
As the owner of a pit bull myself, I have a hard time imagining my dog trying to live outside. I told one my coworkers yesterday that, upon realizing he wasn’t going to be let back inside, my dog would probably die of heartbreak and a panic attack even before hypothermia sets in.
I can always tell how cold out it is by how quickly my dog manages to take care of his business and what his bark sounds like letting us know he wants back in.
The past couple of weeks, in these frigid temperatures, he’s hardly been outside for more than a minute at a time and barks anxiously, sounding quite panicked, until we let him back in.
It’s really, really hard for me to think about the poor dogs who don’t even bark about being outside because they’ve never known anything else. I just want to round them all up and plop them in front of my wood stove, wrap them in blankets and try to show them that life can be better than they know, and so can humans.