***Trigger warning**** Not all shelter dogs are saved. Malone was one of the first dogs I knew well at my local shelter. I spent many days with him and I think that I might have known him better than anybody. He was a good boy, and he didn’t deserve to die.
However, his death wasn’t the fault of the shelter and it wasn’t my fault either, as I often remind myself. Malone was, in many ways, my heart dog of rescue dogs. Where so many others saw an insane dog bouncing off the bars, I saw a frustrated dog longing for engagement. He seemed to get me, and I felt like I got him.
When rescue gets hard, I remind myself that Malone deserved better. I won’t stop working for homeless dogs until dogs like Malone stop dying in shelters.
This is Malone’s story.
I expected to update this page differently. I expected to post that Malone had found his new home with a family with plenty of acres to run and dog friends to play with. He was going to meet a potential adopter for the second time today. She was worried that he was too energetic, but she understood that he was a young dog with pent up energy from being at the shelter too long. She was willing to play with him. She had neighbors to help. She had another energetic young dog to play with him.
If she didn’t adopt him, a young woman in Colorado wanted him so much that she was messaging the Dalmatian rescue who had posted him every few days, checking on him. We just needed to figure out how to get him up there.
I’m so sorry. I should have done more. I should have found a way to save you. I knew that outbreaks of disease can happen at municipal animal shelters. I knew that you were one of the longest term residents and that your behavior was suffering in the kennel. I should have found a way to take you home. I should have convinced someone to take a chance on you.
You loved Depot Park. You liked to lay down by the doggie water fountain and drink the water as it came out. The traffic at the bus station as we walked Downtown made you nervous, so you pressed against my leg and looked up at me to make sure everything was ok.
You knew where your crate was at my house, with your favorite toys. You loved your Kong toy, but didn’t really care about the treats coming out of it. You let my disabled King Charles slurp up the treats while you played, careful not to step on his paralyzed hind legs.
You were a good dog. You loved your ball and your rope toy. You liked to push your head into my chest and lick my face while we were in the car, and would close your eyes with contentment while I pet you. You loved children. You loved everyone.
You were so beautiful. You were, in many ways, a typical Dalmatian: energetic, eager, with a strong work drive. Lots of people met you in the over six months that you waited, bored out of your mind, at the shelter, but no one took you home. No one even tried to see how you were outside of the shelter environment, despite the availability of fostering.
Lots of people said on outings that surely, someone would adopt you soon, you were so gorgeous. But no one did, not soon enough.
I’m sure you wagged your tail the whole way. I bet you hoped you were going for a walk. The director told me that she held you and told you that I loved you while you died. I did love you. I hope you heard my name, and thought, in that last moment, that I was coming to take you out.
I wish I could have held you. I wish I could have played one last game of fetch. I wonder if you know we failed you.
It was us, people, who you loved so much, who bred you without thinking about it, threw you out, and didn’t take you home. It was all of us, good boy, and I’m so, so sorry. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you in time.
You’re a good boy, and I’ll miss you. -Coral
We were trying to find him a home. I was trying. I posted him on local social media sites over and over again. I took him on outings and everyone showered him with love and said how beautiful he was, and how someone was sure to adopt him. The local coffee shop shared the sweet pictures and videos of him hanging out on their patio and meeting new people.
I contacted Dalmation rescues across the nation and a wonderful rescue in Colorado had posted him on their sites, and he was getting a lot of attention. Two people had come forward wanting to adopt him, one here, and one in Colorado. We were working on transport to get him there.
I really thought, today, he would meet his forever family. If not today, I was sure that we would get him to Colorado, and there he would finally find his family.
But that didn’t happen. The overcrowded shelter broke out with Distemper. A quarantine was called, the shelter shut down. The shelter director called me in tears to tell me that Malone would be euthanized. It doesn’t matter if he has it or not. He’s been there too long. They need to make room, and they can’t move any dogs out of the shelter because of the risk of contagion. Instead of meeting his family, he died.
I’m not writing this just to express my grief and frustration, nor to make anyone sad. My goal is to shed a light on a dog, one dog, of the dozens that are dying in Alachua County, of the thousands who will die in shelters across the south this summer.
I don’t blame the shelter. I admire the director, the vets, the kennel techs, who make these hard calls. I feel for them now. I hurt. They hurt worse.
Alachua County Animal Services has more resources than most. There are lots of local rescues, Maddie’s Fund, the shelter medicine program at UF. Typically, kill rates are lower here than most other shelters. But like all intake shelters, they are vulnerable to contagious disease, especially when they’re overcrowded, and dogs simply aren’t going out at the rate at which they are coming in.
The discarded dogs, the dogs not meant for anything, not cared for by anybody, they deserve more than this. They are our best friends. They trust us. They’d do anything for us. How can we let this happen to them?
Who else should have died so that Malone could live? A dog who’s had less time to find a home? Malone had been there the longest and was developing problem behavior in the confinement. I worked with him because he was soonest to die, if someone had to die.
We can’t save Malone or the other dogs that will die in this outbreak, but we can save others. Please help. Adopt. Adopt any of them. Foster. Foster any of them. Spay, Neuter, and Vaccinate. Please remember Malone. He didn’t deserve to die.
The dog I knew and loved
These two little boys met Malone on an outing. After interacting with him for a bit while I took pictures, one of the boys said, “What kind of dog is he?” Without hesitation the other boy said, “A tornado dog”.
The boy wasn’t wrong! This beautiful dog is full of energy and excited to meet everything that life has to throw at him. When he comes out of the kennel, he is very much like a tornado, spinning in circles and biting the leash.
Malone’s active mind and body suffer in a kennel. Negative behaviors like biting the leash and general hyperactivity vanish the moment he gets out of the shelter. He’s still an energetic boy, but he is responsive and people oriented.
He walks well on the leash, circling me and walking close when he’s nervous and rarely pulling at all. He almost never bites at the leash on outings or on walks. When he does, it’s a plea for play.
Malone LOVES to play. He’d do anything for a game of fetch or tug. He loves tennis balls, Kong toys, and heavy duty chew toys like Goughnuts. While he’d prefer it if you played with him all the time, Malone understands that this is not practical. He will gladly entertain himself with his toys while you go about your business at home.
Malone is great with other dogs. For the most part, he doesn’t care much about them, which makes him a great companion for smaller or older dogs who don’t want to be pestered for play.
Once he’s tired out, Malone loves to cuddle. He has this way of pushing himself into me like he’s giving all his trust to me, like he’s grateful for my friendship.
Malone is a beautiful dog who’s kennel presence is keeping him from being adopted. If you want a responsive, people-oriented, trainable dog who wants to go anywhere with you, this is your guy.