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July 13, 2013


This is Sarge. See the sparkle in his eye and the big smile? He looks like a happy, friendly, goofball. Probably someone’s well loved pet. Right?

Think again. “Sarge” is the name that a network of rescue volunteers gave him, because he did not have a name. He is not someone’s well loved pet. His history is completely unknown, but he had the bad luck of landing in the Orange Cove Animal Shelter.

The term “shelter” should be eradicated. “Shelter” connotes a place to go for refuge and respite. This is not the reality for most shelters in the country. Orange Cove does not provide shelter. They are in the middle of nowhere, with only 6 ‘kennels’ for the dogs to stay. There is no foot traffic, so the likelihood of an adoption is slim to none. With only 6 kennels, they fill up frequently, and have to put dogs down to make room. The ‘kennels’ are concrete rooms, without any ventilation, and without a single window. The temperatures in Orange Cove reach up to 110 degrees during the summer months. Inside those kennels are ovens.

This picture of Sarge was taken by a volunteer that takes him out when she can, for long walks in the fresh air. Sarge is wonderful with all dogs he meets, and all people too, including children. He has a happy grin, and a waggy tail. He loves human companionship; he leans into you for a hug whenever he can. How did such a beautiful, loving dog end up at Orange Cove? If only he could speak. We will never know.

Sarge did not have a name, or a kennel ID number. No paperwork. No one that worked at the shelter could tell us when he was brought in, how he was found, or anything else about him. He received no medical care, and probably no affection from the small staff that works there. The last time the volunteer dropped him off in his kennel, Sarge jumped up on her and hugged her with all four legs, literally begging her not leave. Sadly, there was no other option, and she had to put him back.

The last few weeks, the rescue community has been scrambling to save Sarge. His picture was all over Facebook on the various rescue pages, and that face motivated countless rescuers to forward and share and network. I saw Sarge on Facebook myself, and his story haunted me. Even though PPR is focused on pregnant dogs and puppies under 3 months old, I could not forget that face. I decided to get involved and e-mailed another rescue. They asked some questions and I put them in touch with the woman that was walking Sarge. It took a couple of days, but the rescue found a foster in San Jose. We then started to coordinate transport. The shelter was alerted to hold Sarge so that we could get him out, and transport to the bay area was all set.

The rescue community was elated. Sarge was saved!

The story does not end there. When it was time to pick up Sarge, he was not at the shelter. The volunteer had the staff member open up Sarge’s kennel, but there was a different dog inside. When asked about the beautiful white and red dog, the staff person said he had never seen or heard of him. There was no record to put Sarge on hold, and no one knew where he could be. There was no paperwork, no paper trail, nothing. Right now we are saying he ‘went missing’, but there is no possibility of him escaping. We have to assume he either died of heat stroke, or was euthanized. Although Sarge was technically saved, he was saved too late. He never got to know the people that loved him so much, people he had never met, people that worked hours to try to help him. He died in that place, alone.

Every day people tell me I have the best job ever, playing with puppies, and posting cute pictures on Facebook. This is not my job. I am a volunteer. And this volunteer job is hard. I see the evil that humankind is capable of every day. Sometimes there is no violence, but neglect and apathy can be just as destructive. This is what rescue is really like. It’s rewarding in many ways. But it’s hard, frustrating, and heart breaking most of the time.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ralph permalink
    July 13, 2013 2:10 PM

    That is so sad. But we are grateful for the dogs that PPR does save. Sarge has markings so much like some of the dogs we have fostered…

  2. July 26, 2015 6:52 PM

    so sorry i can totally understand the heartbreak and pain you see so many times. It’s easier for us to not have to watch the stuff that we don’t want to . Keep up the great work it takes a special heart to do this xx

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