Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tonka didn't have to die

There's a message that's someone has put on several of the different Kijiji boards - it's at

It says:

Are you looking for a puppy?

Then please take 5 minutes from your day and read the following…

Tonka was an 9 year old mixed breed dog, beautiful as a pup and taken into a loving home from an animal shelter in 1999. He was loved by an older couple, Elsie and Peter, who were married for 49 years. Elsie and Peter raised 3 children, had three grandchildren, one great grandchild, and a large comfortable home. Tonka adored his home life, was spoiled with treats, visits from the family and grandkids, and slept in a warm, comfortable bed every night.

In 2007, Elsie became ill, and passed away shortly thereafter. Tonka and Peter became even closer, depending on each other for love and companionship for the next few months, they became inseparable.

After 49 years together, Peter soon was unable to carry on without Elsie and passed away in late 2007. The three children, having lost both parents within a year, were devastated. They lived in different cities, had children of their own, and were tasked with selling a home with almost 50 years of memories contained within. Sadly, and through no fault of their own, no one could provide a home for Tonka, and he was surrendered to the local animal shelter.

Tonka had been plucked from a comfortable family life and found himself sleeping on a concrete floor behind a chain link fence in his temporary home. What had he done to deserve this, he had thought? He didn’t know any of these people, he can’t sleep at night because of the barking and noise, and constantly had tears in his eyes. The staff at the shelter are wonderful, loving people who always spent as much time with their animals as possible. Many of the staff worked for free, brought food and supplies from home, paid for office supplies out of their own pockets, came in on days off, and even took animals home if they required extra attention and care. There always seemed to be an endless supply of animals coming through the door, and there was a severe shortage of kennels and cages to provide space for these lost and abandoned pets.

There was usually one staff member who took Tonka out for a short walk in the mornings, spending 10 to 15 minutes a day with him while his kennel was cleaned, and he could feel the sun on his face for a few minutes….

At 7:10 am, the morning shift arrived as usual, the kennel lights flicked on, and another day was about to start. This morning, however, was different. A large man with a friendly face appeared at Tonka’s kennel door, bent down to pick him up, and patted him on the head. He said nothing as he gently carried Tonka to the exam room where two other staff members were waiting. Tonka didn’t see his favourite staff member in the room, and would never see her again….

At 7:37 am on January 17th 2008, only five days after he had arrived at the shelter, Tonka was killed. 18 minutes later, Tonka’s kennel was occupied by another homeless dog who awaits the same fate. On this particular day , the veterinarian who administered the needle would help birth a foal, save the life of a cat who had been poisoned and set the broken leg of a dog that had been hit by a car. He also ended the life of eight dogs and cats at the shelter before his day even started. Twenty years ago, when the vet decided to help animals, little did he know that on average, he would take more lives than he would save.

We can’t blame the vet, he is donating his time and expertise to the shelter every day, the shelter staff genuinely love animals, and offer a little piece of themselves to every helpless creature that comes through their door.

What can you do? If you really want to help, adopt an animal from your local shelter! There are thousands of homeless animals looking for a loving home. And every one of them has a story to tell. Unfortunately, it is too late to help Tonka, but you can be a hero, save a life, adopt an animal…At the very least, take your family for a visit to your local shelter, walk through and see the wonderful and thankless work they do, bring a bag of food or other donations. Offer food bowls, blankets, bleach, used computers, office supplies, anything that you think will help.

Please, DO NOT buy an animal from backyard breeders! In the last 24 hours, there have been 47 individual puppies listed on this site for sale! You will see dogs for sale on this site that are all cute, have adorable names like labradoodles, maltipoos, jack a poos etc etc…

They are all advertised as coming from family homes, lovingly raised with kids, cats etc… and for $400 to $800 ! There is only one reason people sell dogs and that is for a profit. No matter what they tell you, they are unscrupulous breeders who let greed get in the way. These dogs are not registered, are not purebreds, come from over bred mothers and have not been genetically tested. Do the math, 6 puppies at $400 each? If you are looking for a purebred puppy, contact the Canadian Kennel Club for a list of registered, reputable breeders in you area.

Rabies in Ontario. The first reported human case of rabies in Ontario in 20 years. A lady buys an infected puppy at a flea market in Toronto for $150. The puppy broker profits. The puppy becomes ill and where does the puppy owner take the dog? To the Toronto Humane Society (THS), an organization that is funded 100% on donations alone. 186 people in Ontario receiving rabies vaccinations. $1,000 per person for treatment, the “puppy broker” who sold the infected dogs at a flea market has his business “temporarily” suspended? Who is paying for all this? The puppy broker? The purchaser of the puppy? The taxpayer?

Please, share this ad with your friends, co workers, family. Get the word out. If this ad saves the life of one dog, then we have done something miraculous. Somewhere, today, someone will take home a pet… lets work together to make sure a sweet old dog can live out their life in peace and love. We are nothing if we don’t try. I sincerely appreciate your time in reading this ad, please take the time to send it to someone…

My reaction to this may be surprising - but I find this post VERY annoying. My thoughts about this are - that Tonka did NOT have to die.

The person writing this doesn't even seem to think that Tonka's ORIGINAL OWNERS should take any blame for his death. People don't think about the ORIGINAL OWNER'S responsibitlities.

When we bring an animal into our home - it is a birth to death responsibility - and it is not just a birth to death responsibility of just ourselves - it is of the ANIMAL. I have a plan in place if something tragic happens to me. My family knows what it is, my special friend in rescue knows what it is - and all of my animals who have already been scarred by the confines of a concrete and chain link cage - will never see one of those cages again simply because I happened to die on them.

As well - none of my animals will become a burden on the shelter system - and possibly be killed so that space can be made for another animal.

So that posting on Kijiji is very sad - but to me - the blame is mis-placed. That elderly couple must have known that they most possibly were going to die before their dog did - it was shameful that they didn't have something in place so that their canine life companion wasn't taken care of. They totally let that dog down so that he died around strangers. Shame on them.

And the person writing that post is putting 2 things together that don't really belong together - puppy mills and an old dog dying because his old owners died on him. I don't really get that. Don't buy from a puppy mill or pet store so that there's space in shelters so that when old people die there's space at the shelters so that their dogs can be dumped there and they won't be killed to make space for other old people's dogs? Maybe that's what the person is trying to say. Shit. That's a pretty shitty thing to say.

Anyway - I think that posts like this give people reason to not take ownership of their responsibilities - I take very serious responsibility of the sentient beings that I have brought into my life - even if I'm not alive to take care of them. And that old couple should have thought about that too. Tonka was given a very short shrift and the person writing that post should have had the insight to realize that.

It's very interesting - my views on this haven't changed over the years - I was searching for something else on my blog - and I found a post from June 2004 when I was talking about this exact same topic - the post is called "kill shelters" - but I'm talking about exactly the same subject - it's really interesting.


  1. Marjorie9:17 PM

    I, too, have a will with instructions for the care of my pets, should both my husband and myself pass away. Since my husband and I are together most of the time, I worry that we could easily die in an accident together (or even just be incapacitated), and my pets might be left with no one to speak for them.

    But that, alone, is not enough. You have to talk about it. Often. You have to talk to the person who has agreed to take your pets in the event of your death, to ensure he/she remains willing to care for them...and is committed to giving them the kind of life you'd expect. Obviously, this has to be someone you truly trust.

    You have to talk about it with other family members and friends, too. Pets will need immediate care, long before the estate is disolved or the will is read. Everyone close to you needs to know who is going to take those pets right then.

    As morbid as it may sound to the uninitiated, I have something I jokingly call "the death letter." When I go out, I leave a generic version of it in an obvious place in my home. When I'm doing something specific (a trip or boating, etc.) I will print a more detailed version and carry a copy with me...just in case.

    I have to admit, I do this almost exclusively for my pets' welfare. Sure, it's a good idea that will help emergency personnel identify my body or get me the help I need. But I'm more worried about my voiceless pets, especially given that so many people seem to believe so much abuse is perfectly acceptable when it comes to animals.

    Other than personally-identifying information and emergency contacts, the rest of the information in the short document has to do with my pets' care.

    It's similar to a 'flight plan' you file when you fly a private plane, take your horse on a hack, go mountain climbing or hiking, etc. Even dog owners might want to consider it, especially if they head out, far from home.

  2. Your criticism is valid and insightful. We can also blame the executor of the estate (often a child) for doing what was most convenient instead what was best. Your argument that it boils down to "be responsible so we can deal with other irresponsible people" was especially incising.

    I don't think your criticism is especially fair, though. You're arguing against something that was a tangent to the thesis. I don't think the case background was described like it was to absolve humans of blame, but to demonstrate that the dog is blameless.

    For me, your argument calls into question the purpose of shelters. Is every animal that goes through a shelter ultimately someone's shirked responsibility? The author of the original letter tried to pick a case where we could be sympathetic to the circumstances of the abandonment, but that becomes impossible when your arguments are applied. But, the circumstances of the dog's arrival to the shelter are really not relevant to the point. I guess we agree on that, but you hang your criticism off it.

    I imagine the author to be the vet in the story, or someone else at the shelter. From their point of view, the reasons why really don't matter. They try to minimize suffering and maximize opportunity, but over a population. I imagine you can't even let yourself think about the individuals sometimes.

    I think you make some really good points, and made me think, but I wonder if you are also using an irrelevant set-up to make them.