|This is making me sick.
||[March 09, 2006 @ 10:00pm]
This day is almost more than I can handle. How do you deal with something like this? Just so you're not confused when reading these things, Chandra is the Area Coordinator of the TN half of the TN/NC puppy raisers. She raised Annie, a 14 month old Australian Shepherd and sister to Keigan (the puppy I'm raising), for Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. (SEGDI) She found out just last week that the school would be taking Annie back at Walk-a-thon. With only those few days as notice, Chandra took Annie back to the school on Sat. March 4, 2006. This is an email Chandra sent earlier today:
Subject: Terrible news
I feel that you all deserve to know that Rick Holden (firstname.lastname@example.org) training director and Dennis Norris (email@example.com) Executive Director of SEGDI have determined that Annie needs to be euthanized because of her herding issues - this is scheduled for today. Because of one nip to a child's side at 6 months of age and her continued infrequent desire to want to bark and chase when the kids get really riled up, they feel that she is aggressive and a danger to children in the community and that if she bit and disfigured a child the school would be held liable and have to close as a result of the lawsuit.
I have offered to sign any release necessary to absolve them of liability and adopt her back. I have explained that all my comments on eval's detailing her herding behavior were to explain why she was not suitable to guide dog work but not that she was aggressive or a danger to children at all and in a home as a pet she is perfectly safe and acceptable.
My pleas have been to no avail. While I do not feel these are evil, malicious or uncaring people and I do understand that they are doing what they feel is in the best interest of the school and the blind community I cannot agree and feel that it is not based on the reality of Annie's true temperament. They do not know Annie and have not seen her daily activity in a house full of kids like I have. I was not asked for any verbal comments on her temperament prior to this decision.
Some of you already know and have sent emails along with my family and friends. I sincerely thank you for your efforts.
I wanted to let you all know - I have been praying and working toward a different outcome but as far as I know at this time they remain determined in their position to kill Annie today.
Please feel free, if you are so inclined, to send email to the two men mentioned above with how you feel about this travesty. My mother, who is also raising a pup for SEGDI, wrote the following:
Subject: Annie - Merle Australian Female
Mr. Holden, I am a puppy raiser for SEGDI and have questions and concerns about the euthanization of Annie. First of all, I have handled Annie several times and seen the herding issue that she infrequently exhibits. What I do not understand is, since Chandra offered to sign papers absolving SEGDI of liability, why the school would not agree to these terms? This can legally be done and it is binding for both parties.
Does the school also now realize that many of the raisers in our group will definitely not feel at all comfortable in being completely honest on any of our forms nor will they think it prudent to tell the school of any concerns that they have about the puppy they are raising. We are supposed to give these puppies love, care, growth opportunities and socialization. It tears at our hearts to turn the dogs back in to the school. Think of being with a child for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for two years, giving them love, attention, nurturing and socialization, and then turning this child over to others to evaluate and decide on their future knowing that you might be given the opportunity to see them once again in six or so months and then maybe never again. (I have yet to see the first dog I raised since he was placed in a two-week training class and I didn't even know he was placed until the day before they left the school.) Almost all of us will be more than happy to keep these puppies if the school decides to take them out of the program. We know these dogs better than anyone else possibly could when they are returned to the school, so to not talk to Chandra and discuss this possibility with her prior to making this decision is detrimental to the puppy raiser program. After all, we are volunteers and may choose to volunteer in other areas where we feel more valued.
I am heartbroken over the death of a good dog. One that was definitely wanted and could easily have fit into one of your area coordinators' homes. I am now fearful of my daughter returning the Aussie she is raising from this litter. He definitely doesn't herd people but will he face harder scrutiny than most dogs due to the litter he came from? Does he even have a chance of succeeding?
Although Mom said most everything I wanted to say, I wanted to help flood their inboxes with our words about this injustice, so I sent the following:
Subject: Annie ABMF from litter GG4
My name is ----- ------------, and I am a puppy raiser for Southeastern in the TN/NC group. I am shocked and extremely distressed by the news of Annie's impending euthanization.
You know what, I was going to try and be professional in writing this, but how can I be 'all business' when I'm talking about killing such a wonderful dog? I'm crushed that the school has made such a devastating decision without even speaking with the woman who raised Annie. I took care of her for two weeks on a puppy swap and had numerous conversations with Chandra - Chandra Carver, Area Coordinator and Annie's puppy raiser, you do remember her, right? - many of them dealing with her herding instincts. I agree as a certified pet trainer that Annie is probably not cut out to be a guide dog for the blind, but her herding instinct is not a reason to kill her. Are you suggesting that all herding dogs that have a strong instinct to herd, no matter how well-trained and controlled, are a danger and should be put down?
Enough hedging, let's get down to the meat of all this. I disagree with every fiber of my being with you not allowing Chandra to sign liability over to herself and bring Annie home. The school could be legally absolved of liability with a sheet of paper and a signature but as of now will not agree to it. I believe this to be one of the worst things the school could do with this situation. I can understand the need to be cautious and the school's need to circumvent public relations nightmares, but I think the nightmare you're trying to avoid is what you're about to step right into with all the negative publicity that could come from this action. Try to take a step back and look at it from not only an executive or a puppy raiser's point of view but that of a civilian, an unknowledgeable bystander. I see and meet hundreds of people on a nearly daily basis; it's hard not to when living on a college campus of 26,000 people. All those people that I speak with, even briefly, learn a few things. The first thing they normally learn is the dedication and willing heartbreak that it takes to raise these puppies, the love that puppy raisers have for these eyes in training. The second thing they learn is where to find information and how to get involved. I had someone ask how she could help on the bus ride back from class right before writing this, and instead of sharing the website and my contact information like I normally would, I told her that if she'd like to help the blind by raising a puppy, it might be best to look for another organization. I then told her why I thought that; I told her about Annie. I understand that every organization has its negative aspects, and before today, I still supported SEGDI because I knew those working there were doing their best. This decision, however, is not for the best. How can you come to know and judge not only a dog but whether that dog should live or die in only a few days? In all actuality, it probably wasn't days but mere hours over a few days. Are you taking into account that these dogs will behave quite differently with the handlers that they are familiar with? I certainly hope so, but I can't see how you can be without even talking with Chandra.
I have so much more to say, but I'll leave it for after we hear back from the school about this. The one thing I will leave you with is that I'm now absolutely terrified of turning the puppy I'm raising back in for training. He's from the same litter as Annie, and although he's had no problems with nipping, herding, or aggression, I can't help but worry how the school's now colored vision will see him and how he will be treated. The question used to be, "Will he even have a chance at being a guide dog?" but now that all-too-common question has twisted into a horrific one: Will he even have a chance at LIFE? How can we ever begin to trust the lives of these precious souls to SEGDI again?
In less than a week they've sentenced her to death. I don't know what else to say about this. I want to rant and scream, but right now I'm just so empty. I've spent most of the evening alternating between hugging on Keigan and bawling my eyes out. I want him out of the program. They don't deserve to have a dog like him. They didn't deserve Annie, and she didn't deserve to die.
Although final word hasn't been received yet, we're all pretty sure that she's been killed by now.