When You Lose a Friend ...
Frankie ... I photographed Frankie for the second time this past Wednesday. And I loved him just as much as I loved him the first time I photographed him about a month ago. Yesterday, though, he breathed his last breath, so today my heart is a little shattered. This is by far the hardest part of volunteering at an animal shelter. Yes, the senior dogs that show up break my heart. The ones that show obvious signs of abuse break my heart. But this. Falling in love with a dog and then learning that he didn't make it out breaks my heart the most. Sometimes things just happen, and they can't be overcome.
Frankie came into the shelter as a stray at nearly 90 pounds, quite a bit over weight. Up until yesterday, he'd been with us for about six weeks and was slimming down. He was in play group, but the past two days in play group, things did not go well. Frankie got in a tussle in play group on Wednesday, but staff and volunteers were able to break it up and thought it was an isolated incident. I actually walked him and took this photograph after play group that day. He came back out in play group yesterday, and unfortunately, the previous day turned out to not be an isolated incident. He got into another tussle and things worsened. Because of his behavior, shelter staff decided the best course of action was to humanely euthanize him. Having seen what he was capable of in the right - or wrong - circumstances, they could not risk adopting him out to the public. I did not see this happen since I don't volunteer with play group, but I can imagine that it was a scary and traumatic thing to witness.
I know that part of the gig of being a shelter volunteer means accepting that this happens sometimes, but accepting it certainly doesn't make it any easier (and for the record, it happens at private humane societies, too, not just municipal shelters). The Frankie I knew was sweet and friendly with his people, and he surely did steal my heart. He was my favorite kind of land manatee. He was goofy and loved belly rubs. When he was tired on his walk, he'd just plop down, usually on my feet. And he was gentle and affectionate with me. It's not my place to second guess the shelter staff's decisions, particularly since I was not there to witness the incidents, and I know theirs is a very difficult job. I appreciate that they took the time to reach out to me personally and let me know. But I could not let this week pass without recognizing Frankie here. He lived ... and he loved ... and he was loved ... and he mattered. Run free, sweet Frankie. See you at the Rainbow Bridge, for I most certainly loved you in this life.
Support your local animal shelter. They need you. The animals need you. I'll keep doing what I do and work harder for Frankie.