Short Stories
Life or Death Decisions

Life or Death Decisions

Please enjoy this short story, “Life or Death Decisions.”

First thing in the morning, after I fix myself strong cup of black coffee; thick enough to stand up by itself in the cup, I check my e-mails.  There’s the usual promotional ads, for things I want, but probably can’t afford; I delete those first.  Then they’re the job ads; the same ones stay posted for months and months.  I delete those too.  I’ll open the work-related ones later.

The e-mail I’m looking for comes from one of the animal rescue organizations.  Every day they send me a long list of the “urgents,” the dogs that have one more day before it’s all over.  I scroll through them and post as many as I can on Facebook in the hope that some Facebook user is on the look out for a dog just like the one I’m posting.

Animal rescue is sad work.  Whomever looks into those neglected eyes while they snap the photo that ends up in my mailbox knows that by this time the chances for adoption are really slim. I scroll down, study their photos and read their biographies.  They’re all unique and totally perfect in their own way, large, small, active or couch potatoes, goofy or timid, sweet or spunky.

Most have terrible backgrounds, years of neglect and abuse, no sign that they ever knew kindness.  Sadder still, are the owner-surrenders, dogs given away because the owner moved and couldn’t keep them in their new place or couldn’t afford to feed them anymore. Or maybe they just got tired of caring for an old dog who couldn’t walk so well anymore and needed to be carried up the stairs.

I look at each photo trying my best to judge which dog will catch a potential adopter’s attention; which one has the big sad puppy-dog-eyes that draw you in and is young-enough for someone who only wants a puppy, which dog looks athletic, like it would be a good fit for a young family with an active life or which one with white whiskers and a few years left himself, would be a good fit for a senior that doesn’t get out much.

Finally, I’ve looked though them all, and I have to decide.  I know better then to think that just because I don’t chose one to post on the internet, that doesn’t mean someone won’t find him anyway by other means.  But it narrows down the odds…a lot.  But I chose anyway, because at least it might help one dog find a home. 

Each time I chose a photo to post and scroll by the others, I know I by-passed a dog that maybe didn’t have a good photo taken, didn’t have the right combination of soulful eyes, playfulness, age or temperament, but would have made a wonderful companion. The dogs I didn’t choose won’t have the chance to kiss the hand of a strange human and hope that they will take them away from the concrete pen of howling dogs, all desperate to leave and take them to a home where they will become a beloved member of the family.

Maybe it’s just like in the world of humans, you can have all of the attributes that would make you a perfect partner, but if nobody is attracted to you, they’ll never find that out.  I tried the opposite approach, posting the dogs that took blurry photos showing sad faces, tied up to a metal table in a shelter or cowering with their back turned in the corner of the room.  I read their profiles.  Some have aggression problems, or they don’t like children or other dogs. Just give them a chance I thought.  Then I noticed that these same dogs kept appearing in my e-mails over again.  Nobody was attracted to them, nobody inquired, and nobody adopted.  Then their photos were taken down because they were no longer available.

So, I’m back to picking the ones that I think are adoptable, the ones that I think have “curb appeal,” or should I say, “dog appeal.” I’m looking for the ones whose spirit reaches out from their photo and calls to be looked at.  I hope I’m doing the right thing, and if there aren’t enough photos of dogs like this, I’m relieved because then I can post photos of the not-so adoptable ones.  But every time I click on a photo, I feel the weight of their lives on my shoulders.  And the e-mails just keep coming.

Francine Rodriguez Icon

Thank you for reading my story “Life or Death Decisions”. While you’re here, please check out my books, The Fortunate Accident and A Woman Like Me.