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Comforting Dogs in Their Final Hours
Volunteers spend the night with dogs slated for euthanasia
shelter dog euthanasia black german shepherd volunteer animal care control
A Compassion Program volunteer comforts Blackie during his last night.

Could you spend the night comforting shelter dogs scheduled to be euthanized the next morning? The Compassion Program, based out of New York's Animal Care and Control in Manhattan, is comprised of nine volunteers who take turns sleeping over with death row dogs. Whether it's a long walk, a special treat, playing with a toy or being cuddled, they ensure that every dog spends his last hours being loved. The program staff consider it a form of hospice, even though these dogs are not necessarily dying due to medical conditions, but lack of loving homes. Donations of treats and toys are welcome. For more information, please go to the Compassion Program.


Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

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Submitted by LYN LAY | December 1 2011 |

What a tough job , kudos to these wnderful compassionate volunteers!
I am distraught at the pic , Blackie is EXACTLY the dog i have been searching for in UK for last 6 months... poor darling ..may his soul be at peace :(

Submitted by Paul Hubert | December 23 2011 |

Unselfish Kindness no other words can describe what they do.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

God bless each of you! These dogs will no doubt be waiting to greet you again on the happy side of the Rainbow Bridge!

Submitted by sherri franklin | December 1 2011 |

This is a calling for some of us, before Muttville I used to go and walk the dogs and give them tons of treats and love before their euthanasia. I remember when the staff would tell me not to be with the dogs that were to be killed that day, It is a gift we can give them!! Thank you for what you do. I love you! I believe all shelters should have programs like this. I also believe shelters should allow guardians should be allowed to be with their pets when they die, if they request that.....

Submitted by Gail | December 1 2011 |

>>I also believe shelters should allow guardians should be allowed to be with their pets when they die, if they request that.....<<

Good idea. Not just "allowed"....but MANDATED. I'll guess that after a couple of years of being compelled to watch your dog killed (read: PAY OR WATCH!) things might turn around.

Submitted by Karin Lease | December 1 2011 |

Many perfectly good dogs being euthanized....this is so wrong. Great program when it applies to dogs who are actually served by being euthanized.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

I could never dot this....too sad

Submitted by Robin L. | December 1 2011 |

I have spent a dog's last hours with him. It is unbearably sad for us but at the same time important to give them comfort. The dogs we have to euthanize either have some unworkable behavior problem or are ill so I am able to do it. I don't know if I could spend the last hours with a healthy dog who is "excess" because it is so unfair that I wouldn't be able to give comfort in a calm and peaceful way. I'd just be too upset. Kudos to anyone who could do it.

Submitted by Marisa Penelski | December 2 2011 |

Your compassion is so admirable and is a blessing to these precious, sentient creatures. That said, at the risk of sounding without compassion, may I please ask if you comfort the dogs of the NYC ACC? Almost certainly, you do not; because there, they arbitrarily block certain dogs from getting adopted, use "behavioral issues" as an excuse to kill adoptable animals, and it is such a mismanaged and corrupt facility, that I can't believe that they posted this while asking for money for treats.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

When healthy well behaved dogs like this are euthanized because of lack of homes for them, how can any ethical person continue to breed more dogs. It's beyond me. The problem is not just the puppy mills. It's the so-called "reputable" AKC breeders as well because for every additional doggie they purposely bring into the world, one of the above gets euthanized. It's just wrong. Breeding in any form is wrong wrong wrong as long as good doggies are being executed.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

I agree that there are many perfectly good, healthy dogs in shelters and that people should check pure breed rescues and shelters first. What happens though if we ban breeding and all the dogs get spouted, are dogs just supposed to go extinct? You shouldn't blame re, putable small time breeders
But the puppy millers who breed for profit and have 100s
of dogs. And what about the people who think dogs are disposable and just abandoned at shelters. A puppy miler sells puppies to anyone who has money insured of being selective and making sure potential owners understand how much money, housetraining, cheeing, barking, digging, grooming, exercise that puppies snd dogs need!!

Submitted by Gail | December 1 2011 |

How pathetic: A stranger has to substitute for the animals' "guardians". It's those that gave them up, or, didn't care enough to bail them out that should be spending time at the "death watch"... and then following them to the euthanasia room.
I have to believe that some day this is going to change and that we'll get some legislators with the balls to do what needs to be done: PAY OR DON'T BREED!!

Blessings on the kind hearts that do this for someone else's "pet".

Submitted by Pssingby | December 1 2011 |

First, it's very sad that services like this even have to exist but kudos to the people who are doing it.

Now, let's not confuse the issue, it is untrue that when you breed a specific breed of dog another one in a shelter is euthanized because of it. Finger pointing willy nilly like this isn't very helpful at all. Some people would not get a dog unless it was breed x, for example. Pure breed dogs are not the ones being euthanized either.

What we need here is sharing information and making the general public aware of this sad issue. Even if AKC breeders stopped breeding, they would still be mutts being euthanized. At the shelter where I volunteer there is a disproportionate ratio of pitbulls or mixed pitbulls being euthanized for example, let's look into that. In the city where I live it's also mandatory to spay/neuter your dog unless you are a licensed breeder; there is a low-cost clinic for this, yet I see so many people with dogs at the park that bypass this law. I wish there was more education and dog owner responsibility when it comes to breeding, whether pure breed or not. Blaming AKC breeders isn't going to save any dogs.

Submitted by Cora | December 3 2011 |

"Now, let's not confuse the issue, it is untrue that when you breed a specific breed of dog another one in a shelter is euthanized because of it. Finger pointing willy nilly like this isn't very helpful at all. Some people would not get a dog unless it was breed x, for example. Pure breed dogs are not the ones being euthanized either."

I have two dogs that my husband and I rescued. We Leo from a local rescue group and Scrappy from the Edmonton Humane Society. Leo is a long haired miniature dachshund and a senior. We got him when he was 9, he has since had to have the infamous back surgery ($5,000). We could have euthanized him but I am glad we didn't.

Scrappy is a wire haired Dachshund fox terrier cross and he is 5 yrs old.

Both dogs are considered "desirable" breeds yet both ended up in shelters and rescues. Why? Maybe someone got them because they are cute, which they both are. There needs to be research don on the breed before getting one. Dachshunds are tenacious, they have to be they were bred to go after badgers and rabbits in their holes and tunnels. They are barkers, get over it! They are furiously protective, ask me how I know that :D.

I know of a CKC and AKC approved breeder in Saskatchewan that I suspect is a puppy mill (http://www.divine-dachshunds.com/). she has a female pup, Autumn, that has been spayed and DEBARKED for sale at teh Special Christmas price of $300.00. I can't get this pup out of my mind.

As for the volunteers in this story; they have a heart of gold. I know That I for one wouldn't be able to do that and that is why I do the stuff I do.

Submitted by Cheryl-Anne Squires | December 1 2011 |

May God always Bless you. You are the instrument in His Hands. May the Angels always be around you and the precious ones who have been sentenced to die, no crime committed. That is why it is so hard to do. I feel the pain, the tears and I will always pray for you and those precious precious Angels.

Submitted by Laurie | December 1 2011 |

What is wrong with our world?????? :(

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

Amazing that there are dogs like Blackie out there being killed and people will still spend $800 on a "new" dog from a breeder. My gorgeous lovable Chessie is another example. I hope someone can hold these creatures lovingly as they die...THAT is when they need the comfort!

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

There is always some way for us to help, this is their calling. Mine is to be a foster home to the seriously ill and injured that come into our local animal shelter. Many people often ask, how can you do what you do in any situation? We don't do it for the kudos or for the recognition, we do it for the love that we give that animal, if it be on it's last night or to see it on it's next journey. When I was young my mother said to me, "I always asked why doesn't somebody do something, then I realized I am somebody". This has always stayed with me. If there were no somebodies, what would we accomplish?

Submitted by BettyC | December 1 2011 |

Thank you for all you do.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

Blessings to you who can do this - it would break my heart knowing they would be killing a perfectly healthy dog just because there are not enough homes for them all.

Submitted by JWester | December 1 2011 |

I hate the fact that healthy dogs have to die, but it happens every single day. I wish people would stop breeding, I wish people would stop buying dogs and rescue, I wish people would start taking the ownership of a pet seriously and keep them for their entire life so they did not end up in a shelter where they needed volunteers to come and rub their belly in their last hours. God bless those volunteers.

Submitted by Molly Wald | December 1 2011 |

I did a multimedia project on this group a few years back. Turn on your audio and visit, http://mollywald.com/2010/12/27/hearts-filled-with-compassion/

Then DONATE!!!!! This group is incredible

Submitted by Gail | December 1 2011 |

Great job, Molly. These people are truly unsung heroes. No nightmares but lots of food for thought. I'll pass your link around.

Submitted by Erin | December 1 2011 |

If this is NOT a joke or some media ploy by the "AWFUL" Julie Banks---considering how she runs the shelters in NYC and the fact that MANY TIMES---I and people that I know have HAD HOMES FOR DOGS AND GONE TO GET THEM AND THEY HAD BEEN EUTHANIZED while we were "JUMPIMG THROUGH HER HOOPS"----then this is WONDERFUL!!!!!!

Submitted by Jean Clelland-Morin | December 1 2011 |

I am a 6-afternoons-a-week volunteer at the local animal shelter here in France. Someone recently said to me that she couldn't volunteer because it was too heartbreaking. I am heartbroken every day with what I see - and this is a no-kill! How can we do this? How can we kill the innocent? Where are our priorities?! It is "humans" who proliferate, exploit, abuse and abandon the powerless and voiceless. Then we dump the innocent "leftovers" on death row. / My only grandkids are feline and canine - all rescued from the cruel streets of San Antonio, Texas. Last I read, S.A. was "down" to euthanizing 25,000 animals a year! / We desperately need a TV media blitz with the images that will slap the public in the face. // Jean Clelland-Morin

Submitted by Roxanne | December 1 2011 |

They are truly Angels on earth. How difficult this must be for them, yet they put their feelings aside to comfort these animals that all of us have failed.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

God Blees the people that can do this.

Submitted by Barbara Marple | December 1 2011 |

where is this beautiful dog at right now????.i live in winchester , Va...is there any way you can save her until i could get her.....please dont let them put her down....could i get help as transportation to get her....oh my god im in tears....i have a black lab mix just like Blackie.....sincerly.....Barbara Marple....540 323 2293

Submitted by Laura | December 1 2011 |


If you want this dog, your best bet would be to call the shelter or let someone that pulls at that shelter that you want to adopt! What a gorgeous angel!

Submitted by nilda | December 1 2011 |

Hi Barbara I hope they didn't put this poor dog to sleep I hope they will help u with transportation I don't know how can they get these poor dogs hope up and then kill them the next morning it takes someone heartless to do something like that. I hope u were able yo save blackie please reply thx.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

It's a really nice program and it takes a strong person to do this.

But there's not a lack of loving homes - there's a lack of effort and caring on the part of the ACC.

23 million homes get a new pet each year. 3 to 4 million pets are killed in our 'shelters'. Plenty of homes, plenty of apathy on the part of the city and the pound.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

Are u kiddingggg !!!??? This is a joke !!! Yeahhhh some good these people are doing getting the dogs hopes up for nothing !! If you wanna be a volunteer why dont you volunteer to take a dog home that is facing death for no reason !!,O wait there is a reason it's because there has yet been a law to mandate spay and neutering of dogs !!! Its sick when are people gonna wake up ??? Stop trying to sugar coat pointless killings !!

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

Thank you to these volunteers for taking the time and enduring the heartbreak to make sure these abandoned creatures receive love and compassion at least one time before their deaths.

Submitted by Ann Marie | December 1 2011 |

Yes we should have a mandate to spay and neuter but the leaders are to fucking stupid to produce it? Humans are selfish and ignorant but these humans spending the night with these dogs is priceless? I have 6 rescues and aim sure these 9 humans do as well so it is far from pointless!

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

You can look at this as being a waste, since comforting deathrow dogs does not solve the problem of overpopulation. Or, you can accept that right now, there IS a problem with crowded shelters and irresponsible breeding and dogs ARE going to die every day because of that until it changes.

If you personally can be part of that change to open your home to foster or rescue a pet, that's wonderful! But there are not enough foster homes or forever homes right now to save them all. It's reality. Do the dogs on death row right now deserve to die in isolation because they are alive during a time where there aren't enough homes available, or do they deserve any amount of compassion that a good person can spare, even for just one night?

The final hours cannot make up for a lifetime of being unloved, but passing away in loving arms, or being treated to a feast of duck liver after a run in the dog park... it means something. It's worth it.

Submitted by Barbara | December 2 2011 |

Perfectly and compassionately said!

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

Do you have any idea what these people go through every single night, how they try to let a dog that's been ignored since it got into these shelters feel just a little bit of love? While they're in the freezing cold with the dogs that are going to die the rest of us are trying everything we can on Facebook to get a rescue for them, a foster home or a forever home. NYC AC&C puts out the "At Risk" list by 6pm, they close at 8pm and don't reopen until 8am. That's 2 hours to get someone interested, they don't start adoptions until 12 noon but they start to kill about 6am in Brooklyn. A few days ago the list had 31 dogs on it, where are these volunteers going to take the dogs they can't take all of them but they can give them some love

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

I lived in a city with the largest intake shelter in the country and around 200 animals were killed daily. The city also had around 30 breed specific rescues and thousands of fosters and one no kill shelter.... Also MANDATORY spay/neuter law .... It did not stop the problem. I understand what you are saying and I've spent many years fighting laws and arguing owner responsibility... Until everyone becomes a responsible pet owner and everyone adopts the maximum pets allowed in their area, do we just allow those in the over crowded shelter die alone at the hands of a stranger? Or do we do what we can to comfort if even for a short time?it is crucial that we all adopt, volunteer, educate and pursue the nations no kill movement.... These things will not be resolved over night and until then I will continue to volunteer my time in every way possible to make positive changes.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

I do my House is full and my WALLET EMPTY they are Dogs and not reading in to the Future(hopes up high comment of yours) but they sure can feel comfort ,petting and companionship!!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

Spot on.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 2 2011 |

Getting a dog's hopes up? Thats kind of the idea... their final hours are happy and not lonely. Are you new?! We cannot save every single dog... these people are helping the ones that we cannot save. I commend these people for their strength!!

Submitted by Anonymous | December 2 2011 |

I have to agree with you, it is sad. I don't understand how anyone can be loving to an animal they know will be killed for no good reason. Take them home! I'd donate money to help someone who would really help these animals, foster them, give them a chance.

Submitted by Barbara | December 2 2011 |

God bless these lovely, unselfish people who do this. Any moment of comfort is not wasted, but pointless anger without action is.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

I have to give these volunteers alot of credit and love. I got my dog from friends of strays years ago, turned out to be my best friend. She was 16 when I had to have her put to sleep. Well my vet came to me and I held my dear one while he administered the drugs. I kept on telling her I loved her as she looked at me as to say thank you because she was so sick. I did not let her see me cry but boy did I ever when it was time for me to leave. This story is that a healthy dog being put down is a crime I could not do it. Was hard enough with my elsie just being sick. God Bless all of you who can do this job. Now I have a full blood cocker, she was given up because she has health problems. My granddaughter bought her for 20 dollars at the dog pound last christmas, and what a loving animal. Again my best friend. I would never think about buying a dog from a breeder or pet shop, these dogs you get from the pound are so much more loving and thankful and will be your best friend forever.

Submitted by Clare Cassar | December 1 2011 |

Please sponsor and support http://www.anactofdog.com this is going to tell it to the world like it is! Great idea... please SHARE

Submitted by Roxanna | December 1 2011 |

First let me say may God Bless and thank you to the wonderful people who show these animals some type of love and compassion before they are put to sleep. I don't think I could do it.

I apologize to those nine wonderful volunteers for the comments of ignorant people who don't even have the guts to use their name when they post stupid comments. I just read a post from someone that really angered me, but I'll shut up for the moment and again say thank you to those who have love and compassion in their hearts.

Submitted by nilda | December 1 2011 |

Hi I hope u listen to Barbara she saids shewants save blackie so please don't put him go sleep maybe u guys could help her with transportation she's willing go save blackie please ..

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

I have been with shelter dogs just before they were euthanized, looked in their eyes and realized they have no idea what is going to happen, they don't know they are going to die. I don't know about you but I would not want the to spend the last hours of my life alone.
Some of these dogs have never know any love or kindness in their life. I have spent time petting one of these dogs and had it act like it was the best thing in the entire world.... I don't think he ever knew the love of a human before. Being a dog owner myself that image sticks in my mind and haunts me, It is a shame for anyone to say anything negative about the compassion these people are showing, so SHAME ON YOU!! It is VERY HARD to do what they do, it would be so much easier to ignore the needs of another suffering living being like so many do! If you have never spent any time in a shelter then you may have no idea the amount of stress these animals are under or how much it comforts them to have someone hold them.

God Bless You! What you are doing is wonderful!

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

I want to respond to this article by saying that I admire these volunteers. They are showing the animals compassion and dignity. For those of us in the animal rescue field, don't we all fight for this? We may not be able to change the outcome, but we have the ability to give comfort to those animals that must pay the price for our actions.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 1 2011 |

it's true... 23 million homes get a new pet each year and more like 4-5 million perfectly adoptable ones are killed in the shelters each year. and that is at a cost of $400 per death. do the math taxpayers! we allow backyard breeders and puppy mills - talk about horrors. why is the public so clueless? on madison ave and 64th in tony NYC, you can walk into a pet store that sells little dogs bouncing off the walls - spending their days in a 2x4 cage with wire floors. they sell these inbred mill dogs for $800 - on sale! and the people on the upper west side are clueless! then when the dog misbehaves it's dumped at the shelter for the tax payers to clean up. why is this so hard to understand? it is an empidemic and needs to change.


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