Guest Posts
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
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.

CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by Telling it like... | December 1 2011 |

This is pure BS! Adoptable/treatable animals are being killed for space and instead of investing time, effort, volunteers, money, energy and creative imagination into saving lives, as is being done in shelters that have adopted the No Kill Equation, these inept, money-grubbing, lazy, unimaginative, totally lacking in compassion murderers, would rather sit in their offices and make policy decisions to kill more animals...and throw these innocent animals a bone! There are alternatives that work! www.nokilladvocacycenter.org and these folks simply choose to hang on to an archaic sheltering model of the 19th-20th century, rather than do the hard work demanded by the No Kill model of the 21st century. It is unacceptable and there is no justifiable excuse for killing thousands of animals each year in NYC and in other high kill shelters around the country. The tax-paying public needs to demand an end to this senseless slaughter and the replacement of regressive shelter directors incapable of doing the job!

Submitted by Anonymous | December 2 2011 |

I commend these people for their strength to help the dogs that we cannot save! How great these dogs must feel that they are not lonely in their final hours! Way to go!

Submitted by Anonymous | December 2 2011 |

Makes me sick!! These dogs do NOT deserve to die.

Submitted by Lisa Wogan | December 2 2011 |

Thank you everyone for your heartfelt comments. I wanted to post a quick reminder that we don't publish comments that resort to name-calling.

Submitted by Carolyn | December 2 2011 |

In a perfect world, we would not need the services of these dedicated, courageous volunteers. In a perfect world, all animals would be cared for in loving homes. I am very grateful that such compassionate people exist to love and comfort "unwanted" animals that are doomed to euthanasia.

Submitted by Chelsea | December 2 2011 |

To the people who are saying bad things and telling these volunteers to "take the dog home" - ARE YOU STUPID? Have YOU ever done anything for rescue? I'm sure these volunteers have their houses full of rescue dogs.
I could not even imagine the strength that these people have. It is truly amazing that volunteers can spend their own time allowing the dogs to finally feel some love instead of a cold, lonely concrete floor. I am the biggest animal lover and I would never have the courage to do this. I wouldn't ever be able to function. Doing this takes someone who is truly unique and special. Keep up the great work-I know the puppies appreciate it.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 2 2011 |

Spay and this would not be needed!

Submitted by Anonymous | December 4 2011 |

I can't imagine how difficult of a job this must be for a dog lover, just absolutely heartbreaking. These volunteers are truly angels on earth.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 6 2011 |

@Telling it Like it Is.....Instead of bad mouthing open admission shelters why don't you join forces with them like Pets Alive Austin? These shelters get the dredge of the city/county budget. Their employees are paid 8 bucks an hour, the Executive Directors are lucky if they make 40k. They work long hours, even after they are punched out. They all have many hard-to-place pets at home. It is all well and good to bitch about the archaic system, point fingers, be angry at those who have to do society's dirty work, but the fact is that there are not the funds to make changes. Best Friends Animal Society, the country's "no-kill" model, raised over 30 million dollars last year and adopted out around 1500 pets. I live in a town of 16,000 people and our open admission shelter adopted out twice that many pets at a fraction of that. Animal welfare receives .1 percent of all the charitable dollars in the United States, and groups like HSUS, ASPCA, and Best Friends raked in the vast majority of that money-over $250,000,000 in 2009. With that kind of money endowments could be set up in every state to subsidize spay/neuter for pets of low-income households. But then they would all be out of a job.

Submitted by Tammy Gossard | December 8 2011 |

It is by far better to euthenize,it is pain ful gas chambers,I like the volunteers comfort these dogs/cats/animals,join with me ,banning all gas chambers as a form of euthinization..

Submitted by Corey Bond | December 8 2011 |

What else can I say other than DOG BLESS YOU for doing what my heart could not handle!

Submitted by Stephanie Bucalo | December 9 2011 |

Thank you for helping these animals. I don't know if i could do what you do. I rescue and foster. What you do requires so much more courage.

Submitted by Anna Fitzgerald... | December 9 2011 |

Thank you with all my heart to those of you volunteers who have the courage to do this. My heart would be ripped open, and I would end up taking them all home with me, and I already have 3 dogs and 4 cats at home.

God bless you ... I only wish that we could find homes for all these beautiful creatures.

Submitted by Amanda | December 23 2011 |

I am here, in Tears, I cant hardly Breathe, This is the Saddest thing ever...........I commend these people. I couldnt do it. I would Take home Every Animal.........When is the Senseless Killing of these Innocent and Loving Animals going to stop!?!??

Submitted by Anonymous | January 20 2012 |

I agree with you completely...this is so heartbreaking

Submitted by Sue Neubauer | December 23 2011 |

You are all wonderful people for what you do!! I couldn't imagine how hard it would be knowing that these poor dogs will be put to sleep for ever!! I am in tears just thinking about it. How special to be able to give a dog who probably hasn't had much of a life that sense of love and compassion for the last time. Thank you so much for doing what you do!!!!

Submitted by cornelia | December 23 2011 |

My stomach turns round and round, my heart too. This is AGAIN one of the saddest things

I heard about. I coudn`t do that, I would break inside. Thank, Love, Respect to those volunteers. They are just ANGELS!

Submitted by silke | December 23 2011 |

I think you do an amazing job,it´s so nice, that you help them to feel love in their last moments.i am often with animals that get to put down,because i work in an animal hospital,and i always whisper in their ear before they pass away, that my Mam´will take care of them now, because she is in heaven allready!!it is like they understand me, and go away from that world with a smile!!i wish you a wonderful christmas & God bless you!!Lots of love from Spain!!yours Silke

Submitted by Anonymous | December 23 2011 |

Doesn't it give the animal a sense of false

Submitted by Anonymous | December 23 2011 |

That's what I would think. I would feel that the animal would think that there getting out and going to have a happy life just to never see the light of day again. Here they get a little attention then killed the next day. That would be so hard for me to do, it's bad enough rescuing dogs out of high kill shelters knowing that 90% of them won't get out alive.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 16 2012 |

I wonder the same thing...Would these dogs be so happy thinking they are finally "going home"..I've had many animals and they don't know when their time is near...They are survivors...This is the saddest thing I have ever heard...not because I think anyone is doing anything wrong, but because so many beautiful sweet babies are killed needlessly..It's just unbearably sad.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 24 2011 |

Anonymous, It doesn't give a dog a sense of hope,I have gone Thu this with my own dogs in the past 34 yrs.. Dogs know when their time is coming,you are so connected with the dog that at this time I think they take it more easier than we do. I make sure I am there from the start to the finish,with their heads in my lap. I found it takes approx. 45 minutes for the soul to accept this and leave after dying. I actually talk and tell the dog (they already know) what is going on. A Lot of crying and holding on between us. I couldn't think of not being there the full time all the way to the end for them. Also,tho people will say I am a nut case, my dogs have shown up in my home with in the next 48 hrs. after passing away. Many people also have seen my dobies running in the front woods during day time. Dogs are like people it is just like passing Thu a door,and being there for you when they are needed.Some times they stay for yrs. If only people would realize we are all energy which cannot be destroyed when passing over. Being there for a animal is the best thing we can do...

Submitted by Rose | January 19 2012 |

I agree with you. The poor things are probably thinking they have found a new home. As for the other commentors of this, not all of these dogs are sick! Didn't you read the article? Most of them are being destroyed because of lack of good & loving homes.

I had a 14 yr old black lab 5 years ago and she died in my arms because I knew the way she kept hiding away from us that she was tired and sick. We carried her into our bedroom and outside,the hardest decision of my life was taking her to the vet that last time. The vet kept telling us to leave that we didn't have to see and I said no. I picked her out from a litter of pups at a Fl dog pound, I sat with her waiting for my son to come home from school and then from the Navy. I was the one who pulled sand spurs and porcupine quills from her and bathed her from 2 encounters with skunks. I also nursed her through heart worms she had when we picked her from the pound.
I wasn't letting her die alone. I still remember that last wag of her tail. (You would not believe the tears running down my face right now).
So you can see I know how an animal behaves at the end.

But these dogs have lots of life and love to give.

Submitted by Lisa LaValle | December 23 2011 |

Amazing people as I could never do this....my heart would be broken and I would be in-consolable....in a good world we should never have to do this as we should be able to find home for these babies...

Submitted by robyn | December 23 2011 |

if more people and children would go to the shelters and sit once with an animal on death row, and show love , give treats, walks, what ever is needed for that animal , maybe more would not be put down,, maybe if the schools made a field trip to shelters and teach the children what the shelter is about , their minds might change when older.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 24 2011 |

You are so right, the schools are the best place to stop the abuse, neglect and cruelty in the world. If you can reach one child, this child will no doubt have an impact on his entire family. Good idea!

Submitted by Kathleen | December 23 2011 |

I am sitting here with such a broken heart, but being blessed at the same time that there is such loving people in this world to stay with the dogs whos lives are being destroyed because....to comfort and love them in their final hours is such a God given ability. I am a former hospice nurse and have done my job with tears and yes it hurts to see a human being leave this earth but when it comes to these creatures of Gods, way to many healthy deserving to live ones are just taken away, it hurts me so so bad. Thank you group for your kindness at this time of great need, I wish I could do it and maybe God will give me the strength to start something like that here in my town.

Submitted by Stephanie | December 23 2011 |

May God bless you all in your work--and all the dogs in the world who have no one to love them. Sincerely, Stephanie and her "off the streets" crew, Grenas (pit mix, ~2), Catorce (chihuahua mix, ~3), and Diogi (chow mix, ~9).

Submitted by karen lyons kal... | December 23 2011 |

if you get past your own sorrow
if you get past your own tears
you have a tomorrow
today,for their fears♥

Submitted by Kevin A. Baskovich | January 12 2012 |

Beautiful Words ty

Submitted by Anonymous | December 23 2011 |

God Bless all of you..What a loving think to do... Great program.

Submitted by mariane smith | December 23 2011 |

this is the most heart wrenching thing i have ever read....god bless all these ppl who have the heart and are able to do this kind gesture for these prescious animals.I wish i had the emotional stability to do this but my heart is breaking just reading the story....

Submitted by Anonymous | January 16 2012 |

I feel the same!!! I cannot even bear the thought of being with these beautiful creatures right before they die needlessly!!!! unbearbly sad!!

Submitted by Kendall | December 23 2011 |

I would think that it gives the animal a false sense of hope. Here they think that they are getting out and going to have a happy life just to be put in a room and killed the next day never seeing the light of day again. I don't know how anyone could kill one of God's innocent creations.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 19 2012 |

First of all, dogs do not think the same way a human thinks. A dog is not thinking that love and comfort are a cruel trick before being killed. A dog is simply in the moment, soaking up the good feelings of having a soulful, loving person with him/her. The dog does not know it is his/her last day -- the person does, and has to live with that fact while they shower that soul with all the good things about life -- love, acceptance, comfort, warmth, fun, good food, etc. It is a gift that I bet is truly difficult to give for the person kind enough and selfless enough to give it. There is no deceit in this gift, no "false" hope -- just a time of some good stuff. Thank the gods for people big enough and selfless enough to do this!

Submitted by Anastasia | December 23 2011 |

You are a GREAT people!God give you health! God bless you! I'd probably couldn't do it ... my heart would burst into pieces. One of our dogs was homeless for some time ago now this dog lives with us.Why are so many homeless animals in your country and here in Russia? Animals are defenseless and many people are so cruel. All of these dogs you help go to heaven. They go with the idea that not all people are terrible, there are those people who are able to love. Sorry for my bad English. But I just don't have enough words to express to you my admiration and my thanks to you.

Submitted by Anastasia | December 23 2011 |

You are a GREAT people!God give you health! God bless you! I'd probably couldn't do it ... my heart would burst into pieces. One of our dogs was homeless for some time ago now this dog lives with us.Why are so many homeless animals in your country and here in Russia? Animals are defenseless and many people are so cruel. All of these dogs you help go to heaven. They go with the idea that not all people are terrible, there are those people who are able to love. Sorry for my bad English. But I just don't have enough words to express to you my admiration and my thanks to you.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 24 2011 |

I also have a rescue family of 3 dogs & 3 cats, 2 birds ...I worked with a wolf rescue for many years and petted a MANY of dogs & horses before they where put down..it was sad so I take my hat off to this group !

As an inspriring writer I would like to ask the questions ..

.If everyone across the US that was willing take a animal from the kill shelters /and have that pet fixed ...would it change the many numbers that are put down yearly?
If every shelter allowed one homeless person to have a pet ...and the feed stores help with the food for them ...would it change the numbers that are put down yearly?

I have taken in 2 different homeless people that stayed in my garage long enough to get on their feet ( about 6-9 months ..my only request was when they could they adopted a pet from the shelter ...they did so and are now employed & a pet has a good home .

Submitted by Anonymous | January 10 2012 |

That's really sad

Submitted by Anonymous | January 12 2012 |

I have to admit that I just bursted into tears at the sight of this post. It's just too sad. I couldn't do it, thought I wish I could.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 16 2012 |

me too!!!! I love animals so much but the thought of spending the last moments of these lives is unbearable..They all deserve to life...and to see the happiness on their faces right before they die would haunt me forever..I wish I could do it but I couldnt hold back tears for even a moment...

Submitted by Doreen Domina | January 13 2012 |

If they had ine in CT as much as it would hurt me I would find solice in knowing that I brought some joy to a dog in it's last moments....so I would volnteer

Submitted by Connie | January 14 2012 |

Wow................. I have done rescue now for nearly 15 years. Every dog that is deathly ill, or in pain, and in NEED of being euthanized, I am there, with them, and I do the same, their final DAYS with me. It's draining, to say the least, but I feel it's my final GIFT to them.

It's just so sad that there is so many dogs BEING euthanized......... that black shepherd looks totally adoptable, so it seems really sad that she was euthanized....

Until people start being more responsible, we are going to have this horrific overpopulation problems.

God Bless you folks who are giving all of your love to these wayward souls............. I just wish there wasn't such a NEED for you........

Submitted by Robin L. | January 17 2012 |

I volunteer 3 X a week or more walking dogs and training dogs at my local shelter. The hardest thing in the world is not bawling your eyes out when a dog is determined to no longer be a candidate for adoption and must be euthanized. I've gone with a dog twice to the euthanasia room and had tears leaking out of my eyes the whole time. The first time the dog had no clue and I was trying to keep it together to keep him happy up to the last minute. He got some special time outside for the hour - 2 hours before and a big cheeseburger from the drive-thru. I brought special treats. I screamed all the way home crying all alone in my car. And I hugged my furkids at home. The second time I went to the euthasia there were several of us who just loved this dog. None of us had room in our homes for either of these dogs that showed no consistency in why they bite after rigorous evaluation by a trained and certified behaviorist. This is rare at our facility, the euthanasia. We save far more dogs than we euthanize. Thank doG that spay and neuter is catching on.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 19 2012 |

No, because they would be taken home with me. It isn't their fault their owners are losers. I have read some of the reasons people give when abandoning their pets up at our local shelter, the reasons are pathetic. "Moving and new place doesn't accept dogs". Who would even look at places who do not accept pets?! We are moving next week and I only looked at places that would take my rescued 70lb Lab mix.

If you had a child would you move to an adults only community and then leave your kid at an orphanage?
To true pet owners, our dogs ARE our children.

These dogs should be given another chance, but such is the society we live in. Everything is disposable.

Submitted by Kieran. | August 18 2012 |

Such a great point.When me & my wife go away together we look for dog friendly places.
We have two dogs as we can now as our house is bigger here in Adelaide than in London.
If you are blessed to have a dog you have a gift for as long as they are alive & you have a duty to them.
Glad other people still feel the same & these carers are a special breed.God bless.

Submitted by kristi | January 19 2012 |

This is so sad, that I burst into tears when I saw the picture. It's a shame that beautiful, healthy dogs are being euthanized due to the lack of a home. I would want to help a program like this, even though I would go home broken-hearted everyday! PLEASE spay and neuter your pets so maybe someday programs like this one won't be necessary!! God bless all of the volunteers for giving love to an animal on his last night on "death row"

Submitted by Anonymous | January 19 2012 |

god bless the ppl that have the compassion to do this i wish i could i think it would feel like having my heart ripped out everytime one would have to be put down !!!rip to all the doggies that have to go threw this ...........i hope one day they all find a home and ppl are held accountable for thier actions and all the ppl that abuse dogs should all go to hell !!!!!!!!! sorry for the language but i have myself rescued dogs from awful places as the nyacc and such a tradgedy everytime i go thier ........... i try to do my best and god bless ........

Submitted by Erin | January 20 2012 |

This is truly an amazing program. Just hearing about this touches my heart. These volunteers are wonderful people, bless them. I'm sure these dogs are truly the most grateful creatures, and even once they have come to the rainbow bridge I'm sure they remember the love they felt before they died. This is a wonderful idea and I hope to start a similar program in my area one day.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 24 2012 |

Erin, Hopefully you will never have to institute this program in you area. With agressive and adequately funded spay and neuter clinics along with education about pet reproduction and responsibilities, unwanted pets won't be born.


More From The Bark

More in Guest Posts:
Time Magazine and Designer Dogs
The Difference Between Guide Dog Breeds
Spice's Amazing Transformation
Career Moves
Timmy's Amazing Transformation
Learn How To Train Dogs at ClickerExpo 2015
Defusing Awkward Situations
From the Streets to the Gallery, All Thanks to the Dog
Jedi Surfs
This Dog Loves Guitar!