Monthly Archives: July 2000

Plight of Thulani Dogs in Shelters

Dogs like Thulani, or Rambler shown on left, with a limited life expectancy (measured in months to perhaps a year) often have little chance of getting out of the shelters alive.  They are not adoptable to typical adopters, and with  overcrowding there typically is little the shelters can do except euthanize them.

Few Rescue organizations have the resources to take in these types of dogs, and again, the typical adopter that approaches a Rescue is looking for a long-term companion.

The maiden voyage of the Thulani Program, focused on shelters and people in the greater San Francisco Bay region (Thulani Program dog stories), and demonstrated that there is a need to rescue Thulani-type German Shepherds from shelters and some owners (we saved more than 20 dogs from this limited area in the past two years), and not many Rescues have the resources or capabilities to do so.

The SF Bay region is not unique.  During the past two months  as we began to build the infrastructure to go statewide, we brought in eight new Thulani Program dogs.  There clearly is a regionwide need to help these deserving dogs.

“Senior dogs are often discarded after a lifetime of giving their best to their people.  How can we say no to them?  All they ask from us is a safe place to lay their sweet old grizzled heads.    In return they give us their unconditional love and gratitude.   All you have to do is look into their eyes to know you’ve done something worthwhile.”
Kelly Butler

Although the future for Thulani-like dogs in shelters is grim, we have located a number of special people who will fundamentally change this equation.  We need more, and with their help, we can make an incredible difference for these deserving dogs.

Thulani Dogs in Shelters

Our shelter evaluators sometimes find German Shepherds in shelters that are in danger of immediate euthanasia, their only sin being that they are very old or terminally ill, with a projected life expectancy of only months to perhaps a year.  These dogs are basically unadoptable through the shelters, and most Rescues will not take them either.

The reasons that they are in the shelters are varied, ranging from perhaps understandable to completely incomprehensible.  We have dealt with a few cases that are truly tragic, with the families falling into financial difficulties so severe that they could not keep the dogs.  And occasionally the dogs outlive their owners, or witness the owners moving into permanent care facilities that do not permit dogs.

But the majority of cases just make our blood boil.  Some have been dumped by the side of the road and left to fend for themselves, and some picked up as strays and not claimed.  Some have been surrendered to the shelter with a request to euthanize, and others have been dumped in the night-boxes.

We brought one into the program that had been thrown into a drainage ditch, too weak to climb out, and had to be brought into the shelter on a stretcher.

We took in another that was 13 years old and had begun to dribble slightly.  The grandmother and the mother, both well off financially, decided that she was just too much trouble, and were taking her to the vet to be put down.  It was only the teenage daughter that simply would not let this happen, and she eventually contacted us.

These special German Shepherds include both young and old.  And their ‘sins’ include cancer, heart disease, severe degenerative myelopathy, severe hip displasia, near blindness, and simple old age.  All are tragic, but the seniors are the ones that really get to us–these dogs have been someone’s loyal companion for years, and are now just tossed out.

Whatever the reasons for the Thulani Dogs being in the shelters, the result is the same.  These dogs are at extremely high risk for immediate euthanasia, even though many have some quality life left to them.  A year might not seem very long, but it is nearly 10% of the average German Shepherd’s natural life.  And for many of these dogs, any quality life for however long will likely be among the best periods they have ever experienced.  If you don’t think that these dogs appreciate our care, just look at the comments by some of our fosterers (foster).