Many, many moons ago, I worked as a lead veterinary technician at a small animal shelter north of Atlanta Georgia. My duties where many, but the hardest duty was deciding on what animals lived and died that day, and then I had to do the dirty work.
Throughout the years following my two-year stint at the shelter, I have thought of the poor animals I had to euthanize for various reasons. Some were sick, some injured, some abused, and for some, it was the color of their coat. 60% of the dogs in the shelter where usually black, and black dogs were the ones adopted the least.
During those days I understood why I had to do what I had to do. It was my job, as nasty a business as it was. I didn’t make many friends, in fact, the shelter workers called me little Hitler, and my family and friends wouldn’t talk about my work.
It wasn’t all bad. To keep my euthanasia numbers down for the dogs, I had set up adoptions with Federal Agencies for bomb, drug, and cadaver sniffing dogs. I had police, FBI, Border Patrol, travelling hundreds of miles in some cases to look at the dogs I would pre-test for their needs. It was a good program, but still the animals kept coming.
After I left the shelter, I went back to work in animal hospitals so I could save lives, not take them. Still when I laid my head down on the pillow at night, I was haunted by the animals I had put to sleep.
About ten years after leaving the shelter, crying myself to sleep one night, I asked the animals I had sent to Heaven to forgive me. The following morning my friend went to the front door to get the paper and he yelled back to my room, “Hey, get out here, Layla is here”.
Layla was my 15 year old yellow lab that had passed away from a seizure three months prior. My response was, “What?” and again my friend said, “Layla is here”. I bolted out of my room and ran down the hall to find a beautiful yellow lab sitting on the front porch, looking in the front door. The dog looked exactly like Layla, the only difference was this dog was a boy.
I was so stunned at seeing what looked to be my dead dog alive and well at the front door, I instantly started to cry. Then a warm feeling filled my body as I became aware that the dog looking back at me had been sent from Heaven. At that moment I realized my prayers had been answered. The animals I had to euthanize for my job had sent a messenger of forgiveness from Heaven so I could begin the healing process of forgiving myself.
The love and warmth that filled my body was so overwhelming I thought I was going to explode! I opened the door and the dog ran in as if he had lived with me his whole life. I dropped to the floor, hugging and kissing this sweet messenger from above until I couldn’t cry anymore.
Chief spent 11 days with us before his owners contacted us about his disappearance from their backyard. Chief had travelled 11 miles along the Florida Keys Highway, A1A, and crossed three bridges before he found his way to our front door.
When I tell this story, I still get goosebumps. Chief and I remained friends until his parents moved him out of the keys, but before that, every time Chief’s parents left town, Chief stayed with me.
I will never forget his heartwarming message from Heaven, and when I think back on the poor souls that came to the shelter I worked at, I remember to forgive myself.
Carpe Diem to those looking to forgive themselves, and for Earth Day.