THE GRAVE OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER             11/11/2010


Today I put down a dog. I don’t know if she had an owner and I don’t know if she had a name.


She was just an old dog, probably not nearly as old as she looked, who had spent her whole sad life in a bad place. She was very thin and had bad mange of most of her body, and ticks and fleas and worms. Her hindquarter had collapsed, partly from malnutrition and partly from bad arthritis from old untreated injuries. Her ears had been cut short and were eaten away by flies. Her teeth were stumps, probably from biting at wire or a chain.  Her well-worn teats were hanging from raising litter after litter of puppies. There was no fur on her back end from dragging herself around. She wagged her naked tail and tried to crawl to us, thrilled to have a kind touch, even though she was in a strange vehicle taken by strange people to a strange place.

She is not a newsworthy abuse case, or a dramatic rescue story, or a happy-ending adoption. One of the FOUR PAWS teams got to her in time to give her a kind and gentle death. But nobody was there to give her a better life. Everything wrong with her was preventable or treatable. She shows us that there is still not enough....

Not enough public awareness or education about animal welfare

Not enough organisations prepared to go into the bad places

Not enough money or people or vehicles for those that are

Not enough people marketing and fundraising for charities

Not enough professionals prepared to do charity work

Not enough people volunteering to help a little

Not enough shelters with not enough space

Not enough enforced legislation against neglect and abuse

She’s just another nameless casualty in the battle against ignorance and the pet population explosion. There is no armistice in this war. The burden falls on too few too much of the time. The grave of the unknown soldier is a black plastic bag in a freezer in a veterinary clinic.

And the war goes on.


Dr Shelagh Hahn
Bluebush Animal Clinic, Johannesburg