Saunders: Readers howl over dog's death

bsaunders@newsobserver.comDecember 3, 2012 

Tucker, owned by Danielle Miller and her family, was euthanized at Wake County Animal Center.


First of all, the dog in the picture wasn’t dead.

Second of all, how can y’all blame Tucker’s owner for his death?

In a story last week about the unfortunate, untimely death of a dog named Tucker, I told you how his loving, responsible owner left him at the Wake County Animal Center after receiving assurances that Tucker was not a likely candidate for euthanasia.

That’s a kind word for “put to sleep.” Or killed – which Tucker was within an hour.

Man, many of y’all were unsympathetic so-and-so’s toward the dog’s owner, toward center director Dr. Jennifer Federico, even toward me.

Tucker’s owner, Danielle Miller, told me that she had second and third thoughts about leaving her dog at the center and went back to get him 45 minutes later.

Snarling at yours truly

A shelter volunteer named Amanda wrote to tell me, “The shelter staff’s decision was 100 percent correct … 50 per day – 350 per week – over 17,000 per year. That is the number of animals turned in to the Wake County Animal Shelter. Come and work in the shelter for a day, volunteer with us and see what we see and I suspect you would rewrite this article with a completely different tone ...

“I’m glad you got the sensational story you wanted and once again the people who are trying their hardest to help are getting kicked down,” she wrote.

“If you actually wanted to help, you would have gone down to the shelter and tried to see things from their side of things and not just listened to one woman who turned her back on her dog.”

Huh? Not all dog owners are as responsible as Miller, who was genuinely concerned that her family’s new, small apartment didn’t provide the German shepherd/Labrador mix sufficient room to run and play.

Miller was being responsible

She is infinitely more responsible than the family I once saw pull to the side of a highway, put their dog out and drive away.

My cousin the reporter told me about how he was walking down a Raleigh street months ago when he saw a majestic Rottweiler scrunched up in the back seat of a tiny car while its young, macho owner dashed into a convenience store.

It was such an incongruous sight – like seeing a regal lion in a carnival cage – and the dog gave him a look that seemed to plead “Say, homes, can you help me out of this tight spot?”

Had Miller and her husband, U.S. Marine Corps vet Andy Sargent been as selfish as that owner, they would have been content to keep the dog confined to their apartment for their pleasure, but not for Tucker’s, with only occasional forays to the forest or park.

Despite her selfless act, though – and despite her obvious anguish over her decision – Miller has been heartlessly pilloried by people whose cup of compassion ran empty at about the same time they learned to type and cook up a fake screen name.

One letter where the writer did not cook up a fake name was from a woman who wrote that even writing the column “was in very poor taste ... I can understand that there is a need to inform the public ... but my gosh!! I just cried when I read it. Now, my question is why did you write such a column? What was your intention in such a disturbing and tremendously sad event? And the picture of the dead dog!!! Good Lord, man! What in the world were you thinking???”

Hence, my earlier comment that “THE DOG WASN’T DEAD IN THE PICTURE!”

As for why write the admittedly heart-wrenching story, we can only hope that it will make someone realize that maybe keeping your dog isn’t such an inconvenience after all.

Better yet, it may make someone realize they aren’t dog-owning material in the first place.

Federico said the center’s staff explains to all pet owners that their dogs could be euthanized, but I’m guessing that they still drive away in blissful self-delusion, somehow convincing themselves that their Rover, above all others, will be sent to an open pasture where he can chase rabbits all the livelong day and watch “The Cat Channel After Dark” on premium cable before dying peacefully in his sleep at 18. (That’s 136 in dog years.)

“Some people,” Federico said, “would rather not know” what happens after they drop their dog off.

Center changing policy

What she called the “unfortunate” incident for Tucker – she said he was killed before a computer could be updated to show that Miller was coming back to get him – has led the Wake County Animal Center to make at least one change: The staff will require owners to remain at the center to ensure that their dog has been properly processed. If the dog is too aggressive, the owner will have the option of taking it back home.

Hmmph. If it were up to me, I’d require the owner to stay for the death, maybe even insert the needle.

Tucker was euthanized, Federico said, because he was aggressive toward her staff and thus couldn’t be put up for adoption. “We’re putting the public at risk” if a “bite dog” is made available, she said. After Tucker didn’t “chill out” within 45 minutes, the fateful decision was made.

That the dog, described by Miller as peaceful and calm, would become aggressive was no surprise to many of you.

“The poor thing was terrified” by being left in a strange facility with people he didn’t know, a reader named Beth wrote.

Susie agreed, writing “Tucker was ‘aggressive’ because he was very frightened and confused and acted the only way he knew how.”

I suspect most of us would’ve barked or bitten if left in a similar spot.

Saunders: 919-836-2811, or

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