Experiencing the pain of putting a street dog to sleep

By: Ahmed Safi

He was in a pitiful state, lying on a street in a rich neighborhood in Ramallah under a fancy car. The poor dog could not complain or show pain, and as we approached him, he tried to attack but his forces collapsed. At first, we received contact from some friends who directed us to the place. We thought that he had multiple gunshot wounds on his body. We tried with every effort to carry and move him to the nearest possible vet.

There was a heavy load at PAL’s vet clinic that day, and there were many people and their companion and rescued animals waiting. We rushed the dog to another vet who volunteered help. After seeing the vet, it became more dangerous than we expected. What we thought was gunshot was in fact a bacterial infection that evolved into subcutaneous tubers that caused gaps in the skin to produce pus and blood. As soon as the vet saw this, he asked us to sterilize ourselves quickly. We argued about his condition and the possibility of his survival, but the matter was too risky to take care of and harder to do, and he was too weak to endure the pain. The dog’s conditions required him to be quarantined and to be monitored by specialists 24/7, and we also needed an advanced laboratory to examine his blood and know the type of bacteria, which unfortunately is not available. The confrontation was now between the few possibilities that we had and the suffering experienced by the dog before we found him.

We eventually made a decision to euthanize the dog and it was a hard one to take. To decide to end the life of another being, to relieve them from suffering and to control inevitable damage within very limited resources and alternatives, is not yet an easy decision to land. It was our duty to prevent the transmission of bacteria to other animals and to humans as well. We contacted the group that contacted us about the dog in order to inform them of the decision, as it is also a humanitarian and moral duty to engage them. However, we received a harsh attack and we were called criminals.

Osman, a volunteer at PAL, nicknamed The Jinni, and who spent three years in an Israeli prison, was among those who answered the call to rescue the dog. He could not handle the decision afterwards. We always thought that Osman was tough, due to his harsh life in the refugee camp witnessing the killing of his friends during clashes and invasions. Ending a life was not an option for Osman, and having a harsh life would not make him easily absorbing such a decision. He left the place heartbroken and speechless. Obada, another guy witnessed the incident and also could not handle the situation. The 15-year-old Sama, one of our youngest volunteers, who was enthusiastically happy to help rescuing a sick and vulnerable dog at first, could not believe that he would not survive.

If we examined the choices we had, were we really criminals by making such a decision? Did we actually make the right decision? Did we really save other lives by avoiding a possible similar suffering? Should we have listened to the opposing voices to not to euthanize the dog for reasons ranging from compassion to religious considerations? What would we have done better than that under the possibilities available?

He was nameless and remained nameless. We decided to bury him. At 2:00 am, we finished our medical day, sterilized the vet clinic at PAL’s headquarters and headed to a quiet place where we dug a suitable place for him to rest.

I took the first dose of antibiotic recommended by the doctor. I sterilized the whole car while contemplating; what should have happened in this case? Should we “kill” to save others? Sometimes, the answer is yes, if this life is so miserable that death may be the best choice and the less suffering option. I recall how much pain Palestinians have suffered in this conflict and how many people hoped for death from the pain, whether physically or psychologically; how many people wished for death and did not find it while breathing white phosphorus on Gaza, believing an eternal end could be more relieving; how many hungry fathers saw their children die by bombing and wished they can join them.

Sometimes decisions are difficult to make, but they are the most appropriate during difficult situations, but some people cannot understand the motives behind such decisions.