Category — Euthanasia

Street Dogs On The Moon

It was July — the middle of winter — but we were able to eat lunch at an outdoor Santiago cafe. A pale winter sun shone on our faces, and the cold Andean wind  pushed down the sidewalk and through my jacket.

“Joe, don’t you like chicken?” Michelle asked. She was from Brazil, and so was Hugo. Ricardo, sitting across from me, and his friend  Patricio were both from Argentina. Gil and and I had traveled from the United States. We had all come to Santiago, Chile to work together on a project.

“I don’t eat meat.”

“You don’t eat meat? Argh, Americans!” She laughed as she took another bite.

I smiled. “I don’t, but those street dogs down on the corner do. I’ll save some for them.” As I ate my salad I picked out the chicken pieces and placed them on the white paper napkin.

Ricardo took out his wallet and showed me a picture of his son and daughter. “I miss them,” he said.

Walking back to the office in downtown Santiago, I remembered the corner where the two street dogs were. I had seen them on our way to the cafe. The small tan dog lay on the sidewalk, just outside a doorway to an office building. I offered him a piece of chicken, but he didn’t move.

I turned and walked a few feet to the other dog, this one larger, with the pointed ears and black/tan markings of a German Shepherd. He slept deeply on the sidewalk, undisturbed, as if on another planet.

I slipped my right hand under his muzzle and lifted his head. Then I put a piece of chicken against his nose. He opened his startled eyes, sniffed the chicken  — and softly opened his mouth.

I could feel people brush past me but they too seemed to be on that far away planet. I focused only on this dog, caressing his soft head with my left hand while I fed him all the chicken I’d saved.

“A Kodak moment,” Gil said.

“I don’t know,” I told him. “But he was hungry.” As we walked away I looked back and saw that he’d returned to his deep afternoon nap.

Crossing At the Light

There are over 200,000 street dogs in Santiago. You see them standing on street corners, lying on the sidewalks, walking through the parks, trotting behind pedestrians in the early morning rush hour. As if they too had a job to get to by nine.

No one bothered the ones I saw, and they lived freely among the inhabitants of this Andean city. These street dogs, I’m sure, knew hunger and cold; yet they lived openly, and with a slight smile on their faces.

Did they have a secret they kept to themselves to be smiling like that? Something only they knew?

Maybe it was as simple as living life day-to-day on their own terms. For however many days they had.

While I waited in downtown Santiago for the red tour bus, I thought of the dogs in some of the shelters back home. They didn’t live quite so freely.

Any dog caught roaming the street without ID tags would be incarcerated and, unless he were lucky, killed (“euthanized”). Over 50% of the 2 million dogs who enter a shelter in the US each year never make it out.

Santiago Street Dog

I looked again for the tour bus, and saw a street dog sitting at the busy intersection just to my left. Next to him stood a policeman. The policeman would walk out into the middle of the narrow street to direct traffic, then return to the sidewalk. The dog watched the people and the policeman and the traffic for ten  minutes or so.

Finally, deciding that it was time to move on, the dog waited until the light turned green. Then he crossed the street along with the pedestrians and disappeared down the sidewalk.

With Your Feet on the Moon

The Brazilians laughed and talked in Portuguese as we walked back to our hotel from the pub. It was our last night in Santiago, and we had watched Brazil defeat Ecuador in a soccer match over a couple of beers. One of the Brazilians, unaccustomed to the cold night air of the Andes, shivered as his wife wrapped her arm around his shoulder to keep him warm.

We walked uphill, toward the mountains in the distance…a mile back to our hotel along curving sidewalks.

As I talked with Leandro, we walked past two street dogs standing near the curb, staring at us. They were both as black as the tires on a car, medium sized, with fine silky hair. I stopped and called to them.

The shorter one opened his mouth into a smile, and walked over to me. He limped on his right rear leg. His buddy followed, close to his friend’s side.

I placed my hand on the limping dog’s right shoulder and, for some reason I can’t remember, decided to put some energy healing into him. He leaned into my leg, and I could feel the Reiki flow through me and into him. Then, after a few minutes, I continued with Leandro down the sidewalk.

The smiling dog with the limp followed us…and the second dog stuck by his friend’s side.

Up the sidewalk we walked as it curved through the cold air coming down from the surrounding mountains. I looked up and saw a  billboard selling new homes in the foothills of the Andes. It read Con Los Pies En La Luna (‘With Your feet On The Moon”).

We kept walking, and the two Santiago street dogs followed. “Joey,” Leandro laughed, “you can’t take them home with you.”

We crossed a bridge high above a dry river bed below, and saw our hotel up the hill to our left. Between the bridge and the hotel ran a four-lane road which was tricky to cross even during the day: the cars flew by at forty miles an hour around a curve.

The Brazilians continued to talk and laugh as we walked, and the street dogs continued to follow us, playing with each other and smiling at us.

Would they follow us across this busy street, I wondered? How could they make it?

When the crossing signal turned green, I said a quick prayer for the two street dogs and focused on getting across that four-lane road. When I reached the other side of the road, the limping dog greeted me with a smile.

As if he knew something I didn’t.

Then he and his friend sat down on the sidewalk to have their photo snapped with one of the Brazilians. The man  laughed and hugged the dogs, one in each arm.

Before going into the hotel, I looked for the moon in the Andean sky, but didn’t see it.

No matter…I finally figured it out.

The moon was near by, and the two street dogs were almost there.

Photo courtesy of Isabelle Lamarre, Quebec City, Canada.

You can read more about the work Joe does with dogs and other animals by clicking here.

November 29, 2011   7 Comments

If There’s a Heaven…

As soon as I said hello I could hear Ula sobbing. “Mr. Joe, oh Mr. Joe, this poor kitty. I can’t believe this.” She stopped because her tears were causing her voice to choke and the words could no longer come out. Ula is an animal rescuer, hardwired for this work. But she has no money to pay for animal communication, and in trying to build a business I’ve had to cut back on pro bono sessions.

But a voice inside me said, “Go ahead.” Besides, I was wearing my favorite red sweatshirt, the one I so dearly love. And, after weeks of daily rain, the sun had finally begun to shine.

“Ula, slow down and tell me what happened.” She had rescued twenty kittens and had found homes for many of them. One seven-month-old kitten had gone to the home of a well-to-do couple, a home which Ula thought would be stable.

“I went over there to check on the kitten,” she told me. “But the woman didn’t answer so I looked through a window. Then the woman came out and told me that if I didn’t leave she would call the police. When the police came I found out the woman had taken the cat to the shelter the day after I had brought her to the woman’s house.”

I was beginning to piece the story together. Then Ula started sobbing harder. “So yesterday I went to the shelter and they said they kept the kitten for seven days. But that’s all they could do.”

“They euthanized her?”

“Yes, and it’s my fault. If only I had come to the shelter a day earlier. I would have gotten her out. I told the woman that if she didn’t want the cat to call me. I would take her back. But she never called.”

“Ok, I got it. Give me a minute.” I let Ula cry and I connected to what had happened at the house. The woman was ill-tempered and mean. The young female cat had scratched one of the woman’s favorite chairs. I could see it clearly. So she simply drove to the shelter and dropped the cat off, claiming it was a stray.

Then I searched for what I wanted to know: why had this happened? There was a reason for all of this. And then it all came to me in an instant.

“Ula, listen to me.”

“Yes,” she said, but she kept crying.

“You took that cat to this woman because you thought her material wealth, her nice home, meant stability and safety for this cat. But this happened in order to teach you a lesson. And this cat agreed to teach you this lesson.”

“Uh, huh,” Ula said.

“You placed your faith in material appearance over the true warmth of a good home. This woman is angry and has a temper, doesn’t she?”

“Yes. But I didn’t know that at first.”

“Ula, the cat came to teach you this lesson. That you must look for the home that has the right feeling, and quit thinking about the outside appearance.” I saw an image of a poor family who would have given the cat a home with love.

“Oh, Mr. Joe. Does she hate me? I’ll never forgive myself. It’s all my fault.”

“Give me a minute, Ula.” I knew where I wanted to go next. I found the cat in the spirit world, and she was smiling. She told me that she had agreed to do this for Ula, but that while in her body the time in the shelter scared her badly. She died afraid. The young cat also had an important message for me to give to Ula.

“Ula, there is no such thing as hate in the spirit world. It doesn’t exist. Listen to me. This is what you need to know. You can’t save them all. You’re not meant to. This earth is a hard place, a hard school.”

Her crying intensified and she finally let it all out. As if the dam—the years of seeing animals suffer hunger and loneliness, cold and neglect, abuse and painful death–finally broke.

“When the animals I’ve got now are all gone, if there is a heaven, if I can get in, I just want to die and go there. I’ll never forgive myself.”

I let her cry for a while, and decided to not tell her the rest of what I knew.

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April 28, 2011   1 Comment

Lucky Day

Two women approached as I played with my Appaloosa on a clear Sunday morning. ‘We’ve come to see Lucky,” the younger one said. “This is my mother. Lucky was hers.”

I didn’t know why Lucky had ended up at the rescue, and I never asked. The hardest days since the Great Depression had come to Ohio, and many horses were surrendered to rescues, auctioned for slaughter in Mexico, or simply taken to the state park and released.

Lucky lay on his side a few yards from me, breathing in the golden sunshine. He was old and tired, and loved to stretch out in the grass.


These would be Lucky’s last days in the sun. He would suffer too much during the coming winter, and even he seemed to know he wouldn’t live till the first snow.

A few minutes later, while playing hide-the-carrot with my horse, I glanced over at the two ladies. The older woman had laid her head on her daughter’s shoulder; tears slid down her cheeks.

Seeing the two women like this reminded of the day I had stopped to visit Lucky in his stall. He had pushed his entire neck through the gap in the stall bars, and laid his head on my shoulder. Just like the older woman was doing now with her daughter.


Three weeks later, Kathy stood in the pasture alongside the pond. She was the volunteer who had cared for Lucky most faithfully: she talked to him, led him from the pasture to the barn, and fed him the mints he loved. She had given up a day of work to be with him now.

When Kathy and I had spoken the night before, I told her what Lucky had said. He wanted Kathy with him, but he didn’t want her to cry. “Tell her to look me in the eye,” he said. Then I told her how to open his chakras so his spirit could more easily pass.

She was ready.

Kathy watched as the vet prepared the tube that would go into Lucky’s neck. Sundance lay on his side nearby, his turn already come.

The vet placed the big needle into the open end of the tube, and pressed down on the plunger. Lucky’s front legs crumpled, and his head bounced hard off the ground. Blood spat from his mouth. Then he lay quietly on his side, no longer breathing.

The vet and two other women from the rescue left so Kathy could be alone with Lucky.

She knelt by his side and, with her open palm, drew a counterclockwise circle above each of his chakras. Then she stretched out alongside him and placed her head on his face. And talked quietly to him.

His eyes, she saw, were clear and alive, as if he were still breathing. She kept talking to him, telling him how happy he was going to be now. Then she saw it.

His head popped out of the body first.

Brown yet translucent, Lucky looked straight at Kathy as if he himself were surprised. Then the rest of him came out of his old body and stood a few feet off the ground in front of her.

He looked young and strong and muscular. And he kicked his legs to show Kathy they were no longer the old and feeble ones that would barely hold his weight.

For a minute or two Lucky took joy in showing off his young, strong body. Then he looked at Kathy, turned, and galloped off.

Before she left Kathy looked into the eyes of his dead body—they were as hard as marble.

“I wasn’t shocked,” Kathy told me afterwards. “But it was an experience I’ll never forget.”

She thanked me, and said she couldn’t have done it without me. But I hadn’t really done anything.

She and the old brown horse had made their own luck that day, the two of them together.

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December 8, 2010   4 Comments