Last evening, while scrolling through various news sites, waiting for bedtime to arrive, I came upon a headline that just baffled me, made me sick, and made me angry all at the same time. The headline “Healthy Guide Dog Killed, Buried With Owner” was enough to make anyone sick. The article essentially tells the story of 68 year old Sheila Stadler, from Indiana, who died of cancer. At her request, the family had her faithful, healthy, 5 year old service dog euthanized and laid at her feet. Excuse me? They did what?
Mrs. Stadler was described as a ‘dedicated’ homemaker, who’s favourite book was the bible. Her son says that in the days following his mother’s passing, the dog seemed depressed. Really?! You don’t say. Was the son depressed? Perhaps we should have had him put down and laid at his mother’s feet!
It’s not even the thought of the dog being put down that upsets me so much, it is the fact that this was a trained service dog for the blind. A few months ago, I interviewed a director from the Israeli Guide Dog Institute, which you can read online at http://www.petbreederconnection.com. These dogs go through the equivalent of $25,000.00 worth of training in order to become seeing eye dogs. The number of people involved with these dogs, from those who foster the dog in it’s first year of life, giving it training basics, (at no charge, by the way), to those who train the dogs, to those who volunteer to test the dogs, to those who raise funds for all aspects of medical care, housing and training, is incredible. These folks give from their hearts each and every day, so that those without sight, or without hearing, or with various debilitating diseases, can have their lives made a little easier, and this family chose to put down a perfectly healthy, 5 year old, trained service dog? Do you have any idea how many people are waiting to get their own service dogs? Do you have any idea the freedom and independence that having one of these dogs can offer a person living with a disability?
I am sorry that Mrs. Stadler passed away from cancer. I am sorry that Mrs. Stadler was blind and required a service dog. But mostly, I am sorry that Mrs. Stadler didn’t take the time to think about what she could have given to someone else as her final legacy.