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Bethany here, with the next chapter of Remi’s story.

Valentine’s Day is to celebrate our current loves—and those who came before. Tonight is for joy, as Remi steps from his halfway into his forever. But why are we transporting this Northern California dog to Colorado? That story has 2023 roots.


Last July, I was furious when a SoCal kill facility snuffed out the life of a 2-year old gorgeous grey-and-white happy, healthy, adoptable husky, “just for space.” I avenged him by rescuing a kill-listed SoCal husky. I chose Thunder, a 3-year-old gorgeous, happy red husky with blue eyes, described as “confused in shelter” and “trying to figure out where his family had gone.” Undeterred that H3 was on intake hold, I teamed up with two networker friends to find an adopter, Sally. I paid the neutering, boarding, and transport costs, and Thunder journeyed into his new life with a new name – Saint.


I basked in Sally’s FB updates as Saint bonded with his new husky sibling, Stella. As the HBIC of the household, she made sure he knew his place. Real talk: I felt twinges of envy, as Saint seemed so delightful that I had been tempted to adopt him as a sibling for my K – but plainly, he had hit the jackpot with his new family and was surrounded by love.

Then, disaster struck. Thanksgiving week, Sally messaged me that she had rushed Saint to the evet. He was struggling to breathe. Fluid was leaking into his thoracic cavity and crushing his lungs. The diagnostic and treatment estimates were cost-prohibitive. And the vet unceremoniously recommended euthanasia absent ability to pay. Sally had not purchased pet insurance, believing it unnecessary for a seemingly healthy young dog. (I share this detail with her permission, as we both want to urge everyone to obtain at least catastrophic insurance coverage for their huskies, no matter how young and seemingly healthy. You should not have to live through the horror of deciding whether your husky lives or dies based on whether you can pay a surprise five-figure emergency bill.)


Killing a dog based on anyone’s (in)ability to pay emergency costs is the hallmark of a society that is wholly devoid of ethics.


I will not allow it to happen to a dog that I have taken personal responsibility for rescuing. Period.


I greenlighted the recommended thoracocentesis, which drained more than one liter of fluid from Saint’s lungs and allowed him to breathe. We waited, agonizing about the vet’s suspicion that the cloudy pink fluid he had removed might be cancer.


I spent Thanksgiving reflecting on one of the central dilemmas in rescue: how much can you justify spending on a single dog? The words kept echoing through my head: “On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed . . . who shall live and who shall die[.]” But it was not the High Holy Days, and I am not the referenced heavenly scribe, and I lack any moral authority to make these decisions that rescue repeatedly forces. We all do – yet have to make these decisions anyway.


The principle above is beautifully simple: I will not allow my rescues to die based on money. I learned that how to apply it is far more murky. How much is a dog’s life worth? What framework should one use when forced to play god? Back-of-the-envelope, a single interstate rescue of a young, healthy dog costs $1,000+. Could I justify paying $10,000 so one unhealthy dog would live—or perhaps merely “have a chance to live”? What if the bill was $20,000? Should I consider how many years of life I could buy him? What his quality of life would be? Should I decide that my commitment to Saint would mean that I would allow 10-20 other healthy, unseen dogs to die, dogs that I could have rescued with the same resources? Or should I instead betray my commitment to Saint to fight instead for the 10-20 others who equally deserve their lives, and whom society is equally prepared to poison to save money?


Welcome. To. Rescue.


The days slipped into December even as fluid continued to leak into Saint’s thoracic cavity – and disaster struck again. Sally texted me overnight that she was taking him to the ER as he was struggling to breathe. Near midnight, she received a nearly $1,000 estimate to stabilize him and attempt a second thoracocentesis to drain the fluid that was crushing his lungs. I greenlighted it . . . but then then the phone rang at 12:30 AM, three separate times. The thought thundered through my brain: “They are going to ask me whether I will pay for whatever he needs or whether they should kill him.” I simply could not participate in that decision overnight, exhausted, as H3 was dealing with another life-and-death nightmare involving our heart dog, Torri. So I refused to pick up. And I went to bed, fearing that because I was unreachable, I would wake up to a text that Saint was dead.


Instead, I woke up at 4 AM with a start and grabbed my phone reflexively, immediately seeing this text from Sally: “I’m looking at about 17k total to have him transferred and a 2k-3k deposit upfront for the hospital to admit him tonight. 17k total if everything goes well and there are no complications. [The vet] doesn’t sound optimistic on how well he’ll do.”

My stomach dropped. Five months ago, I’d spent < $1,000 to save a happy, young 3-year-old dog. How the hell did I wander into this new, torturous reality, in which it would cost me more than $20,000 total to give him any chance at life? How could I possibly say yes—knowing that those funds could save so many other lives? But how could I possibly say no?

During that dark night of the soul, I turned to the rescuers who I knew would respond instantly, even at this oddest of hours – to Jenni and Britney and Brooklyn, who had advised me throughout. I needed them to be in this with me, and they immediately were, for which I was so grateful. But I already knew what they would say. From a rescue standpoint, this decision was straightforward: you have to let the desperately ill one go, to unselfishly end his suffering while conserving resources for the next 15-20 healthy ones that inexcusable people will abandon for the government to poison.


But in my mind, I had made a moral commitment to Saint to serve, alongside Sally, as the replacement for the unethical human(s) (term used loosely) who dumped him at a kill “shelter” to die. How then could I tell him that he was simply no longer worth the resources to save?


I spoke at length to two vets and Sally, with whom I read veterinary studies about post-thoracotomy prognoses. The news was grim – so grim that it deferred to another day the moment when I’ll truly have to answer the questions I posed above. The only alternative to immediate humane euthanasia was transferring Saint to a specialty hospital for a cardiac surgeon to perform a thoracotomy – to crack his chest open and attempt to seal his leaking heart ducts. There was no guarantee that he would survive the procedure, or that the ducts could physically be sealed. If either heart disease or cancer (two of the three most likely diagnoses) proved the cause, he was unlikely to live much longer if he survived—even if the ducts were sealed successfully. Regardless of the cause, there was little chance that he would recover fully—to be the energetic, frolicking dog that he had been. And IF he had any future life at all, he would likely need ongoing daily care that would be nearly impossible for anyone who worked outside the home to provide.


And what would Saint have to experience first? I forced the vets relentlessly through the scenarios – “What if this was your personal dog? What if money was no object? What if the outcome was the very best case scenario?” Neither could say that they would categorically recommend the surgery under any circumstances. And Sally, a surgical tech, explained to me the brutality of the thoracotomies she had witnessed in humans, the pain of their recoveries, and their frequently diminished post-op quality of life. We cried together as we imagined and rejected that torment for Saint, and slowly accepted that whatever the financial resources we dedicated, there was no path back to the life that we had dreamed of giving him, that he had enjoyed for the painfully shortest five-month window of time.

I could not muster more than a whisper as I said, “I think you are feeling that it is right to let him go.” We had to say the impossible thing out loud before we could accept it, after all. My heart was in a vice. I wasn’t finding it especially easy to breathe myself. And I felt only mild relief to hear later that Saint’s breathing was so labored that he could barely keep his eyes open as he was euthanized – to know that this was for once a correct use of the term “euthanasia” (rather than the bastardization of that concept by kill facilities), that a “good death” was the last thing that we could give him.


I asked Sally for a paw print and some of Saint’s hair so that I could grieve and remember him too—and she will give me both tonight.


Less than a month after we lost Saint, I was looking over the first January kill list for SASA in Modesto, CA. I did a double take when I saw Remi – another gorgeous 3-year-old red with blue eyes, found as a stray with a cutoff rope wrapped around his neck – sweet, cuddly, loving, joyful, with a personality uncannily similar to Saint’s.


I knew what I had to do. I messaged Sally, knowing that she was either going to hate my idea or love it . . . and after we worked through the idea that rescuing Remi would not replace Saint, but would honor him in the deepest way, H3 had a confirmed tag on Remi within minutes.


Tonight, we honor and remember Saint, by gifting Remi his forever – by doing for Remi what we would have given the world to do for Saint. Join us, won’t you?


And in the meantime, tell us about your past Valentines – the ones you have loved, and are forever in your hearts.



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So Cute!

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Such beautiful Reds! Filled with such love and devotion💌💌🌹🌹🌹

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Beautiful, heart wrenching 💔 story of Saint and Remi!! I cried tears of sadness and joy. 💞💓💞💓❣️

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