This was the heartbreaking moment that a dog saw her former owners at an animal shelter — only to find they weren’t there for her:
“They didn’t want her back because she kept escaping,” dog trainer Janay Chapin, who was working with Zuzu during the encounter, told The Dodo.
This desperately sad story about 2-year-old Zuzu — who was named by folks at the Downey animal shelter in Los Angeles, for the little girl in It’s A Wonderful Life — has understandably gone super viral, in the last couple of days.
The family who left Zuzu has been condemned as heartless, and far worse — again, understandably, though if you’d allow a bit of preachy editorializing here, we’d suggest empathy, and perhaps even help, as a better response.
We don’t know this family’s situation. Maybe they are monsters! Or maybe they are good people who got overwhelmed by a dog who they couldn’t keep home. (Worth noting: the family did not “surrender” Zuzu to the shelter; she was picked up and brought in as a stray.)
Perhaps they are not aware of the groups whose outreach efforts are directed at helping people take care of their animals when they are feeling ill-equipped to do it.
An incredible nonprofit in Los Angeles is Downtown Dog Rescue. For those not in the area, there are organizations around the country that’ll provide free dog training. Others will build fences, so that dogs like Zuzu can’t escape so easily.
“The video was not shot by a County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control staff member and it was not reported to us that Zuzu’s original owners were at the care center that day looking to adopt another dog until after the video had been posted,” a shelter spokesperson told Shelter Me. “Had we been given that information, the department can make a decision to not adopt the dog out, especially in cases where we believe a potential owner sees a pet as being disposable. At the same time, we don’t have the entire story and the owners could be great pet owners and this particular pet was just not a great fit for their household.”
The group Friends of the Downey Shelter said on their Facebook page that the family did not, in any case, adopt another dog during that visit.
Now comes the happy ending for Zuzu: she’s getting sprung on Friday, by a rescue group ready to take her in. A Friends of the Downey Shelter representative told Shelter Me Zuzu is going to the Pet Adoption Fund in Canoga Park.
“Yes, Zuzu will be safe with us,” said Diana Edwards, with the Pet Adoption Fund. “We have many inquiries on her already. She will be matched up with a family hopefully very soon.”
The shelter spokesperson said, just in case, there’s also “a list of five interested parties for Zuzu.”
Zuzu, good dog: It’s going to be a wonderful life.
Here’s Zuzu’s Shelter Me adoption listing. And because we are optimists: Here are a whole bunch of other dogs at the Downey shelter who are also looking for homes. Maybe with you?
Story tip? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org!