Pet Book Review: One At A Time: A Week In An American Animal Shelter

One at a timeThe book, One at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter, is a project of No Voice Unheard. This non-profit organization’s mission is to promote compassion and respect for all living beings and the planet we share.

The authors of this book and founders of No Voice Unheard, Diane Leigh and Marilee Geyer, are former shelter workers and are committed to giving homeless animals a voice.

One at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter is a true account of seven days at a typical American animal shelter in Northern California. This book is about those abandoned dogs and cats that come into the shelter during that time.

Here are some general statistics from the book:

  • 6 to 8 million lost and unwanted animals entered animal shelters nationwide last year. 3 to 4 million animals were euthanized in animal shelters last year. This means one animal is put down every nine seconds.
  • Euthanasia in shelters is the leading cause of death of healthy dogs and cats.
  • 1 in 3 animals will have a home that lasts their entire lifetime.
  • 20% of animals currently in homes are adopted from shelters.
  • 25% of dogs in shelters are purebred.
  • A companion animal is lost every 30 seconds.
  • Only 2% of lost cats who enter shelters are ever reunited with their families. Only 16% of dogs are reunited with their families.
  • The length of time that most surrendered animals have been in the home before being surrendered is less than one year.

The book documents 75 stories of individual dogs and cats that come to the animal shelter during the week. All of these cats and dogs are here to find a home. Some will be reunited with their family, some will move to a new and hopefully permanent and loving home, and some will be euthanized.

All of the stories are touching, emotional and heart felt. At times, I had to put the book down because I was overcome with sadness for these innocent pets that simply wanted to be loved.

Mocha was the only stray cat, out of nearly 150, who was wearing identification that ended up in the shelter during that week. Unfortunately, Mocha’s identification was not the sturdiest. The hollow, two piece id “barrel” that screwed together to hold the piece of paper that had Mocha’s contact information on it had fallen apart. The bottom half of Mocha’s barrel was missing along with her vital identification information inside. Luckily, Mocha’s owners knew to look for her at the shelter. Mocha was one of only a handful of pets who were reunited with their families.

There is Charlie’s story. He was a young Doberman who was graceful and beautiful. He had a sweet personality, was active and happy, and wanted to please those around him. Even though his shelter records said he was “friendly and outgoing”, no one wanted to adopt this Doberman. After three weeks in the shelter, Charlie started to feel kennel stress. He started to growl and lunge at dogs in the kennels near him. He began to bark incessantly and even a citronella collar didn’t stop him from barking.

Charlie had a ten-day stay at a foster home to relieve some of his stress, and then he returned to the shelter. The shelter contacted the local Doberman Pinscher rescue group, but the group only rescued purebred Dobermans, which Charlie was not. He was not enough Doberman to be rescued, but he was too much Doberman to be adopted. Three weeks after his foster home visit, he started to show signs of kennel stress again. His records read: “This poor guy cannot handle the stress of being kenneled. If we sent him out to foster again, he’d come back to the same thing. We tried. Disposition for euthanasia.”

Amidst the tragedy of so many dogs and cats being euthanized, there are those stories of hope and second chances. Bogie was a dog with a huge heart in a pit bull body. He was a stray dog and was wearing a leather collar and a flea collar. Bogie was sweet and kind, but was unclaimed by his owner.

In past years, almost all shelters did not adopt out pit bulls. If one was brought into the shelter, it was directly brought into the euthanasia room. But now, shelters are changing their policies regarding pit bulls and are doing canine temperament testing, so they can see what a dog’s personality is. Bogie was tested and found to have a tolerant, responsive and stable temperament. His energetic personality attracted several adopters, and finally, the right adopter came by. Before adopting Bogie, the shelter required that he be neutered and micro-chipped. Also, the new owner and Bogie would have to attend training classes together. Despite the negative stereotypes of his breed, Bogie got a second chance which he truly deserved. Someone saw him for his loving spirit, and as Bogie, instead of just a pit bull.

One at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter is available at Borders, Barnes and Noble, and independent bookstores everywhere. It also is available at the No Voice Unheard website. All of the proceeds from the sale of this book go to supporting educational programs focused on homeless animals, creating positive change for companion animals, and honoring homeless animals everywhere.

Photo: Barnes and Noble

9 Responses to “Pet Book Review: One At A Time: A Week In An American Animal Shelter”

  1. Lynne says:

    I’m going to buy this book and donate it to my local library.

  2. nora says:

    this story is the saddest of the sad. So heartbreaking about the Dobbie mix that came into the shelter a well adjusted dog only wanting to please and be loved. No one wanted him and soon he lost his happy ways through depression and had to be euthanized. The most tragic situation. I watched a video (only part of it because it was so cold blooded and horrid) on a Peta website, about a” Kill Box” used to gas unwanted dogs (beautiful dogs and puppies) at a “Shelter in North Carolina”. I was so overwhelmed with emotion I sobbed. I do all I can for my local shelters (donations and participating in activities). But I feel defeated when I see stories like these and some of the God Awful ways that possible adoptable loving animals are done away with. I will pray for all the lost souls of these beautiful and unlucky fur babies. If only I could save and love and protect everyone of them.

  3. Bane says:

    It’s disgusting that the deliberate and calculated killing of healthy dogs and cats is condoned and accepted by society as a “necessary” thing. These animals have the intelligence level of human toddlers, and are self aware. And unlike human toddlers, there is no chance that they will grow up to be rapists, murderers and child molesters. They will always be intrinsically good. So why are human toddlers given more rights than these animals? We have our priorities wrong. Human beings are arrogant and selfish to think that the human species alone has a right to life at all costs. The shelter directors and workers who euthanize healthy animals regularly are no better than the concentration camp guards of Nazi Germany. They have the same mentality…”this being is inferior; we have the right to kill them though they are innocent”. I hope that when these evil people die (those who advocate and practice euthanasia of unwanted pets are exactly that…evil), they are faced with a rude awakening as they find themselves in the deepest depths of Hell.

  4. Lis says:

    I watched a video (only part of it because it was so cold blooded and horrid) on a Peta website, about a” Kill Box” used to gas unwanted dogs (beautiful dogs and puppies) at a “Shelter in North Carolina”.

    PETA’s own shelter, perhaps? Given their track record, it seems likely, and it would certainly simplify filming.

    These are tragic stories, but PETA’s tears are crocodile tears; they believe our beloved pets would be better off dead than living with the “indignity” of being loved and cherished pets in a human family.

  5. nora says:

    Write your own stuff, please. No, it wasn’t Peta’s shelter. It was a NC local animal shelter who had been requested over and over to NOT gas the poor animals. Funds had been offered to do euthanization by injection instead of gassing, but the shelter refused because of the expense……YES I HOPE ALL THOSE PEOPLE BURN IN HELL. Including anyone in Peta who truly believes what you said Lis.

  6. Moonbeams says:

    I won’t be buying this book or reading it - I could barely read the lead in above - it is all so very very sad. I feel so sorry for the animals that are put down - I will have my pets until I die and may God be merciful and I live until each one is over the rainbow bridge.

    Our world is changing so much where people want to travel and want their freedom so animals become “disposable - out of sight out of mind” and I being single would like to date and maybe even marry again but so many single men want to travel when they retire and do not want the burden of a dog or dogs - they want someone who is footloose and fancy free so to speak -

    Where does that leave our pets?

  7. Anonymous says:

    That’s why I volunteer at a no-kill shelter, I couldn’t imagine being at a shelter that puts a time limit on a life.

  8. mittens says:

    since my older cats have been dying- i just lost another one , over 20 years olf friday( stroke)-i have been slowly adopting new cats.

    i have specifically chosen animals whom are unlikely to be adopted( 2 semi feral torties who although i still cant really pet them are a joy.) and a 10 year old himalayan who was dropped off at a kill shelter because her person was put in a nursing home. when i went in to pick up the later i was the only person actually adopting not dropping an animal off. i emotionally blanked out to get through it- ive seen all the excuses on petfinder’s pet bio page and craigslist-suddenly someone’s allergic, theyre moving, doesn’t get along with other pet, going off to school, leaving the country and those are the people who actually give excuses instead of dumping the poor creatures off at night or pitching them out of the car in the country. or leaving them in an apartment when you move out. it’s a stunning disregard for life- treating a loving pet who is your responsibility like a pair of shoes you got tired of.seeing people haul their unwanted pets in there with the toys and half eaten bags of food broke my heart. i go to shelters when i feel im up to it but it’s always so very difficult- a paw reaching out of a cage, an animal clearly devastated their people abandoned them. i want to adopt them all and i dont have the room or the money to do it.

    but im not sure some humans treat their own children any better- my father could care less whether i am alive or dead . i treat my cats better than he ever treated me. and there are those who actually kill their children, their loved ones. people are plain no good- i dont expect them to treat animals any better than they treat other humans.it’s sociopathic behavior-convenience rendering people selfish and heartless. i could never trust or want to be near anyone who was unkind, cruel to or had abandoned an animal.people who are cruel and selfish and uncaring aren’t just cruel selfish and uncaring toward animals.

    i think the only thing we can do is to strive to help in whatever little way we can-making people aware of the need to fix their pets, adopting unwanted animals, volunteering at a shelter or rescue, donating specifically to a no kill shelter( who often swoop in to the kill shelters or are warned by workers and rescue animals to be euthanized.) -it really doesnt take much. there are always so many things a rescue needs help with- from helping to socializing or fostering animals, to cleaning cages to donating your old towels or helping with taking pictures or maintaining web adoption pages or helping with fund raisers. not one of us can save everyone of the victims of human abuse and disregard but i find that every day when i look in the faces of my torties and realize they probably would have been euthanized as unadoptable, these sweet playful curious dolls, i know i made a tiny difference. the small differences add up my friends. it’s really all you can do-youre not going to change other people’s behaviors .it’s very easy to dispair-it’s a monumental problem- but it’s better to give whatever it is you can then succumb to helplessness. giving not bitching and raging alone is the path to redemption.

  9. Mimi says:

    I’m disappointed to read the negative reviews for this book and while I’m not looking to flame or be flamed for differing views I want to say I feel the MESSAGE in the book is being overlooked.

    Society created this problem, society allows it to continue. Spay/Neuter programs have been publicized for years, yet there are many uneducated people who have 101 different hang ups for not neutering their pets. Please don’t blame the shelter workers for having no where to house the animals long term - they did not create the problem.

    Personal responsibility is where it all starts. Do right by your pets, don’t create litters of animals, don’t leave them on the shelter door step when you choose to move, don’t toss the dog out when the baby comes, don’t use allergies as an excuse when you haven’t exhausted treatment options.

    If you HAVE to move to a place that doesn’t allow your pet, if the dog is aggressive toward the baby and you are not able to breathe because of the cat - FIND THEM A SUITABLE HOME! You expect the shelter to when you can’t find appropriate placement quick enough.

    Many no kills do euthanize, another message in the book.
    Many no kills have the ability to say NO, we’re full, sorry about your luck, I can’t take your dog today. Not true with an Animal Control, they have to take your dog, they have to have appropriate space. When the facility is full, what shall they do with the animals? They can be fined, they can be shut down for being ‘over the limit’. They have to make hard choices.

    Moonbeam, perhaps you don’t need to read the book if you’ve made such a commitment to the animals you allow to share your home and your life. That is excellent and I am sincere when I say I hope your vision NEVER changes. The reality is many people do not make the same commitment and that is the message in this book.

    Bane, there are just no words. I hope you have looked past your hate for shelter workers faced with cleaning up the mess created by others and have your own home fulled up with as many homeless animals as you can afford to provide proper care for. God speed.


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