As a dog lover, I was moved to read about the death of Nova, an army dog who was killed in a car-crash in Afghanistan. She was a bomb detection dog who died during a training exercise. She was so special that her body is being sent home in its own coffin, in the hold of an RAAF cargo plane. How many dogs, I wonder, have had the privilege of being treated as well as their humans? The fact that Nova was working to save human lives in a war zone made her death newsworthy, but what about all the dogs back here in Australia that are being put down every day, simply because no-one wants them?

Sadly there are many beautiful dogs in our communities that are neglected and abandoned by people who either don’t know how to care for a dog, or are too selfish to be bothered with the responsibility once the novelty of dog ownership wears off. There are also many other situations where people, for whatever reason, can no longer continue to look after their pet and, with good intentions, leave the animal with a shelter thinking that it will be rehoused. Unfortunately, only a very small percentage of these animals are rehoused and the rest are euthanised – and not just dogs with temperament problems or terminal illnesses. Many healthy, happy, well-behaved dogs are destroyed each week because they fail the assessment test for rehousing. They might be considered too timid, be non-responsive, have flea allergies or skin complaints, or need surgery.

There are organisations, run by volunteers working in their spare time, that save dogs from death row and rehouse them. These people rely on the goodwill of those prepared to foster or adopt these animals. They are also dependent upon the donation of money, food, bedding, leads, collars, food and drink bowls, crates, towels and many other items. Their work involves driving to shelters, collecting the dogs and transporting them to foster homes where they are kept until a suitable home can be found for them to stay permanently.

With better education about the responsibilities of owning a dog, and perhaps even introducing dog ownership licences combined with short courses, people might think a bit more about the long-term responsibilities they face in bringing a dog into their lives. It’s a huge job and unless you’re prepared to spend considerable time and energy with your dog each day, don’t get one. If you do decide to get a dog, consider adopting one. You may just save a life.