Struggling with guilt

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    I really, really don’t know what to believe anymore.

    So, first things first: On Monday, I found an emaciated dog on the street. He was in horrible shape, couldn’t even lift his head, had the leftovers of a rope around his neck, and sores all over his body. I gave him some food and took him to the vet. I posted it on Facebook looking for some donations because I knew the bill would be high but, suddenly, the “owner” appeared and asked for the dog back. I told him no, that the veterinarian had told me he had been mistreated and was extremely anemic. He told me the dog had run away two months ago and he has been looking for it, but had no proof when I asked, not even a single picture of the dog or the place he used to sleep. I then redoubled my efforts to find this old sick dog a decent home, I was sure he dodged a bullet.

    Two days forward, he went to the veterinary clinic again and, for some reason I don’t understand, they gave him my phone number. I told him the same thing via a messaging app and went on a witch hunt on Facebook. I found his page and his very, very unsavory friends, who deal with cockfighting, which is absolutely illegal where I come from, and obvious animal abuse. I was sure he didn’t deserve such a sweet dog and was hellbent on not returning it to him. But it was also the first time I noticed he came from a very humble background.

    Today, he messaged me again and I told him about the bill, asked him to cover it if he wanted the dog back so much. He just ignored this part but kept asking for the dog back. I also told him he was already at his new home, that it would be cruel to get him away from his new family. He kept insisting he liked the dog but failing to prove anything. Thing is, I don’t know this person who took the dog, I don’t know if he will have an awesome life. This was when doubt started to creep in.

    I was on verge of calling the police on him, got really mad, but a more pacifist friend took over messaging for me, and… he really does sound like he misses the dog. He told us its name is “Friend” and he has had it since he was a puppy and his grandkids adore him. And then he agreed on leaving it with the new family but asked us really nicely if we could please send him news and pictures. I was touched. Without the red cloud of anger clouding my thoughts, I went back to review his messages and he has always been polite, apologizing a hundred times for insisting.

    I feel torn, I’m at the same time wondering if he’s playing us (He told us the dog was 9 years old, and then that he was 13)  and overcome with guilt. I have a dog who is my world and I kept thinking of my absolute DESPAIR and PANIC if someone kept me from seeing my dog. But then the other me keeps telling me that I don’t know if this is true and how the hell did the dog get into that state if he was well looked after. I feel like crying because this movie of someone doing this to me keeps playing in my head but I’m also guilty and afraid of going to the adoptee and say I need the dog back. And what if I give the dog back and he just goes on to live a life of torment? But what if this is just a guy who misses his friend?

    I have a terrible, terrible weight on my chest that I don’t know what to do with. I’ve been on the verge of tears for hours and I don’t know if it is because of the guilt I feel for taking a dog away from a person I concluded was bad for him, for jumping to said conclusions, from the shame of what I’ve done and will have to do if I decide to give the dog back, for feeling like a bad person or what. I don’t know what’s the best course of action, I don’t know this person, but on one side I have a very sad old man and on the other I have veterinary professionals telling me that the dog was in such bad shape it will take months for it to get back on his feet and be able to get his vaccinations and be neutered.

    For now, I have decided to do nothing, just wait to see how he’s gonna do at his new house, but this was not a decision made rationally, it was purely a decision out of the urge to get this torment over with. I’m in no way getting better and I’m agonizing over the doubt between two people I don’t know.

    What do I do? Or maybe the right question is actually – How do I deal with my feelings about it? –


    Dear Natalia:

    “how the hell did the dog get into that state if he was well looked after.. I have veterinary professionals telling me that the dog was in such bad shape it will take months for it to get back on his feet”- you carried on a humane, generous and expensive act of saving this dog’s life. Don’t reverse this good act by giving this dog back to its tormentor.

    Your empathy for the man who wants the dog back is based on how you would feel if someone kept you from seeing your dog, but not all dog owners are the same. A person who mistreated his dog this badly is not someone who  would be in “absolute DESPAIR and PANIC” when kept from seeing his dog. After all, if he was in despair and panic after his dog was gone, he would have surely looked for his dog in every way possible.

    One more point, if you had any donators on Facebook who helped pay for the vet bill, you owe those people to not undo their generosity by giving the dog back to the man who failed this dog so terribly.


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