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Tragic Death of War Hero Dog Holds a Lesson

By now you probably have heard the sad story of the dog named Target. The stray German Shepherd mix was credited with saving a number...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Nov 20th 2010


By now you probably have heard the sad story of the dog named Target.

The stray German Shepherd mix was credited with saving a number of US soldiers’ lives when she frightened a suicide bomber inside a military base in Afghanistan. She was brought to the United States by an army sergeant when his tour of duty ended. A week ago she escaped from her owner’s yard in Arizona. She was picked up by animal control officers and taken to the local shelter. She was then accidentally euthanized.

The tragic story has led to an online uproar. The employee who made the mistake has been fired. He or she no doubt will live with a great deal of guilt for a very long time.

My heart goes out to Target, her owners, and yes, even the fired employee who made the mistake. There is nothing good about the story.

However, one portion of the story caught my eye.

A neighbour found Target wandering [on the day she escaped] and put her in his backyard and called the shelter. The dog did not have a microchip or tag.

I don’t know that proper identification would have saved Target’s life. But it might have. If Target had been wearing a tag the neighbor might have called the owner rather than the dog pound. Management procedures at the offending shelter obviously aren’t ideal, but most shelters scan for microchips when dogs are brought in. Target’s owner might have been able to claim her before the mistake occurred.

Proper identification is a basic way to protect your pet. It’s not guaranteed to work, but every step you take has the potential to make a difference.

The finger pointing public has been quick to excoriate the shelter and the employee (who hasn’t been identified in order to protect his or her safety) involved in the incident. There is no excuse for such a grievous mistake, to be sure.

Angry people should remember, however, that shelter work is stressful and demoralizing. It doesn’t pay well. Most shelter workers are engaged in a labor of love.

I’ll bet the ex-employee who made the mistake feels awful. The death of Target is a tragic event no matter how you look at it.