Open Letter From Dog Rescuer Divides Animal Welfare Community

Jamie White’s “Open Letter to the Person Who Left This Sweet Dog at the Kill Shelter” minced no words. But did she step over the line?

By: Ricardo
“I held her head in my arms and whispered in her ear while she slipped away.” By: Ricardo Romão

Jamie White of the Huffington Post recently published “An Open Letter to the Person Who Left This Sweet Dog at the Kill Shelter.”

Her open letter, which minced no words, had an astounding 18,000 Facebook likes by the end of the day. It’s no wonder her letter went viral, given the intense emotion behind White’s writing.

White described saving a 12-year-old, ailing dog named Cocoa who had been dropped off at an Animal Control shelter. She gave the sweet dog a loving home and costly health care for the remaining weeks of her life. (Here’s a photo of Cocoa.) And when it was time for Cocoa to go to the rainbow bridge, White was right there with her:

“Instead of dying on a cold floor in a cold building with people who may or may not give a damn how her end happened, she died in my arms. I held your dog’s head in my arms and I whispered in her ear while she slipped away. I told her what a pretty girl she was. I told her how much I loved her as I stroked that spot just above her eye.”

Then in her letter, White proceeded to relentlessly rip into Cocoa’s original owner, the one who after a dozen years had decided to relinquish this family member to a lonely shelter existence:

“I’m writing this letter to let you know just what a piece of shi*t I think you are. If you ever do read this letter, know that I, along with my many animal-loving friends all over this world, think you are the lowest of the low. You don’t take a 12-year-old dog, a ‘sweet old girl — a wonderful companion,’ and dump her at a high-kill shelter. You didn’t even give her a good chance.”

Animal lovers are divided over Jamie White’s words. On the one hand, some commenters at HuffPo called her an “angel” whose piece needed to be said. On the other hand, this animal rescuer was accused of being self-righteous.

Commenter Eric Webber put it this way: “This story could have been written in one sentence: ‘I’m Jamie White, and I’m better than all of you.'”

Below, published with permission, is a reaction from ColoRADogs rescue founder and president Nancy Tranzow, who says White’s rush to judgment was “hateful” and does not serve the greater good.

An Open Letter to the Woman Who Wrote: “An Open Letter to the Person Who Left This Sweet Dog at the Kill Shelter”

Dear “Rescuer,”

I read your blog — and as I did, tears rolled down my eyes. But not for the reasons you might think, and certainly not in some show of emotional solidarity. I cried because of the cruelty of your words and the complete lack of insight that this person, who relinquished their dog, might have not been able to keep her, and perhaps in relinquishing Cocoa, made the most excruciating decision she ever had to make.

The shelter gave you the intake form? I can’t imagine they ever thought you would use that information to rant against Cocoa’s previous person in the manner in which you did. So let’s review what information you gathered in to decide why this person “dumped” their dog.

They had no money to care for their dog and had to move to a place where they couldn’t keep her. You assumed that they must have known she had cancer and that’s why they relinquished her. I wonder, if someone says they lack funds and have to move into an area where they cannot take their senior dog, why would you think that they would know about her cancer? Do you believe that somehow they had the funds for expensive diagnostic work and then, having spent all their funds, took the dog to the shelter? Or perhaps they spent all their money on vet care and then had no more money for rent so moved into pet-restricted housing.

That just doesn’t seem to make sense. You did not say Cocoa was dirty, skinny, scared, acted abused or any of the usual indications of an unloved dog. I will assume she was well fed, clean and loving as I have no doubt you would not have failed to mention it in your blog had it been otherwise.

I am in rescue too. I see the worst of the worst as we focus on pit bulls. We see the dogs from true fight busts, you know the large scale ones, dogs who have lived on chains their whole lives, dogs who are scarred, disfigured, and abused. Dogs who people truly do not want, nor care about.

I have also rescued dogs from the shelters. Old dogs who seem to know what it is to be loved, sleep on a bed, know what a good pizza smells like and have a disease like cancer. But here’s the difference.

When I see an intake form like that, I wonder. Did Cocoa’s person enter senior assisted living. Are they going through chemotherapy and can’t get out of bed most days? Have they become homeless? What circumstances or lack of resources put them in this position and Cocoa in a shelter environment?

Then I take it a step further. How can my group help? Can we find their person and see if we can at least let them know their dog is safe? Can we change this story?

I understand you had just put Cocoa down, but it is not an excuse for such a cruel and hateful diatribe against a person who you know nothing about. Rescue is about compassion for both sides of the equation. People AND the animals. If you can’t choose compassion, then maybe it’s time for a new perspective and a new line of work.

Oh, and one more thing. I am sitting in the middle of Colorado as I watch our state’s devastation increase by the minute. We are seeing, and will continue to see, evacuees’ animals come into our shelters and rescues as we take in the overflow. Some pets will make it home and some will not. Resources are not infinite, and “sh*t happens.” You are more than welcome to come help, and we’ll show you an example of “There but for the grace of God go I.” Hopefully it will change your perspective and open your heart.

Update 1: White’s open letter was originally published on her own blog. Here is the link. In that version, White came very close to revealing the original dog owner’s name. The Huffington Post made a good call by choosing to edit out the multiple mentions of the woman’s first name.

Update 2: Here is an interesting conversation on Facebook about this topic:

Post by Kim Wolf.


Update 3: Now Jamie White and Nancy Tranzow have publicly connected on Facebook and … well, they actually bonded. Check out their exchange, which we’re republishing below. They have the right idea. Can’t we all get along?

Jamie White: Hi. I am the one that wrote that letter. I apologize if I missed a response in which you reached out to me. I have never published anything on the Huffington Post before (they approached me) and I am finding it hard to keep up with all the responses and replies to responses. I think there is some confusion- I do not work in a rescue group. I just have a house full of pets I have found or adopted. I realize my letter has caused an awful lot of anger and hurt. That letter was written on a blog that is usually seen only by my friends. I didn’t know it would be seen by so many. Believe me when I tell you, had I known it would cause this much grief I would have reconsidered. But my blog is just that- my blog. I was venting my feelings for what I thought was a very limited audience. All my friends know me well enough to know the person behind the words. Total strangers do not. Lesson learned. I have resisted the urge to defend myself thus far so I guess it’s not right to do so here. You’re right- I don’t know anything other than what was written on the intake sheet (which was inadvertently left in her paperwork). As for helping your rescue in Colorado, I wish that I could help. Sadly, I can’t leave work to do so, so I have to be content with donating money to the rescue organizations that are working tirelessly to save as many lives as they can.

ColoRADogs: Hi Jamie- Thank you so much for your response. It is truly appreciated and we have tremendous admiration for you for responding. That has to be a scary thing to do. We do know the Huff Post approached you. We are so sorry for you loss of Cocoa and have held many a senior dog, and unfortunately many an abuse case, as they took their final breaths. We thank you for being Cocoa’s soft place to land and want you to know that while we wish the post had never been put out there, we also get that social media has a way of taking off. We do hope that Cocoa’s previous person knows that you loved her until the end and that she was safe with you. Indeed total strangers do not know who you are and please know that we do not think that moment in time defines you. If you are ever in Colorado, please look us up. We’d love to take you out to dinner and a beer and show you our crazy group. Keep doing the good work you are doing and loving those dogs just maybe set those blogs to “super private.” Thank you again for reaching out.

Jamie White: Thanks. At this point I don’t know whether to laugh, shake my head or cry. Remember the line in the post that said “act in haste repent in leisure” is my motto? Yeah. That. A million times over. Thank you for your response.

ColoRADogs: You are welcome. I think perhaps a drink is in order …and some deep breaths.

Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Dave Baker, founder and publisher of Petful, is a journalist and editor who has worked at The New York Times and The Nation magazine. He was also part of the Pulitzer Prize–winning team at The Times-Picayune newspaper of New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Petful is now based. A longtime advocate for pet food safety, Dave has been passionately tracking pet food recalls for the past decade. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from Clemson University in his home state of South Carolina. Dave has cared for a number of dogs, cats and other small pets over the years.

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