Hero dog's tragic death points out shelters' dilemma

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

We deal with stories of death and tragedy every day, but the word that Target, a dog that helped save the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan, had mistakenly been euthanized, left us with shock and heavy hearts.

We were perhaps the first media outlet to run a story on Target, thanks to a local connection. Sgt. Terry Young, who brought Target back from Afghanistan, is a Valentine High School graduate who joined the Army National Guard while living in McCook, and whose wife, Melissa, is the daughter of Mitch and Candy Farr of McCook and the late Dora Farr.

While he was serving with the 313th Medical Corps in Afghanistan in July 2009, he and other soldiers befriended Target, Sasha and Rufus, who appeared near their compound in Dand Aw Patan. When the dogs confronted a suicide bomber who wanted to enter the compound, he detonated his bombs while he was still far away from the soldiers.

Sasha died of her wounds, but the other two came to the United States, Target to Sgt. Young's home in Phoenix. After the story got out, Target became a hero, appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show last month.

Target got loose from the Young home late last week, and a neighbor kept her in her yard before turning her into the local animal shelter. Terry spotted his dog on a website, but when he arrived to retrieve her Monday morning, found that an employee had already taken Target, who wore no tags and had no microchip implanted, from her cage and had her euthanized.

The employee has been suspended for not following procedures, and the animal shelter has issued a heartfelt apology, but we share any feelings of outrage members of the Young family may have.

Still, our hearts go out to the animal shelter and employee involved. Yes, it was a stupid mistake that shouldn't have happened. But why should anyone have to be responsible for euthanizing companion animals? Target was probably just one of thousands of animals that were euthanized around the country on Monday.

The story makes us appreciate our own McCook Humane Society shelter, where a minimal number of animals are put down, all the more.

The best tribute we can pay to Target, Rufus, Sasha -- and hero animals of all types -- is to make sure our pets are spayed and neutered, vaccinated and properly identified.

You can read Sgt. Young's original story about Target and her companions here http://www.mccookgazette.com/story/1655396.html

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