canine health, distemper, dog rescue, euthanasia, foster dogs, shelters

A Little Dog From Texas Who Changed the World

Sometimes rescue sucks.

I’m sorry. I’m not usually so negative. I’m really a very positive person.

When my children were small and we talked about swear words, I told them, “People who need to use those words so often simply lack creativity.” But sometimes, those bad words fit the situation. And I muttered more than my share in the past week.

Last Thursday, we had to make the painful, but humane decision to euthanize Bippity Bop. Her condition deteriorated so fast, it stunned me. It was as if her brain were being consumed by some otherworldly power. One day she was snuggling to my side, and the next she was weaving away (she couldn’t stand or walk stably by that point) from my reach. She staggered through our house, running into walls, and collapsing when faced with an obstacle like a stair or a rug.

Her eyes grew vacant, lost. When I picked her up to load her in the car to drive to our vet’s office, she panicked and even tried to nip at me. That was the moment I realized that Bippity was gone. The dog Nick and I loaded into the crate was a ghost. She didn’t know who she was who I was or what was happening. As Dr. Sarah explained at the clinic, “Her eyes can take in stimuli, but her brain can’t process it.”

We sat with Bippity on the floor and talked about what could be causing her decline, with Dr. Sarah ticking off every possibility. The one we both leaned most heavily toward was late-stage distemper. The only other real possibility in a dog this young was cancer. But either diagnosis, combined with her symptoms and how rapidly she was deteriorating, meant she would die. Recovery wasn’t a realistic possibility. And for me, letting Bippity continue to suffer in the hopes that something would change was not an option.

When we save these dogs, we do it because we value their souls. We believe they deserve to live, to be loved, and not to suffer, struggle, and die in shelters or on the streets. Making this decision to euthanize Bippity went against the grain of my dog-rescuing soul, but I know it was the right one.

I knew before coming to the vet’s office that this was a possibility. I’d brought along a comfy dog bed and my steady husband knowing we would need both. After the IV was placed, I nestled Bippity onto her bed, since my lap had become a foreign place to her.

I stroked her gently and Dr. Sarah and I both whispered to her as she left. Dr. Sarah had warned that sometimes in neurological situations like this, the dog’s body can react quite violently to the drugs that euthanize, so I was prepared. But Bippity went peacefully, as if she was just dozing off on the back porch where she spent so many warm afternoons.

Losing Bippity hurt so badly, but it also made me ANGRY (and I would have preceded that word with one of those swear words if I weren’t trying to keep this site PG). Distemper can be prevented with a simple $5 vaccine. That’s all it takes. Bippity got one when she came into rescue, but it was too late.

Most likely, she’d contracted distemper prior to the vaccine. When she arrived, we treated what we assumed were symptoms for Bordetella and Ehrlichia. I don’t know if the outcome would have been different had we known she had distemper. Maybe we would have euthanized her sooner and not allowed her to suffer those last few days. There will be no autopsy, so we’ll never really know.

And it wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t change anything.

Which is what makes me angry. There is simply nothing I can do about it, except continue to rescue. And to work to raise awareness and bring change. There are so many places in this country where every dog has a good chance. Where distemper and heartworm disease are rarely seen, and where dogs do not die for lack of space or money.

Most of our country is like that, which is wonderful news. But that only makes the contrast more stark. People are shocked when I tell them about dog catchers and dog pounds in Tennessee, dogs shot in Alabama because there is no shelter, ‘euthanized’ because they have been labeled a ‘pitbull’ or are heartworm positive in Mississippi, dumped in huge numbers on the edge of the Everglades, or killed by ranchers, heartworm, parvo, distemper, or target practice in Texas.

These are hard stories to tell but we have to tell them. That is the only way we can learn from them. We can’t fix a problem we don’t know (or don’t want to know) exists. Because we can’t bring change without awareness.

In less than two weeks I’m headed out on another shelter tour with Who Will Let the Dogs Out. We’ll travel to seven shelters in six states, sharing their stories and trying to raise awareness and resources to help them. I hope you’ll follow along, consider supporting us with a donation, share our posts and videos, and help us spread the word.

Change will come. I know it because I know so many of you dog-hearted people. People who loved Bippity, a little dog from the border of Texas, whose life mattered. Whose story will help inch us closer to solving this very solvable problem.

Last week was a hard one. But it was also fuel for the fire. Rescue matters. Fostering saves lives. We can fix this.

If you’d like a fresh dosh of kittens, stop by the Another Good Dog Facebook group where I have been putting regular updates of our foster kittens- Hemingway, Twain, Poe, and Harper.

Until Each One Has a Home,


For information on me, my writing, and books, visit

If you’d like regular updates of all our foster dogs past and present, plus occasional dog care/training tips, and occasional foster cat updates (!) be sure to join the Facebook group, Another Good Dog.

And if you’d like to know where all these dogs come from and how you can help solve the crisis of too many unwanted dogs in our shelters, visit and subscribe to our blog where we share stories of our travels to shelters, rescues, and dog pounds.

If you can’t get enough foster dog stories, check out my book: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs. Or its follow up that takes you to the shelters in the south One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues.

I love to hear from readers and dog-hearted people! Email me at

Many of the pictures on my blog are taken by photographer Nancy Slattery. If you’d like to connect with Nancy to take gorgeous pictures of your pup (or your family), contact:

20 thoughts on “A Little Dog From Texas Who Changed the World”

  1. Doggone it. I’m so sorry for the loss of this sweet dog. I know it must have been a heartbreaking decision but you realized it was the best option. May you continue helping where you can. Thoughts of comfort are being digitally sent to you. 💔

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so sorry to read this. I have followed this sweet girl’s story. You certainly did give her comfortable and loving end of life care, in a much better situation than a cold cruel shelter as a number.

    As someone who accompanied a neighbor to euthanize her 16 year old rescue, yes it’s so very hard. I’m so glad she went as peacefully as my neighbor’s beloved boy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry…posted my comment on the wrong post, an earlier on on Bippity. I’m so sorry for the loss of a sweet dog. I had to put down a 4 month old kitten last December, born unable to digest food at all…just about broke my heart after fighting for his life for many weeks. Rescue can be really hard some days.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So sorry to hear this, Cara. Although it’s a gift we can give to them to end their suffering, knowing that doesn’t ever make the decision any easier. I hope you can take some comfort in the fact that Bippity had a home and experienced love for a while – possibly for the first (and only) time in her short life – and that came from you and your family. Take care … Steve

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so sorry Cara. I fell in love with that little girl. At least she was able to experience love and kindness with you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m so sorry, Cara! You made the right decision, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. And you’re right….we have to do better for stray and unwanted dogs. Thank you for being one of their most passionate voices.

    Liked by 1 person

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