A now-viral photo of a dog tied to a fire hydrantBy now, you’ve likely seen the heartbreaking photo of a dog named Baby Girl that was tied to a fire hydrant with a bag of food and toys, along with a heart-wrenching note from her guardian about why she couldn’t keep her beloved friend.

At first, the photo and story, which quickly went viral, were met with outrage and condemnation of Baby Girl’s guardian. As is often the case with those of us who love animals, our emotions can be quite strong when we see an image of an animal that might be in distress, or simply at the thought of someone abandoning a pet.

Likewise, on Marin Humane’s social media pages, we’ve had commenters call for people to be jailed, beaten up and even killed whenever there’s a suspicion they treated an animal badly or gave them up. We understand those feelings — and to be clear, we take real instances of cruelty and neglect seriously. But as is often the case, and certainly was with Baby Girl, there is much more to the story.

If you didn’t get past the screaming headline of “Dog left tied to fire hydrant!” you might not have learned that the woman who left Baby Girl there was absolutely heartbroken and truly felt she had no choice. She’d become homeless and was going through cancer treatments. She tried to rehome Baby Girl to friends and family, and even went knocking on neighbors’ doors, begging them to take Baby Girl in. She finally contacted her local animal shelter and was given a future appointment to surrender the dog but she simply could no longer keep her. After tying Baby Girl to the fire hydrant, she called police and then watched from down the block to make sure the dog got to safety.

She told her heartbreaking story to a local news station and the pain and anguish in her voice was palpable. She said that leaving her beloved dog was the hardest thing she’s ever had to do in her life.

Wisconsin Humane Society, the shelter that took Baby Girl in and found a home for her, wrote this beautiful message to the guardian on their Facebook page: “First and foremost, we are so sorry you had to part with your best friend. It’s evident just how much you loved her and we can see you did your best while struggling with your own medical complications and challenges of life. We see your love in the bag you carefully packed with all of her favorite things. We see your love in the way you secured her leash so she wouldn’t get hit by a car. We see your love in the way you placed her in the middle of a neighborhood where she’d be quickly found. We see your love in how happy and healthy Baby Girl looks. And we see your love in the note you left, pleading for someone to help her when you no longer could.”

So often, we animal lovers don’t see past the animal in trouble to ask if their humans are in need of help, too.

Marin Humane will always protect and defend animals — and we’re proud to help the people who love them as well. Among many other services, we accomplish this through innovative programs like our Pet Safety Net, which offers free pet food, supplies, and funds for veterinary care as well as our private rehoming service, No Place Like Home.

And when someone has truly run out of options, we’re here to take in their animals — without judgment.