In memory of ‘Forgotten Dog’ Daniel, let’s get animals on the agenda (Opinion)

Photo: Yvette Holzbach, Yvette Holzbach Photography

by Katerina Lorenzatos Makris

I rarely write news articles in the first person. To my mind, news is best delivered through traditional journalism, where reporters gather facts and viewpoints, present them accurately and fairly, and keep themselves strictly out of the way.

Tonight, because I can’t stop crying, and because I feel sick, I can’t keep myself out of it.

Daniel is gone. I never met him. I only wrote about him. But like hundreds of others following his story, I wanted him to make it.

Daniel is gone. So are billions of other Daniels, whose deaths were just as senseless.

Daniel is gone. And at this very moment millions more Daniels out there stagger along the same road, headed in the same direction.

I’m sick of it. I can barely stand it anymore. Sometimes I feel my head is going to explode. My heart already has.

How much more heartbreak?  How much more suffering? How many more of these impossible missions, where rescuers, sacrificing their own time, money, health and sanity, desperately scramble to piece back together lives that others have torn apart?

Cradled and loved

Daniel, strangely enough, was one of the luckier ones. He died with a full belly, on soft blankets, untroubled by cold or heat or rain, safe from speeding cars, rat poison, shotguns, and psychopaths.

He received a painless overdose of a barbiturate expertly administered in a veterinary hospital, cradled in the arms of the volunteers from who deeply loved him—perhaps the only love he had ever received in his life.

But it really wasn’t the barbiturate that killed Daniel. You could argue that it wasn’t even the illness or starvation. Actually Daniel’s death began long ago, before he was born. His torturous demise was in the cards—cards with names like apathy, selfishness, and greed.  The same cards dealt to countless animals all over the world, every day.

‘Time to let him go’

This morning the veterinarian who was caring for Daniel phoned Kelle Mann Davis, founder of Forgotten Dogs of the Fifth Ward Project—the all-volunteer group that plucked Daniel from his life of misery on the streets of one of Houston’s most poor and dangerous neighborhoods.  The vet, Dr. Michael Huddleston, let her know that “our Daniel was having trouble eating and swallowing and that he felt it was time to allow him to go,” Davis wrote in her gut-wrenching Facebook post about the difficult decision she had to make.

Severely starved, stripped nearly bald by sarcoptic mange, Daniel had contracted distemper at some point during his rough life roaming Houston’s inner city.  Though he somehow managed to survive that deadly disease, it left him with neurological damage that caused uncontrollable jerking movements and stiffness in his jaw.

Yet there was hope. In the veterinary hospital where Daniel spent his last days, he had grown more responsive. Though still too weak to stand or walk, and still plagued by his body’s harsh jerking motions—even in his eyelids—he was becoming more alert and aware.

His fur was starting to grow back in.

His appetite was excellent. The that showed him gobbling up his food made me chuckle. I watched those over and over.

I also loved the made by volunteers including Linda Sullivan, who visited him nearly every day, saying she wanted to “make up for all the petting he had missed out on in the past” during his life alone in the concrete jungle.

Because of those improvements, even though the vet had given Daniel only a 30 percent chance, I had talked myself into believing he was going to make it.

It was devastating to hear that he hadn’t.

A plea

This article is not one of my best. I’m most in the groove while I’m interviewing sources, studying documents, and pulling together the pieces of an animal issue’s puzzle. Instead, this article is disorganized, incomplete, and stained with my grief.

But I suppose it isn’t really an article. It’s a lament. A lament for Daniel, and for all the others like him who have gone before, and who will surely follow.

And maybe it’s a plea. But for what?

Following the death of Kingston, another starving, mange-pocked street dog who was taken in by Forgotten Dogs in cooperation with and this summer, I asked a university professor of animal studies some questions about what renders many people blind to the plight of animals, and for her ideas on what to do about it.

“I know that these are big broad questions,” I wrote to her. “But it would help even to have a few sentences to give readers an idea of what can be done.”

Her answer: “I will give some thought to your questions. As you said, they are broad and I am not sure if the answers exist. Nevertheless, it is worth having the conversation.”

That is my plea—that animals be considered worthy of conversation. That Daniel, Kingston, Destiny (a dog strikingly similar to them in her predicament and appearance, but found by a rescue group halfway across the globe in Greece), and  all the rest of this world’s animals be considered and discussed.

That animals be on the agenda. Not just among ourselves and our Facebook friends, but on the public agenda. On political parties’ platforms. In candidates’ talking points. In school curricula.

And also that not one of them—not one of these innocents sacrificed on the altar of our error—ever be forgotten.

To donate toward the many costly rescue cases taken on by Forgotten Dogs of the Fifth Ward Project, please go to the following ChipIn:

Contact to learn more about their work or to help with volunteering.

Read previous articles about Daniel:

by Forgotten Dogs along with partner groups.

Additional groups working in Houston’s impoverished areas:

Thanks to Yvette Holzbach of Yvette Holzbach Photography for the use of the photos in this article.

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Katerina Lorenzatos Makris is a career journalist, author, and editor. Credits include hundreds of articles for regional wire services and for  outlets such as National Geographic TravelerThe San Francisco ChronicleTravelers’ Tales, NBC’s , and (), a teleplay for CBS-TV, a short story for  magazine, and 17 novels for Avon, E.P. Dutton, Simon and Schuster, and other major publishers.

Together with coauthor Shelley Frost, Katerina wrote a step-by-step guide for hands-on, in-the-trenches dog rescue,  (The Lyons Press).

Please respect copyright law. Sharing AIR links really helps! But copying more than a couple of paragraphs of content without permission is a no-no. If you’d like to use one of AIR’s articles or one of our photographs, kindly contact us at [airinfo AT yahoo DOT com].

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17 Comments on “In memory of ‘Forgotten Dog’ Daniel, let’s get animals on the agenda (Opinion)”

  1. Allen Atkinson says:

    Reblogged this on .

  2. Joy Ann LeVelle says:

    All I can do is cry when I think of Daniel. Your article is excellent and I feel all your pain. I do TNR and cat rescue, so, I relate at the deepest level to all rescuers who spend their energy, time, money, happiness and grief on the animals who have suffered so cruelly.

  3. says:

    Seeing the agony that so many of these dogs and cats face practically on a daily basis is both heartbreaking and infuriating. Every Freddie, Crockett, Kingston, or Bones is another reminder that stiffer laws need to be initiated and enforced against animal cruelty and abandonment. Not only do we find these dogs in this condition as strays on the street but also in the yards of neglectful owners.

  4. says:

    Rest in peace sweet Daniel.

  5. Dogtown Ranch says:

    Hugs Katerina

  6. Anonymous says:

    Cannot cry anymore. Sorry Dear Daniel for not finding you on time to save you!!

  7. kelle says:

    Thank you for writing this. You are right, Daniel was at least allowed to die in comfort and peace and my heart breaks for all those that face pain and suffering all alone in the streets. Love you my baby boy, Kelle

  8. says:

    I’d like to talk with you, about doing something more, as you suggest here. I’m in.

    Joanne Miller
    949 285.0989
    Irvine, CA

  9. Matthew Hodder says:

    Very sad. I too thought he would be a miracle boy and pull through. But sadly in the end Daniel had to leave us; but he did it in dignity and with love. In the arms of those that cared & loved him the most. I feel for those who were close to him and made his life comfortable at the end – amazing efforts & strength Kelle & Linda for what you do. Thank you Katerina for writing so compassionately about Daniel.

  10. nathalie låte says:

    I hoped he was going to make it.I hoped too see his true colour and jumping around. Now he will do that in heaven instead. Rest in peace beautiful Daniel <3

  11. Tina Frisco says:

    Sending love and blessings to Daniel and all animals everywhere. Thank you for your continued good work, Katerina.

  12. Anonymous says:

    After the loss and horrid and urgent situations that I have been alerted to and dealt with these last few weeks in rescue…… is maddenning and there is an overwhelming since of grief and emotions. We can’t stop when rescue feels as if it is too much to bear, but there are times when it just feels downright IMPOSSIBLE. But I know God blesses the animals and the rescuers daily in the miracles he performs during the rescue efforts that truly are amazing. Thank you for voicing the frustrations of many rescuers and animal lovers out there and for helping us to find another avenue to be heard and hopefully “wake up” more people to start taking some responsibility in helping the abandoned and suffering animals. It takes an army, a village, a community, a country, and the world to fix this problem!

  13. says:

    I was with Daniel the day we picked him up and the day we let him go. I cried so hard because it was just not fair that this baby was born to die. Dr. Huddleston at least helped us by letting us know his life was not in vain – he taught him much that will help save other dogs. Thank you Daniel for coming into all of our lives.

    • Laura E. Nobles. Lily's Nana says:

      Thanks to Daniel, my Lily is working through the distemper treatments from Dr. Huddleston. With each and every one that goes through these treatments, we are getting closer to a cure. Lily was there with Daniel on his last day which also happened to be Lily’s first day of treatment. RIP Daniel and thank you all for what you are doing.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Beautifully put. I wish the neighborhood people that treat their dogs this way can read this…and about Kingston. They need to see how good people feel their heartless actions. Maybe peer pressure will guilt them into being better humans.

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