I saw a tweet about a new Kickstarter project yesterday: To The Rescue. It’s going to be a PC game about running a dog shelter and it’s already reached its funding goal – although the developers haven’t been asking for that much to begin with (14.183 € – no idea what that would be in $) .
Let’s see if the game looks relevant to me: Simulation game? Check. Graphics fitting to the genre? A highly subjective check! Dogs? CHECKCHECKCHECK! Kill shelter? Wha…?
Now here is my issue. Something like a “kill shelter” is unknown in Germany as it’s prohibited by law. I don’t know how shelters manage to do it, but they always find room and money (by donations)! Years ago, I’d volunteered at a local animal shelter (as a school project for one week) and I learned that some dogs, cats and other animals have their forever homes there. It is sad, but the people working there know that the chances of them getting adopted are slim to none. However, killing them is not an option. If they were terminally ill and suffering… yes, euthanasia is done. But not just because nobody wants the dog. That would be cruel and thankfully, also goes against our laws.
Here is an article that, from everything that I’ve seen and known about animal shelters in Germany, seems to portray the way it’s handled perfectly. My parents and I adopted one dog when I was 12 years old. I still remember when the staff member showed her to us and I fell in love immediately. The problem was that at the same time, another dog ran to my mum and licked her hand. She wanted that dog, while I wanted the dog that the staff member had shown us. My dear Nelly had sat there, almost starved to death (she’d been a stray rescue dog), scared of everything around her and my only thought had been that I must see this dog when she’s happy! That I must see her fur when it’s shiny!
We did not adopt a dog that day. The animal shelter sent us home and told us to think it over carefully and only if the whole family could decide for one of these dogs and only if we all agree, then we could adopt her. Both dogs had still been in quarantine, so even if we had agreed, we would have only been able to fill in the paperwork that day. We were number one on the list for either of these dogs until the end of the quarantine. However, it didn’t take us that long! I told my mum what I had thought when I’d seen Nelly and my mum agreed: The other dog was so open towards strangers and she wasn’t a black dog. She had much higher chances to find a forever home fast. But Nelly didn’t. For whatever reason, black dogs and cats are less likely to be adopted. And who wants a dog that’s scared of everything? My brother and dad didn’t care and let us make the decision. So, a few days later, we went back and brought home my best friend for years to come. She was with us for 13 years and I saw her happy eyes and a very shiny coat!
When we had to let her go, the house was empty. At that point, I only stayed at my parents’ place for a few days each week and spent the rest of the week at my boyfriend’s (now husband) place. But I was still very much involved in the decision when my mum and dad went to a shelter to get a new dog. It was history repeating itself. This dog had never had a home and had been in a shelter abroad all her life… that is, 18 months. Why doesn’t a puppy get adopted? We don’t know. All we know is that she was brought to the local shelter to finally find a forever home. That dog, too, was scared. Scared of everything around her. She wanted to get back into her kennel as fast as possible! We went there to get to know her and go for a walk with her three times. That was the requirement of the animal shelter: Three afternoons with the dog. Then one “test day” at our home. Each time we visited her, she got more comfortable with us. On the third day, she placed her paw on my dad’s leg when he was sitting in a chair, then put the second one up and placed her head on the paws, waiting to be petted on the head. It was so adorable and we all knew this was our new dog! For the test day, they told us: At the end of the day, you’ll either bring back the dog or bring the money and fill in the paperwork and the dog is yours. This has been… about 12 years ago, I think.
So, very long emotional rant (you can’t see me when typing this, but I still miss Nelly a lot!), but my point is that I while I love the idea of the game and would definitely enjoy playing something like this, I can’t do it when euthanasia is a planned feature. The FAQ says you can disable it, but I’m wondering if the game experience is still balanced then. Because they clearly say that room will be an issue if you don’t do that. It’s just so far from my experiences and from how it is done here…
I get why the developers included the feature: They want to raise awareness! At the same time, they also understand that not everybody wants to do that, but the sheer thought of this existing in the game breaks my heart. Our shelters raise money and try to get by, but they do not euthanize dogs. Some dogs are labelled as “unadoptable”, but they get to live! So I guess I’d much rather play a game that features trying to get money and expanding your dog shelter and running campaigns to find good new owners. But I still love the idea of them doing such a game and who knows, maybe it is perfectly playable after disabling euthanasia. And they also promise to give some money that they are going to earn to US charities!
The other features also seem to be pretty good and solid. Dogs can be purebred or mixed breeds, they all have different traits and thus, different needs. You will also need to balance your budget and do fundraisers. There can be diseases spreading among your dogs etc. – And for the cat lovers: No cats at the moment, but they say that the option of adding cats via DLC later on isn’t off the table.
In the end, I’m torn. I don’t want to play a game that makes me sad. What they did achieve was me researching animal shelters in our area to see where I could donate some money… or if I’m just going to donate to either of the two shelters where we got our dogs. Especially as I’ve seen how they operate and know that my money would be put to a good use there.