Christmas Only Comes to Lucky Dogs

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Will I die today, or will I be rescued? If I could read the minds of dogs in shelters, chances are this is what they may be asking themselves. A sad and disturbing reality is that nearly 4 million dogs are killed needlessly each year in animal shelters across our nation. But sometimes a particular dog speaks to your insides and you suddenly know "I can't let that dog die".

As the co-founder of the web site I, Alex, know this tragedy particularly well. It was my dog Buddy who introduced me to the animal kingdom. Born with a fatal and congenital heart defect, he had to go through surgery in his first year of life. On the day of his surgery, waiting for the doctor's call, I knew my life had changed forever. Contemplating his death I realized Buddy was now a part of my family in every way. Then I thought of the millions of Buddies dying while waiting for their families; I had found my inspiration.

Our web site works with over 550 shelters across 45 states to save dogs from certain death. Brenda Bush, my co-founder, and I walk in the minefields of death with this web site. Sometimes it becomes unbearable to see the faces of the thousands of dogs in Memoriam section that did not make it, that's when I know something has to be done right then and there".

There is the story of Henry, for instance, blinded by his owner just for fun, taken in by animal control and finally posted on DogsInDanger. I was struck by the sadness of his life story and sent out an urgent alert to DogsInDanger fans. After one day Henry was adopted! Animal control in New York was shocked by the deluge of calls asking to adopt a blind, abused, older dog.

Consider the story of Rowdy and Randy in Oklahoma, two of five brothers from the same litter whose siblings were put to sleep because adopters could not be found in time. Randy was the lucky one, he had an adopter although the family lived five states away in Illinois. However Rowdy remained inches from death. Brenda and I were now married and on our honeymoon in Paris when that deep gut level punch occurred again. We sent an appeal to the DogsInDanger group on Facebook. Within days Rowdy was saved by a rescue in Illinois, thus igniting a search to find a way to move the two dogs. Finally a trucker stepped forward and took the two puppies in his cabin, transporting them safely to their destination.

During Christmas week there were over 1,000 dogs fighting for life on the DogsInDanger web site, among them was Star, in a Miami shelter with only one day left to live. Brenda saw her first, struck by her picture, kneeling in her cage, with such sadness as if resigned to her fate. DogsInDanger put out another urgent appeal to their 14,000 member Facebook group. One day later Star was adopted, saved within one day of Christmas - home with the best gift anyone could receive; the gift of life!

These happy stories are but bookends to the life and death chronicles of tens of thousands of dogs on Friendly, loving dogs needlessly killed every day. Sometimes it's a lack of space, other times it's a lack of adopters. Sitting at the controls Brenda and I follow these stories, thankfully 86% of the time to happy endings. The other 14% become a mix of anger and resignation. But sometimes, just when you least expect it, a dog breaks the boundaries of the computer screen and jumps unto my lap and directly into my heart.