Yesterday’s post raised a tough topic you might’ve missed if you weren’t looking for a rusty needle in a happy entry’s haystack. In it, I described the sweet young thing I hope will soon become a part of my extended family. In so doing I described her now-treated cardiac condition, too.

Yes, it’s true this little dog has incurred at least $4,000 in veterinary bills (rescue-dog discounts included). Despite her “unwanted stray” status, somebody somewhere came up with the big bucks it took to save her life. More accurately, it was a bunch of somebodys who got together to beat the drums and fill a big hat on little Leilani’s behalf.

It’s all very sweet. There’s no doubt this dog would have died by now were it not for the good work of the Paws4You rescue group and its supporters. But that’s not what a certain contingent of uber-rational pet advocates agrees is the right tack to take when faced with one more hungry mouth to feed. Not when that hungry mouth promises to eat a thousand times more than the one in the cage next door.

But who wants to be the one to say there’s no more room at the inn? To single out a would’ve-been-accepted-with-open-arms-candidate and send her away based on an arbitrary physical defect runs afoul of every animal-loving fiber of our being. How could we?

Sure, we know how many more we could feed, how much more comfort they might live in and and how many more homes would materialize if we spent those four grand on a dedicated PR person or building a new drainage system or hurricane-proofing the roof or taking on another part-time employee. Yet we’re willing to act irrationally when confronted with our raison d’etre incarnate: the ultimate stray, the one that represents all sick and stranded puppies everywhere, the one that looks us in the eyes and haunts us should we consider denying her our help.

Though outsiders might raise plenty of well-reasoned arguments on the subject of the emperor’s nudity, few of us rescue-inclined sort are willing to back down if it means the certain death of an animal. There’s something about knowing you can save a specific being that makes a huge difference––never mind that we know we could have saved twelve more.

It’s argued that rescues need to get more business savvy. Enough of this mom-n-pop, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants-ism in evidence at rescue facilities across the country. If shelters and rescues started running themselves more like businesses, some say, we’d double and triple the number of pets in forever homes. We’d drum up business through private campaigns for perfect homes, offer low-cost spays and neuters to the community, offer outreach educational services at schools...and keep our in-house pets happy, healthy, well-trained and safe.

But rescues can’t do all this and pay huge vet bills, too.

Leilani’s success notwithstanding, I can’t help but agree with this last statement. At some point, rescues––like the rest of us––have got to learn to say “no.”