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Storyteller: WFAA8's Jim Douglas hits home with a memorable heart-tugger

Few if any street reporters are better -- or more enterprising -- than WFAA8's Jim Douglas.

More seasoned than an old wine barrel, he's been on the North Texas TV beat since 1985, when he joined KXAS-TV (Channel 5) en route to WFAA8 a decade later.

Douglas still does the necessary dirty work, repeatedly reporting from the not-so-great outdoors during last week's big freeze. But it's his one-of-a-kind stories that resonate. And on Tuesday's 10 p.m. newscast, Douglas hit home with a heart-rending story on the human cost of euthanizing unwanted or abandoned animals.

Anchor John McCaa first warned viewers of "images that might be difficult to watch." Viewers then were introduced to a chihuahua being cradled by its reluctant executioner.

"This is Baby Boy," Douglas said. "By the end of this story he'll be dead. As will his sister, Rosebud."

That kind of gets your attention. Both dogs were "owner releases," which are more prevalent in tough economic times. Douglas' story didn't show any animals being injected by what he described as a blue liquid called Fatal-Plus. But in visiting shelters in Cleburne, Fort Worth and Weatherford, he certainly brought home the point that pets, strays and humans are all suffering consequences.

Jerry Dean of Cleburne Animal Services "has been reluctantly doing this work for 29 years," Douglas said. "Fighting through the guilt and nightmares."

"You've got to live with yourself doing this," Dean said.

Keane Menefee of Fort Worth Animal Services used to do all of the euthanizing himself until it caught up with him.

"I didn't think it was getting to me until I started having dreams that were indescribable," he told Douglas. Others have quit because of stress. Or as it's sometimes called, "compassion fatigue."

"Sometimes they cry and just can't do it," Douglas said. "Like when a dog holds out its paw to shake."

That's the line and the image that got to me. And it hit on both fronts. Innocent animals die at the rate of 40 per day in many shelters while the humans who do the deed die a little on the inside. There's just not enough room at these inns to accommodate their growing populations.

"Our jobs get busier when the economy gets bad," said a Weatherford shelter employee.

Douglas ended his report in much the way he began it. But this time a much bigger dog lay stomach-down on a table, with just seconds left to live.

"This was a little pup somebody had at one time," Dean said while petting the dog. "A little old fluffy pup somebody had . . ."

That's a storyteller for you. And on any given day, few can match the ways and means of Jim Douglas.