Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Day at the Shelter

I just returned home from a long day at the shelter. So much goes on in one day there, it's amazing. There is also so much to do. Always new dogs to comfort, longer term dogs to continue training, and always, a dog who needs a walk. When familiar human faces come through the shelter with leash and collar in hand, the dogs know exactly what that means, and they all try to catch your eye with the hope upon hope that theirs will be the kennel you will enter. It is hard. I go for the dogs who haven't been out the longest, but first I check to see whether Eddie has been out. He is a mature red pittie who is housebroken. Eddie will not go in his kennel for ANYTHING. So, I check to see whether Eddie's been walked yet, and if not, I go in and he is happy, happy, happy. Sometimes he is so happy that he howls. It is very sweet.

We've had a lot of adoptions lately, but there are always more dogs. We have Cosmo, a Rottie mix who is just getting used to the shelter environment. Some former neighbors of his came in and told us his real name (Cosmo) and added that he never left his backyard. Unfortunately, his is a familiar story. But fortunately, he found himself in the Berkeley shelter where he will get walks, fresh water, food, medical attention, and love. He craves it-- leaning his large body against the kennel gate so you can scratch his back. This is progress-- at first, he was too shy to even let you touch him. In two days, we get to walk him-- I bet it will be his first walk in years.

We have Scarlett, the stunning Papillion mix who, defying logic has still not been adopted (she's been available for two days-- a lot for a beautiful, nearly purebred, sweet young dog). She is scared with all the barking and large dogs in the kennels around her, so getting her out on a walk gives her a respite from the doggie chatter. There is Kelly, the gentle older brindle mixed breed who walks gingerly, constantly looking up at you for reassurance, and heartened by the warm smile she is given in return. When we come to a bench, she jumps up (with some help) and lays her head in your lap.

The smallest things make a dog happy in the shelter-- it is so very simple: show a dog love and compassion, and they begin to feel confident and happier, leaving whatever unfortunate situations they may have come from, behind. There is the 2 year-old pit bull whose teats are so full with milk that she is leaking it-- she was left in our night box without her puppies. She needs comfort, and I give it to her by holding her and stroking her head to let her know she is in a safe place. I make sure she has soft blankets, and a bin to curl up in so that she can begin to recover from the loss she has just suffered.

There is the gorgeous tan/blue pittie whose person is now in jail. He is among the most dashing pitties I have ever seen-- with a big smile and a huge need for attention. Out on a walk, he is well-behaved and responds to every correction immediately. He is strong, handsome . . . a presence. There is the underfed long-haired female Shepherd. At first, she will not come near you. But after sitting in her kennel for a time, she will come over and sniff you, and then lay down next to you, reassured in some way that you are there, even though she is not yet comfortable with a gentle human touch. There is Ernie, the Chihuahua who is recovering from surgery which removed one of his eyes. He has a spring in his step and the confidence of a big dog-- so good to observe that he has not let his spirit be diminished by the loss of his eye.

There are our long-term girls: Betty Jane, Coco, Carol, Taffy. When will they find their forever- homes? In the meantime, we try to keep them stimulated and challenged so they will remain mentally healthy. There are our rowdy boys: Buick, André, Higgins. In the kennel, they can sometimes be difficult-- outside, they relax and are calm, and act like any other dog in the park who has a forever-home.

So much emotion, so much to do. It is the most satisfying balm in my life-- I am out of work, things are hard, but I have the shelter to go to, filled with these beautiful souls who need something from us, from the volunteers. I am grateful the dogs have found their way to the shelter, one of the best municipal shelters in the State of California, for some of them have come from circumstances so bleak we can only begin to imagine. I am grateful that I, too found my way to the shelter five years ago this month, at first afraid it would break my heart, but miraculously finding that by doing something to help, the weight of animal suffering lessened on my heart. My heart has love; I want to give it to the shelter dogs. I do.


Anonymous said...

pam, you are so awesome!!! we often overhear our human family friends saying how it's thanks to you that i have my best friend and "sister" iggy (patches). thanks on behalf of all us 4 legged creatures for helping and being so strong!

4 paws,
elektra (best friend of iggy,
and also of anna and lucie- the humans).

BerkeleyBecca said...

Pam, this is incredibly moving and eloquent. Would you give permission to repost this on the "InBerkeley" blog, if I can arrange that?

Loraine said...

Beautiful just like you, Pam - inside and out - you are our BACS Wonder Woman!

Anonymous said...

Lovely Pam!

<3 Sam