Saturday, October 10, 2009

Life and Love in a Shelter

Our shelter is getting full; this happens every year as winter approaches and becomes even moreso as the holidays draw near. Animals are surrendered, either in person or in the night drop-box. Animals are seized, either from the streets or from homes where conditions are not suitable for an animal. I am overwhelmed as I walk up and down the middle aisles of Kennels A and B. More pitties, more small dogs. More unwanted, uncared for living beings who need food, shelter, and love to sustain them. Many were living half a life in a backyard, in a crate, with insufficient shelter and opportunities to exercise, and no love to speak of. To be fair, some were loved and for one reason or another, could no longer be kept by their people.

Right now, we are getting more and more dogs whose health is compromised, whether it be rotting teeth, terribly matted fur, untreated skin conditions, overgrown tumors. This, I tell myself is a result of our dismal economy: people cannot afford proper health care for their animals, so they give them to the shelter, with the hope that we will give them what they need. And we always do. But how, just how do you let a dog's teeth get so compounded with plaque that to remove it teeth must be extracted? How do you let a tumor grow to the size of a golfball? How do you let a body become riddled with fleas crawling over every inch of it? Is this the economy? Or is this indifference? Lack of the capacity to care, the capacity to love a being who depends on his or her person for his or her very existence?

I like to think the best of my fellow human-beings, but some days, I am not that charitable. Not after I see dog after dog who has been neglected physically or emotionally. Why bring an animal into your home in the first place if it is to become a burden, or less than a burden: a nothing?

However, I am heartened by the people working side-by-side at the shelter, volunteers and staff-members alike, to make life better for the animals who now reside there. There is good, it is here, I talk to them every day. And I thank goodness for them, for here is compassion and love embodied in human beings-- working to help the animals believe in people again, to help them feel what it means to be loved, to enable them to take comfort in the warmth of the blankets, in the nourishing food, in the clean environment. These things are every domestic animal's birthright. And although we cannot control what happens when an animal leaves our care, while they are here, we can make them feel that they matter, that they deserve everything we can possibly give them. That they are safe. And loved. At last.

No comments: