Gimme Shelter.

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This post is inspired by a conversation I had last night with my good friend, Karen. Somehow, we went from talking about meeting her son’s new dogs (Australian Shepherds…love them), to talking about the SPCA.  I told Karen that I regularly visit the Bucks County SPCA, which is only about 10 minutes from here. I said that I like to go sit with the cats, talk to the dogs and drop a few things off or put a few bucks in their little bank. She said that shelters were so sad, and being an animal lover, how could I do that to myself? There are a few reasons I do this.
First, I like to show my support. I don’t really have time to volunteer, so bringing some treats or $5 is something I can contribute. Second, I am guessing that most of us think of shelters as being “sad” places, but few years ago, I decided that even though they are sad, I couldn’t let that stop me from going. Third, I always think I might see the perfect pet for someone I know. I go there myself knowing that I am not bringing anyone home, because there is no room at the inn. Sometimes, I drag Paul…he always wants to bring someone home, but, settles for visiting with them….safe in the knowledge that someday we will.
My decision to stop focusing on the sad aspect happened when I lived in Baltimore. I was heavily involved in various dog-related activities, and was invited to some presentations and meetings held at the Md. SPCA. I got to see firsthand how invested the people who worked there were and it changed my mind from thinking shelters were sad, to thinking they were places (that could be) full of hope. Believe me, I am highly aware that some are not! Not even close! So, When I moved back to Pa., I started visiting my local SPCA regularly.
When I go to the SPCA, I sit in the cat room and let them climb all over me. I talk to the dogs and tell them how lovely they are and stick my fingers through the wire so they can sniff me or rub against them. I send silent prayers into the universe for the right person to walk in at the right time. I choose to believe that the few moments I spend with them makes their time there a little more bearable. I used to walk by with tears in my eyes or angry that people would just dump their animals there. I don’t anymore. I still get sad thinking about how confused they must be, and angry about how many people give up their pets because they are “moving”(moving= lamest excuse ever), but, I don’t bring that with me. Because that pales in comparison to the thoughts I have of giving a little love and letting them know that they are not forgotten. Maybe it is selfish, I don’t know, I just think they deserve as much tenderness as they can get. By the way, I use a ton of Purell when I am there!
I am not sure if this SPCA is a no-kill or kill shelter (I tend to think they transfer dogs if they have been waiting for a while in order to get more people to see them) and, not to say I don’t care, but in some ways I don’t. Most shelters survive on donations and very, very little funding from other sources. In an ideal world, first..we wouldn’t need shelters at all..second..all of them would be no-kill, but, that is not the case. There are too many stupid, ignorant, cruel people in the world (so, too many surrendered, stray or abused animals)and not enough money. So, in my mind, even if this is a kill shelter, there are animals there TODAY who need to eat, be treated by a vet, get love and hopefully, be adopted. So, given those aspects, I think it is even more important to support a kill shelter…while working towards the goal of creating more no-kills. So, if you are against kill shelters (and on the deepest level, I am), you need to contribute to the cause in some way to keep the animals alive. Not supporting a shelter because they are a kill shelter is not the way to do it. Animal activists sit on both sides of this fence…and to me the ultimate decision is based on compassion, because what is my withholding support going to do to that beautiful German Shepherd I saw the other day going to do? If I withhold, ultimately, it could decrease her chances of getting adopted. By visiting and showing my support, I got to tell my co-worker Donna (who loves German Shepherds) about her and Donna told a friend involved in German Shepherd rescue about her, and this has the potential to greatly increase this dogs visibility and therefore, increase her chance of getting adopted. Maybe my $5 went into the fund to expand the shelter and therefore help more dogs, cats, bunnies, ferrets, guinea pigs and hamsters. The treats I dropped off may go towards training for the hyper snow white pit bull from a cruelty investigation, therefore making her more adoptable. Maybe the money will go towards lining some bigwig’s pockets. I don’t know…but what I do know is that the animals are well-cared for there, and that the staff and volunteers really care about their well-being.  So, I try not to be cynical.
A terrific quote from Mahatma Gandhi is: “The greatness of a nation and it’s moral progress can be judged by the way it’s animals are treated” and we can do better than the current system in this country….for sure! So, I try to spread a little love to those animals less fortunate than my own, because perhaps if I focus on my own moral progress, I can contribute that much more to the world. Every single bit counts.

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