Reality? Check.


This morning, I went down to the shelter to help take the pictures that are used to help get dogs adopted. It was cold, it was early and I was thrilled to be there. This stinky place that is full of sick animals, desperate animals and scared animals is one of my favorite places to be. Though I loved fostering Angie (and we look forward to fostering another… *Tony??*) the truth is, not being able to get there as often as I would like was hard. I miss the smell, I miss the sound, I miss feeling like I am part of something very special when I don’t get there. I truly believe you would be hard- pressed to find a more dedicated group of people than the ACCT volunteers. There are hard decisions made about euthanasia made there almost daily and instead of letting it get them down, it spurs them on. It makes them think outside the box, try harder and advocate even more for Philadelphia’s homeless pets.
Since I started volunteering in September, I have seen more dogs and cats than I can count be euthanized. I do not blame the shelter for that. If anything, from what I see, ACCT is far more invested in getting animals out alive than shelters in many other cities across the country. The volunteer program is a big part of that. And, it’s a big volunteer program…so, so many people who work so hard for no money, lots of heartbreak and the overwhelming reward of seeing an adoptable animal placed in a loving home. I can tell you from my experience with Angie, that knowing you did right by someone who needed you is an amazing feeling.
From the seemingly smallest gesture of compassion (like making sure a house-trained dog gets out of the kennel to do his/her business) to the training, the pictures, the marketing, the fostering, the events, whatever needs to be done, these people work their asses off to make sure it gets done…that as many dogs and cats find homes, and if that doesn’t happen, that they know love in their last days, hours and minutes. These people have jobs, they go to school, they have kids, pets of their own…yet, they keep showing up. It inspires me, it gives me energy that few other things in my life have. Rather than letting the sadness of a well-liked dog or cat being euthanized get me down, it causes my compassion to grow. I don’t know about everyone else, but, for me, it fills a very spiritual space in me. Helps me to feel like I am part of something bigger to myself. I know it is not for everyone, but, it is for me and I am so grateful for it. I am so grateful for all the people I have met since I started for helping me and for showing me what it means to love something that someone else decided was unlovable. For showing me what means to let compassion be your guide. For showing me that loving a shelter animal often comes with a difficult reality, but, that the power of love is more potent than the powerlessness that we often feel. Today, I spent time with a dog I knew was likely to be euthanized. It was sad, but, I gave him some special treats and he enjoyed being outside for a while. Rather than dwell on the sadness (which is immense) I have been able to focus on thinking of him with his nose in the air, sniffing the wind and enjoying some goodies. I try to do this whenever I know someone has been euthanized, after I allow myself a good cry.
There are lots of reasons to be sad, to feel sorry for these animals. But, I think there are more reasons enjoy them, to laugh with them…to love them. Today, I left the shelter with dirty clothes, numb toes and a full heart. It was one of my favorite Sunday mornings ever. 🙂


One response »

  1. I know how you feel…I was volunteering yesterday morning at my shelter. I look forward to giving these shelter dogs the opportunity of getting out of their cages for a walk outside, no matter how cold it is or whether the sun is shining or it’s raining. They’re scared & don’t know what’s happening to them. I, too, feel that this fills a spiritual void in my life & I look forward to the time I get to spend with them….just giving them some loving pats & belly rubs. I can see it in their eyes how appreciative they are just for that special moment we have together….I pray that the next time I come in that someone else has seen that special spirit in them & wants to adopt one. It’s a continuous circle…one that never ends.

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