Don’t worry, I’m not going to make you listen to Sarah McLachlan sing “In The Arms of an Angel” while you read (although you can if you feel so moved). I don’t want you to cry … I want you to think about the animals that are abandoned in shelters. Don’t feel guilty and think I’m telling you to save them all. Instead, remember that story about the boy and the starfish.
What? You haven’t heard that story? Sure you have, it’s all over the internet, but it case you have been on Mars for the last six years or so, here it is in a nutshell:
A boy and his grandfather walked along the beach, where they saw thousands of starfish that had been washed to the shore by the tide. The boy started picking up starfish, one by one, and flinging them back in the water.
His grandfather said, “Son, why are you wasting your time? There are so many that you can’t make a difference!”
The boy tossed another starfish into the water and said, “I made a difference to that one.”
Our animal shelter in Denton is at capacity right now. I imagine that shelters all over the country are full. As I understand it, the problem is worse these days because of the economy. Folks can’t afford to feed themselves, let alone a pet. So, more pets are being abandoned or taken to the animal shelters with the hopes that they will be adopted. Unless the animal winds up in a “no-kill” shelter, the chances aren’t good.
The kitten above (don’t you love those big ears?) was at our animal shelter a few months ago and probably got adopted. The kittens and the puppies are the lucky ones (if you can call beginning your life abandoned to a shelter to be “lucky”). Cute, itty-bitty animals tug at the heartstrings — therefore they get adopted more quickly. Older animals are not always so adorable or adoptable, although they still have a lot of love to give. If a caring person doesn’t recognize that and take them home … time runs out. Don’t make me tell you what happens next.
Not long ago, a stray dog and I crossed paths. I took one look at her and called her “Frida,” because she had eyebrows like Frida Kahlo. Bless her heart, she was starving. That dog was just a bag of bones, but I could see that she was gentle and friendly. Now, I could not keep her for several reasons (even though my heart screamed to do so):
- I don’t have a fenced back yard.
- I can’t afford $10,000 to fence it … and we have coyotes!
- I have five indoor cats (all adopted from the streets) who howled, “No way!” when I suggested the dog move inside.
- My poor husband’s eyes howled the same thing. He is kind-hearted, but not that crazy about dogs.
I knew that if I called animal control it was a death sentence for the dog. Our local shelter works hard to get animals adopted (they even have a Facebook page where they show pictures), but Frida was too far from being adoptable. It would take months of care to get her back to the weight she needed to be. It would take resources that our shelter couldn’t afford to spend on just one dog.
Fortunately for me, and Frida, a neighbor was involved with Lost Paws, a no-kill group that helps strays find a home. Frida was taken to a house where she could romp with other dogs, regain her strength, and be safe. Last month I was informed that she had been adopted by a family with a young boy at home. Exactly what that big gal needed! Frida was lucky.
Other animals who are abandoned don’t fare so well.
How can you make a difference?
- Unless you are ready to make a lifetime commitment to the animal — don’t get it! A pet is a big responsibility. It deserves to be wanted and loved for life (which could be 12-18 years!). Before you get a pet, make darned sure you can and will care for it.
- If you want a pet (or two … or three), consider adopting from a shelter. See if they have a Facebook page and view the animals there before you walk into the shelter. If you are like me you might walk away with a dozen critters (or cry your eyes out trying to choose). You could do what our son Ian and his wife did (I am so proud of them): they went to the local shelter intending to adopt a kitten … and came away with both a kitten and an older cat (who was a bit aloof and probably not very desirable). Now “Up-up,Down-down,” the kitten, and “Murphy” have a loving home for life.
I won’t lie, you will have to spend money to get it. It might seem like a lot. At the Denton Animal Shelter, a dog/puppy costs $120 and a cat/kitten costs $110 … BUT, you will know it is healthy. It will have gotten all its vaccinations, be treated for all manner of vermin, be spayed/neutered, and have a microchip implanted (so the animal can be identified and returned to you if it ever gets lost).
- If you already have pets be a responsible pet owner. Make sure that your pets are spayed or neutered. Yes, you macho men out there … that means that you must take Fido to the vet to have him “cut,” even though you are squeamish about the idea. Even though you keep your dog in a yard, he only has to get out one time to create an unwanted litter of puppies with a female dog owned by some other irresponsible pet owner. That is how animal shelters get filled!
- If you can’t afford an animal, or your life isn’t suited for one right now, consider donating to your local Humane Society, Animal Shelter, or no-kill shelter. I like the idea of contributing locally instead of sending money to a faraway charity — which then spends your entire donation mailing you pictures of the animal you sponsored and requests for more money!
- If money is tight, do what some friends of mine did: at their joint birthday party, they asked that, in lieu of gifts, friends bring cans of dog or cat food to donate to their local animal shelter. You will know who your true friends are when they show up with a case of animal food and a bottle of wine!
Hundreds of animals are coming to an animal shelter near you daily. Now it’s true that you can’t save them all. But, you can make a difference for one. Whatever you do … don’t do nothing.
Now go listen to Sarah Mclachlan and weep a little bit while you ponder what you can do.