GOOD THINGS . . . Animal shelters often conjure up visions of sadness and woe – cast off animals behind bars, crowded in wire cages, disease and euthanasia looming eminent. In all too many shelters that is an accurate scenario. The plaintive song In the Arms of an Angel sung by Sarah McLachlan in the ASPCA commercial pulls at our heartstrings as well as our purse strings, but may or may not change the basic conditions in animal shelters.
Our story is a different one. Because we are a unique shelter with strong support, good things happen every day. Cats and dogs find refuge in a clean facility, colony rooms for healthy cats, spacious individual kennels for dogs, care by knowledgeable staff and attention by dedicated volunteers seven days a week, every week of the year. Most of our tales/tails are joyous. For instance, Ashley, a completely witless bully mix, arrived at the shelter with totally unacceptable behavior. Irresponsible owners had failed her miserably. Her saving graces were a cutely wrinkled brow and a friendly disposition. Because we don’t impose time limits or deadlines, staff was able to skillfully and persistently work with her. Volunteers reinforced training. Continuity, gentle firmness and positive rewards transformed Ashley from “beast” to “beauty.” As one volunteer reports, “Ashley has blossomed into a beauty on the inside as well as the outside. She is walking on a leash like a dream, and is such a happy girl.” That’s the stuff of which grins are made.
Jewel, a very young first-time mom, was brought to the shelter with her single tiny firstborn, a week old kitten no bigger than a field mouse. Jewel had no idea what was expected of her. With care, encouragement and patterning, her maternal instincts finally kicked in and Jewel’s little gem, Tiffany, survived and thrived to blossom into a completely spoiled rotten calico diva sought by many. Her antics as an only child made us laugh and creased our faces with smiles.
Good things extend beyond the animals. Volunteers often mention the great feeling of satisfaction they experience by helping at the shelter. Foster families who step in when the shelter is full share a similar sentiment as they “home school” excess waifs. School classes take pride in their donations. Children and teenagers who volunteer at the shelter realize, perhaps for the first time, a new level or responsibility. Another creature’s well being actually depends on their actions. Friendships develop. A caring community responds. Of all the good things – the shy wag of a tail, the gentle nuzzle of a nose, a volunteer’s joy – the rear view of a shelter animal going “home” is the best thing.