I am alone in my wanderings for a long time, but it hadn’t always been so. I have vague memories–little scraps of images–from the past: the tumble and tussle of warm fur, the shimmer of sun on my brother’s back, the freckle on my sister’s snout. We grew up and dispersed, given away from a box in a grocery store parking lot to anyone who would take us. We were held up and cooed over, and carried off under various people’s arms.
The person who took me changed his mind, tied me up in the back yard for months–with intermittent water and food–and then finally took me on a car ride and left me on the side of the road. I’ve been fending for myself since then. Sometimes I’m thirsty, sometimes I’m cold, often I am hungry.
This morning, a man saw me, stooped down and called to me. I approached him warily and then darted away. I have trouble trusting people. I just spotted him again. He is carrying a bowl that smells heavenly.
He sits quietly beside the bowl and I approach, then back away, then approach again. With one last sideways glance at the man, I lean toward the bowl and begin to eat. The man reaches out his hand and strokes my fur, first tentatively, then steadily. His voice is kind. When he slips a lead around my neck, he bends down to my level and says, “Come with me; we will find you a home” I go with him, to the first warmth and comfort I’ve known in a long time.
Cats make up approximately 70% of shelter population. It’s sort of obvious what you should do…ADOPT! Don’t Shop! There are many advantages when it comes to adopting cats from shelters. Many are already spayed or neutered. They are also current on their shots. Shelter volunteers are there for one reason: the good of the animal. They aren’t interested in a profit and any donation you make goes right back into helping more animals in need. I love cats, how about you?
by Julie E.H., Animal Rescue Site blog
Why do I inconvenience myself to help an animal in need? I’ve been known to be late for meetings, wading into the field alongside the road to call a skinny, scared dog to me and deliver him to the SPCA so that he can be helped, reunited with his owners or placed in a caring home. I’ve been known to humanely trap a feral cat, have her spade, release her, and provide ongoing food, water, and shelter to her. I’ve been known to adopt a rescue cat, a rescue dog. I’ve been known to telephone for help and wait by the side of an struggling, car-struck deer until animal control arrives to put it out of its misery. I’ve been known to contribute to neutering costs for people in financial hardship. Why, I’ve been asked, why?
The reason: because I feel deeply, can empathize with the feelings of others, and I care about the suffering and experience of individual animals. Of course animals can feel pain and fear. Of course they can suffer. I have a commitment to myself to do what I can to help, and it turns that with minimal effort, I can do a lot more than I originally thought I could. Doing so allows me to live in peaceful alignment with my values. Yes, it can be a nuisance at times, but it’s worth it. In the bigger picture, it doesn’t require that much of me, really, to help a creature to experience less pain, less hunger, less thirst, less bitter cold.
What if each of us committed to helping an animal in need? It’s so much easier to turn away, but that small sense of satisfaction that comes from bringing relief to another sentient being is a reward in and of itself. I am immensely grateful for the ability not to turn away.
AnimalPetitions.org, part of the ForceChange.com network, is dedicated to protecting both wild and domestic animals from abuse and harm at the hands of humans. The Animal Petitions community is comprised of passionate citizen activists dedicated to taking action to protect animals. The activism? Simply sign your name to petitions with messages you value.
AnimalsPetitions.org has contributed to a number of successes, including conservation funding for wild animals, tightened puppy mill laws, animal welfare law passage in Thailand, reenlistment of gray wolves as an endangered species, CEO resignation over animal abuse, and more.
Please consider signing your name (they do not share emails–I know this from personal experience). http://animalpetitions.org/
Wild & Domestic Animals illustration courtesy of Vlado, freedigitalphotos.net
© Karla McLaren 2014
As the third round of the greet-and-treat begins, I change my normal pathway through the kennels, and crouch down and whisper to the dogs I treat on my way down the T-leg toward Nana’s – so that she can’t see me coming. As I reach her kennel, still crouched down, I catch her, standing up and peering over her wall, waiting for me. I speak quietly as I stand up, “Hello, you criminal!” and Nana makes a noise that sounds just like Scooby Doo getting caught with a sandwich, “oirp?” Hah! She drops down from her perch, sits properly and quietly, and looks at me with sparkling eyes. ”Good girl Nana, down,” I say. I throw my voice a bit to the dogs near her who are unusually quiet, for once, “Down and quiet, good dog!” Nearly everyone in Nana’s area gets a third-round treat today (for the first time), and as I pass her on my way back, I give her another treat, the outlaw.
The third round goes well, with more than half of the dogs figuring out all three behaviors: seated, still, and quiet. It’s still very noisy; we have a lot of new dogs who are afraid and riled up – but even in the midst of the noise, many dogs are getting the picture and learning how to calm themselves in spite of the clamor. As I continue through the shelter, I take a moment at Peaches’ kennel: the little sweetie has mastered two out of three behaviors. She’s quiet and calm, but she’s still down on the floor, and I don’t actually think she can sit, so I open her kennel door. I carry a leash with me in case dogs need to come out of their kennels for some reason during the greet-and-treats, but I don’t think Peaches can walk, so I close myself in her kennel with her to see what’s going on.
Peaches lifts her head happily and then flips over on her tummy and wriggles nearer to me, and I sit down to be with her. Peaches is a love: soft, cuddly, and wanting to be picked up. As I lift her, she struggles a bit to get herself into my arms, and she curls up like a baby, nuzzling and kissing me. I hug her and kiss her, and talk sweet nonsense to her as I run my free hand over her legs and feet: her front legs seem normal, but both of her back legs are floppy, and they have almost no muscle tone. They’re also pointing backward, which explains her seal movements and her inability to sit. I also gently palpate her umbilical hernia, and she doesn’t yelp or pull away, so it doesn’t seem to be hurting her. I wonder why she’s up front instead of back with Jake and Milton, but she’s so adorable that I think the staff is hoping she’ll be adopted before they start on her surgeries. If I could have a dog, I would totally take Peaches; I think they’ve made a good call.
After a few minutes of kissing and snuggling, I leave Peaches with extra treats and let myself out of her kennel. All of the dogs nearby have been quiet and patient as they watched me in Peaches’ kennel (including, unbelievably, the terriers), so they all get another treat. I head back to the chained-off area, but I see Brandon (one of the staff behaviorists) there, uh oh. He’s taking one of the other T dogs out into the private training area to check her temperament. I hope he doesn’t see the treats I gave Milton, oy.
I loiter around the chain and wait for Brandon to take his T dog outside. When he does, I duck under the chain and peer into Milton’s kennel, and I don’t see any treats – not the one on the blanket, and not the one on the bottom of the kennel door where I left it, whew. However, I also don’t see Milton, and I feel a bit of panic – did they take him? I call to him and kneel down to peer through the small opening that leads to his run, but I don’t see him. I look for Jake, but he’s not in his kennel either. I run (okay, I walk quickly but calmly, so the dogs won’t start barking again) back through the kennels, into the back rooms, past the laundry room overflowing with blankets, towels, and dog beds, and into the small room where the animals are euthanized. The room is empty, and Milton isn’t anywhere. I can’t shake my dread.
I walk back out into the kennels and head to the private training area to ask Brandon what happened, but when I get outside, I see him with Milton, who’s off leash and playing (!) in the sunshine with the female T dog. I feel a huge sense of relief, but I play it cool, “Oh hey, you’ve got Milton out again.” Brandon answers, but keeps his focus on the dogs, “Yeah, he’s such a smart dog that it didn’t feel right, redlining him. It was bugging me all night, and today he seemed to get that he had another chance.” I watch Milton running around, twisting, playing, and chasing the other dog, and they begin running around in circles, racing, faking each other out, and escaping from each other. I become a base in their game of tag, and Milton circles me twice before running off, happily engrossed in the game. I stand where I am, breathing deeply. Vast mountains of laundry call to me, but I turn my smiling face to the sun for a moment, and let the tears fall.
for part 1: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/03/07/shelter/
for part 2: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/03/14/shelter-part-2/
for part 3: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/03/21/shelter-part-3/
for all Untold Animal Stories: www.untoldanimalstories.org
Karla McLaren is a pioneering educator and award-winning author whose empathic approach to emotions revalues even the most “negative” emotions, and opens startling new pathways into the depths of the soul. She is the author of The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill, the trailblazing book The Language of Emotion: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You, and the interactive online course Emotional Flow. Karla has taught at such venues as the University of San Francisco, Naropa University, Kripalu, and the Association for Humanistic Psychology. She is currently developing new forms of empathy and social interaction curricula for neurologically diverse people.
The Art of Empathy
What if there were a single skill that could radically improve your relationships and your life? Empathy, teaches empathic pioneer Karla McLaren, is that skill. In The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill, McLaren presents her groundbreaking model of The Six Essential Aspects of Empathy to help you understand and nurture healthy empathy in every part of your life. Informed by four decades of empathic experience, plus current insights from neuroscience, social science, the arts, and healing traditions, The Art of Empathy teaches you how to become a healthy and happy empathic presence in a world that needs you.
(continued from previous post) The cat’s name is Spuds. The old man she’d lived with thought she looked like the color of yellow Finn potatoes. He’d pulled her as a kitten out from under a bramble—mewing and shaking—on a busy roadside. He gently stroked her fur with large, rough hands, looked into her gold-green eyes, and took her home.
Spuds had a life of luxury with him: curled up on the rug by the wood stove in winter, lounging on a sunny perch on the screened-in porch in the summer watching red cardinals and blue birds. Spuds liked the old man, a lot; they understood each other. But one morning when she went up to his room to remind him it was feeding time, something was different. She jumped up on the bed and stood on his chest and peered at him. She could sense him, but he wasn’t in there his body. She called out to him. Then she saw him in her mind’s eye, and his eyes were dazzling. Then he receded and was gone.
Four days passed before anyone came to the house. By then Spuds had clawed her way through the bag of cat food and found that fresh toilet water wasn’t completely undrinkable.
People came then, many of them, people who had never come before. They pawed the old man’s possessions, argued with each other, and carried things out of the house. Spuds watched. A woman noticed the cat and picked her up, bangle bracelets clanging together, and put Spuds outside. Spuds sniffed at the air, then turned to go back inside. The woman blocked Spuds’ way with a well-shod foot. “You’re free now kitty, go away.”
Spuds looked for a long while at the closed door. Then she walked down the driveway and before turning onto the road, looked back at the house. The windows glinted empty and cold in the sun.
Ollie & Spuds will be continued