Empath, Voyeur or Action? What Type of Advocate Are You?

DSC_0135 2by Gretchen Pachlhofer, co-founder of www.untoldanimalstories.org

Let’s face it.  If you are reading this blog, you are an animal advocate.  You love to read stories about animals and nature.  It touches that chord, deep inside you, the place that very few humans allow themselves to venture. It’s a special place deep within ourselves that we tuck tightly away for fear of our true feelings being exposed to those around us. That is the source of the feelings that allows us to honor animals.  Animals allow us to stop, and feel, and experience being in the present moment.

Empathy for animals is the key ingredient that allows us to take the first step in helping all creatures great and small. Whether it be a stray cat, a dog that has been dumped on the side of the road, or a bird that has fallen out of the nest, there is no way we can just turn away and ignore the situation.  If you choose to actually stop and do something to contribute to the given situation, you have just entered the world of being an Action Advocate. Congratulations!

Another choice is to be a Voyeur Advocate for animals. You read the blogs, you identify with the feelings that are unlocked inside as you immerse yourself in your own private reading experience. It make you feel good to read all the wonderful stories that others have chosen to share. Now, I’d like to just toss this out to you—what would happen if you made the choice to take the next step and actually DO SOMETHING to help animals? What would it feel like to actually BECOME an Action Advocate?

I want to share my recent story with y’all (yes, I am from Texas) and hopefully you can take the giant step forward and join me.

I recently relocated to a rural area of the Texas Hill Country.  I sold my business and now have a choice to continue to make a difference for animals.  I found a group of women who run a shelter located on a ranch in acute need of regular volunteers to help care for the dogs and cats in their facility. I chose to make a commitment to volunteer once a week for 3-4 hours.  Volunteering is such a rewarding experience and the animals give back ten times of the effort I give weekly.  I jokingly call it my “therapy time” but there is a lot of truth to that statement.

So all of you reading this, I want to throw something out to you.  Over the next couple of weeks, think of something you can DO for animals, then TAKE ACTION and do it. And then, if you feel inclined, chime in and tell us what you did.  This is not a contest.  The purpose is to create a community for Untold Animal Stories for all of us to share and become more interactive. Email us at untoldanimalstories@gmail.com

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Wink

as told by Kim Kemple Cott

winkWink came into our lives one day when my mom, Helen, was attempting to adopt a different dog than Wink.  Six months after her rescue dog, Zac the Vizsla, passed on, my mom starting looking with very specific criteria: the dog had to be a small, manageable size and had to be a rescue.

I’d been helping her search for a month by contacting local SPCAs and humane societies and by checking on www.petfinder.com (as of this writing, petfinder.com is featuring 332,076 adoptable pets from 13,476 adoption groups nationwide).  The right dog hadn’t shown up yet.

A friend suggested we try a particular rescue organization in the next county over.  I called my mom, picked her up, and we headed out there.  We got lost en route, stopped to ask for directions, were given directions to a different rescue, and got lost again.  After getting lost a third, time, we asked a police officer.  He wasn’t sure where the rescue was but said that he’d find out.  He pointed us the right way and we arrived after having wandered through much of the county.

We walked up and down the aisles, drawn by so many sweet animals.  We settled on a little brown dog and went to the front desk to provide them with the kennel cage number.  While we were waiting in line, my mom noticed a small black dog sitting in the office of one of the shelter workers.  My mom and I looked at each other, both somehow knowing: this was the dog.  My mom asked about him and was told he was up for adoption; he’d just had his eye removed the day before (kids had beaten him  and he was found lying under a front porch).  One of the shelter workers had taken a particular interest in this Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix, named him Eduardo, and cared for him personally.

As part of the shelter’s adoption process, my mom’s landlord had to be called to verify that he allowed pets.  He was unreachable.  This was a problem, because we really, really wanted to take the dog home that day.  We explained to the shelter worker that the landlord had already given verbal permission, that my mom had a previous rescue dog living there, etc.  The worker looked into my mom’s eyes, then into mine and said she’d be back shortly.  We waited anxiously.wink black and white

She came back, stacking the adoption papers into a tidy pile, saying, “Everything is in order,” and winking at us.  We smiled conspiratorially, signed the papers, picked up the pup, and headed home.

He was tentative and scared at first, but well behaved, and he bonded quickly with my mom and me.  Mom named this sweet creature Wink.  She took him everywhere to help him socialize with people and dogs.  So many people were kind to him.

One day my mom took him into a consignment shop.  The shopkeeper said, “We don’t allow animals in our store.”  Mom smiled warmly, leaned in, and said, “I know, and isn’t it so nice that you let me bring him in here.”

•   With so many good, adoptable pets available—and with an average of 1 in 4 pets in humane societies nationwide being purebreds—why not consider adoption rather than supporting the supply-demand cycle of pet breeding.

•   From the American Humane Society: It is a common myth that pet overpopulation means there are “not enough” homes for all the shelter animals. In reality, there are more than enough homes, but not enough people are choosing to adopt from a shelter. Seventeen million Americans acquire a new pet each year—more than double the number of shelter animals. Only 3.5 million people, or about 20 percent, choose to adopt their new pet. The rest choose to buy their pets from pet stores or breeders, or they choose a variety of other cheap or free sources. 

Despite increased public awareness over the past 40 years about the need to spay and neuter pets, 35 percent of pet owners in the U.S. still choose not to do so. Many among this group intentionally choose to breed their pets, either for profit or for what they mistakenly believe to be a “fun” experience. Others choose not to spay or neuter out of ignorance, believing that their pets won’t breed accidentally.

Part I – I Was Born on an Amish Farm in the Middle of Winter

Mr. BeanI was born on an Amish farm in the middle of winter.  I divided my time during my first six weeks between playing with my siblings and nursing when I could.

Sometimes my mother wasn’t around, and the six of us youngsters pushed each other aside to drink the trickle of cow’s milk that dripped down from the metal pipes carrying it away from the cows, away from us.  There wasn’t much milk, but it at least sometimes it quenched our thirst.

One day an older cat wanted the milk I was lapping from the pipes.  He rushed toward me and I lost my footing and fell.  I—with all of my 3 pounds—jumped on his back, expecting him to tussle playfully like my brothers and sisters.  He had other ideas, though, and bit off a chunk of my ear.  I learned to be wary.

Over time my stomach became swollen and filled with worms.  I was always hungry, and I became sickly and quiet.  The barn was icy cold, and the wind crept through the cracks.

One winter day a man and woman came to the farm.  They looked different from the people I had known—no long skirt, no hat.  They spoke with the farmer.  The farmer’s little boys found me and delivered me to them.  The woman told the boys that the kitten was going live in a house.  The boys, wide-eyed, said, “Nooo!”  “Yes,” she said laughing, “and the kitten is going sleep on a bed.”  “Noooo,” they said, and squinted at her as if she might be crazy.

To be continued
For Part II: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/20/part-ii-i-was-born-on-an-amish-farm-in-the-middle-of-winter/

He Wasn’t Much of a Hunter

He closes the door of the red pick-up truck, repositions his gun over his shoulder, and sets off into the woods.  Despite trying to ease his weight onto the twigs and leaves, toe first then heel, his footfalls snap and crackle and echo through the pre-dawn forest.

A doe lifts her head from foraging, her button-black nose twitching with scent-taking.  With noiseless ease, she lopes off, her white tail high.  A groundhog stands on the crest of his mound-home squinting into the distance, his forepaws tucked up to his heart, his teddy-bear ears angled forward.  He squeaks and retreats inside his burrow.  A flock of quibbling sparrows wheels off into the sky.  Only the cat remains.   She is motionless except for the white tip of her tail.

The hunter walks on, pausing from time to time, looking around, then moving on.  The cat follows, unnoticed, at a distance.

When the sun has climbed well above the horizon, the hunter sits down on a large, sunny rock.  He opens a thermos of steaming coffee, crinkles flat the wax paper covering his sandwich, and munches thoughtfully, his head angled to the side.  Sun-warmed and drowsy, his shoulders relax and he closes his eyes.

The cats comes closer, soundlessly.  She sits a few feet in front of him and looks up.  The hunter opens his eyes and startles, then feels foolish.  He mutters something about cats—he’s never liked cats.  He glares at the cat and looks into her gold eyes.  She holds his gaze evenly.  He sighs, then he breaks off a small piece of cheese from his sandwich and tosses it on the ground.  The cat eats it and looks up expectantly.  The man breaks off a larger piece and holds it out to her.  She gracefully leaps onto the rock, and with one paw on the hunter’s leg, she gingerly takes the cheese from his hand.  The hunter slides his broad palm down her back, then offers her the rest of his sandwich.

After a while, he gathers his things, slings the gun over his shoulder, and sets off.  The cat jumps down and follows.  Twice he looks back over his shoulder.  He opens the truck door and sweeps his arm wide in a welcoming gesture. The cat jumps in, settles herself on the passenger seat, and washes her face.

Two seasons have passed since I found my hunter.  He wasn’t much of a hunter, really—I could read that much in the way he moved.  It was plain to me that he wasn’t really interested in hunting as much as he was playing a role.  It was also plain to me that he thought he didn’t like cats.  Most people who give cats a chance find they like them after all.

These days I wait by the window for my hunter.  He comes in with a blast of cold air.  I jump down and wind my way around his legs.  He stoops to pet me and says a word or two.  Then we pass a companionable evening in silence.  His gun is in the attic, tucked away forever.

 

• • • Have you ever rescued an animal?  Please tell us about it: Untoldanimalstories@gmail.com