Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Hidden Human in Animal Welfare

I work for a non-profit animal shelter, and wrote this story after a difficult week. It was published in Dog Fancy Magazine, September 2013. 


As I walked down the hall behind Barney’s owner, I watched him turn and take one last look at his beloved dog before going to the homeless shelter.  Barney’s owner had a run of bad luck, losing his job and apartment. He and Barney had been through good and bad times the last 8 years, but he just couldn't watch him go through another tough time.  He wanted to make sure he got a meal every day, something he could no longer provide. They had gotten by on love for a long time, but he wanted more for his wonderful friend.


A few days later a distraught woman was crying in SICSA Pet Adoption Center’s lobby with a Siamese-mix cat in her lap, his fur soaked with her tears. She had left an abusive relationship and was on her way to a safe-house that didn't allow pets.  She knew the only way to save both of their lives was through separation.  She explained that the last few years it was her cat that gave her love, understanding and kindness.  Her cat had saved her life and given her hope and now she was saving her cat’s life and giving him hope.


This is the irony of working in animal welfare; there is a hidden human in the heart of every homeless animal. I guess like many people, I never realized, until working here, that SICSA is helping humans. 


Realizing this has made me a little irritated with foundations and people that only want to help humans.  On the other hand, perhaps we haven’t done a good job telling the whole story.  Yes, we rescue abused, abandoned animals, nurse them back to health and find them loving adoptive homes.  But we do something more.  For every homeless pet we rescue, we have listened to their story and their story almost always has a human in it. 


SICSA may be called an Animal Welfare Organization but if you look closely, you will see a human in the heart of every animal we save.


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