Last night, I stopped by the animal shelter to drop off some fresh greens for the rabbits. In the night drop, I saw a Pit Bull puppy cowering in the corner. His leg had several deep gashes; his ears were mangled; and his face and body were covered with scars. This poor little guy had been used as bait for fighting dogs and had been abandoned to die a solitary and painful death. However, some good soul had found him and brought him to us in the hope that we could help, leaving his name and number, and asking that we call to let him know the puppy’s fate. I was at once sickened that such vile behavior was taking place in my neighborhood and warmed by the kindness of a stranger for a suffering creature.
Volunteering at the local pound is not always easy. Every day, I see animals who have been neglected, abandoned, abused, and unloved. Some days, I come home in tears, and each evening, I must force myself not to bring home all the dogs whose eyes plead to me from behind their bars. However, I also see much-loved animals whose owners have lost their homes or who have passed away, and this facility provides shelter to all these creatures while they wait for their new home. Without us, many would certainly die. Yes, there is far too much violence in this world, and it is frustrating that I can’t even keep dog fighting out of my own town, but when cases such as Michael Vick’s attract the public’s attention, I am reassured by the outpouring of compassion from all corners of the earth. There will always be people who inflict injury on others for reasons beyond my comprehension, and I know I cannot change the world. However, though my capacity to incite global impact may be small, I believe I can make a big difference in the lives of a few animals.
Though it is a bittersweet job, caring for shelter animals has many rewards. The other day, I took a lovely young dog out to play in the sunshine. Bringing fresh apple twigs to the bunnies; finding them good homes at an adoption event; soothing a frightened cat; or providing succor to an injured Pit Bull, I can make a profound impact on their health and happiness. If we left them to stagnate in their cages for weeks on end, we would be little better than the people who neglected them in the first place. Instead, I and my fellow volunteers can make their days brighter, if only for a few hours each day.
So when people ask how I can volunteer at an animal shelter, where there is so much suffering and death, I respond that for me, the real question is, “How could I not”? It takes so little to make these animals happy, and my attentions mean everything to them. I may not be able to rid our society of animal abuse, nor convince humanity to curtail its violent tendencies, but maybe, just maybe, I can persuade a friend to come walk a shelter dog for a while, and I know I can change the world for a few deserving creatures in my backyard.