Allison's Book Bag

Shelter Buddies

Posted on: February 20, 2014

My Saturday selection is a juvenile novel about a young girl who helps out an animal shelter. In conjunction with it, I’d like to introduce you to two animal welfare organizations that my husband and I are connected with. Both are no-kill. One has actual facilities where animals are housed. The other depends on volunteers to foster any intake animals.

One of my favorite ways of being involved with Hearts United for Animals is visiting a dog or cat whom I had picked to financially sponsor and to help socialize it. Many of HUA’s dogs come from puppy mills, which means they aren’t used to human affection. As for the cats, several of them are strays that may or may not be used to having love in their lives. Socializing animals at HUA could involve anything from holding them and talking to them to grooming them and taking them outside for some exercise. (Of course, HUA also has full-fledged volunteers who take care of the day-to-day upkeep: feeding, cleaning kennels, etc.) Helping these animals start to accept and look forward to human contact is a pure joy.

MoccasinMy first match was a chihuahua named Moccasin. Not only was this grey-fringed dog a senior, but he was also a biter with health issues. Adoption did not seem likely. Elation is the only way to describe how I felt when I received an email telling me that Moccasin had found his forever home with a lady who loved chihuahuas.

PedroAfter Moccasin, I became a buddy to Pedro. His needs were similar to Moccasin’s, but he was also aggressive towards every dog other than his kennel mates. Sadly, Pedro never did find his forever home. Whenever I hear of the death of a dog at HUA, I feel happy that the dog was loved at the shelter, but also heartbroken that the dog never had a home and knew what it meant to be a companion.

Over time, my husband and I began spending time with other animals besides our buddy. Most often, this meant a papillon for me and a poodle for my husband. The more frequently we visited, the more we became attached to certain dogs and the more often we were asked about adopting one of them. However, with a dog, cat, and guinea pig back in our rented home, we were already at our limit. But that’s not to say we were never tempted. HUA has so many animals in need of loving homes; driving away empty-handed was never easy.

HUA_PotluckAnother favorite part of my involvement with Hearts United for Animals is the annual Christmas potluck. The idea behind this tradition is that for 364 days every year, the animals would receive daily attention. But on Christmas Day their caretakers would naturally instead spend time with their families. This meant that Christmas was a lonely time for the residents of HUA. To rectify that, volunteers gather together at the shelter on Christmas morning. For the first couple hours, we all disperse to hand out biscuits to every single animal at the shelter. Then we gather in the sun-room for a potluck Christmas feast. Of course, we humans don’t feast alone. We’re joined by perhaps twenty of the friendliest dogs. It’s a heady time for them, what with all the “dropped” crumbs.

GizmoAfter I married and moved to my husband’s hometown, it became more difficult to visit Hearts United for Animals. I began to seek out a different way of becoming involved with animal welfare. One thing that Hearts United for Animals does not offer is the opportunity to foster an animal. My husband and I found this instead with a local no-kill organization called Nebraska No Kill Canine Rescue. Initially, I intended to just help out with their newsletter or website. About a year ago, while receiving notices from NE No Kill of their needs, I saw their desperate plea for fosters over the Christmas season. My husband and I filled out an application, and shortly thereafter we were contacted about a senior silky terrier.

Gizmo’s owner had moved into a retirement home and given him over to her daughter. However, her daughter already had a dog who didn’t take kindly to the newcomer. The two had frequent violent squabbles. She wanted to find a new home for Gizmo before he ended up being seriously hurt. Besides his age, Gizmo had other disadvantages such as not being used to children or cats. Moreover, he took daily medication for his health issues. In the first months with us, we also saw a deterioration in his ability to see and hear.

One time when we took our dogs for a walk, a neighbor inquired about Gizmo. After finding out his age and needs, our neighbor commented, “He’s a heartache waiting to happen.” Apparently, others who read Gizmo’s bio felt the same, because no stepped up to adopt him. While NE No Kill quickly finds adoptive homes for many of its dogs, the reality is that sometimes fosters end up being the ones to adopt. A year after seeing Gizmo through a back injury and a decline in appetite, we decided to be his forever home.

Whatever volunteer route one decides to take, there are many animals out there who need love. Some have never felt even a gentle human touch. Their photos are almost unbearable to see and their histories prior to their rescues are tragic. Others have known love, but these stories are just as sad. By necessity or sometimes even from apathy, owners end up relinquishing their family pet to a shelter. Imagine having a family and being surrounded by love, and then suddenly find yourself in a kennel. Even in the best shelters, these dogs and cats start to look unkempt and their eyes take on an eternal sadness. While none of us can give all animals a forever home, we can at least shower love on them in the shelters, which will make them one day more likely to be adopted. Won’t you open up your heart?

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