“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”
~~ Karen Davison
“A dog is not a thing. A thing is replaceable. A dog is not. A thing is disposable. A dog is not. A thing doesn’t have a heart. A dog’s heart is bigger than any “thing” you can ever own.”
~~ Elizabeth Parker, Paw Prints in the Sand
Eight years ago while at Gay Pride I stopped by the booths run by animal rescue shelters—and it changed my life.
I found Sarah Jane, only the sweetest and most wonderful animal I have ever encountered. And she opened my eyes to just how sacred animals are.
Through the years when I would get a pet, it was almost always from a breeder. Friends would wonder why I would spend so much money and asked why I didn’t go to a shelter.
That there was a reason why people took animals to shelters were the same reason they got rid of a car. There were problems with the pet. Maybe they peed on everything or chewed stuff up or bit or any number of things.
I was ignorant.
I had no idea of the love that went into those places, the love of animals, the desire to help these animals find forever homes. Now I see they do it with little or no thanks. They do what the do with donations. The scrape by. And they do their damnest to never have to put an animal down.
Sarah Jane was found walking down a highway. She was alone and terrified and thrilled to be rescued. They shelter people imagined she might have been abused. It very quickly became clear that was the case. It was two years before I could reach down to pat her head or scratch her behind the ears and she didn’t flinch and duck.
I soon saw that most of the animals at those shelters weren’t dropped off because they peed on the carpet or chewed somebody’s slippers.
Those cats and dogs were either abandoned in back yards or parks or out in the woods. Of if they were brought in it was because the people who owned them—and the word “owned” really bothers me these days—got bored with their charges.
I have found that often after a movie comes out with cute animals, people dash out to get one of their own. Movies like Beethoven, The Cat From Outer Space, The Adventures of Milo and Otis, Homeward Bound, Benji, Marley & Me and Best in Show. A movie like Beverly Hills Chihuahua is released and there is a wave of people buying Chihuahuas. But when they find out that you have to feed them twice a day and let them in and out and potty train them and deal with their little peccadilloes—and everyone has their own foibles and infractions—and walk them and get them shots and care for them when they’re ill—even when it’s expensive—then they find out it isn’t all fun Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
So they take these animals, who give all their trust in their humans, and dump them.
And thank God there are animal shelters to take them in.
The people who run these pour everything they are into those animals. Caring for them. Loving them. Helping them find their forever homes. And nothing makes them happier.
It’s why when my book Hound Dog & Bean came out—a book partly about shelters—me and Dreamspinner Press gave money from preorders to the ASPCA.
And you know? There is something else. Something I didn’t believe. Something that I thought was crazy. But now I know is the truth.
Those animals? They do know they were rescued. They do know that the people who adopt them saved their lives. That they owe their lives to us.
And some beautiful relationships begin.
Today—and all days—I am so grateful for animal shelters and the people who run them. They are saving little pieces of God.
photographs by hamia, cheriedurbin5 and butkovicdub from morgueFile, and one from my personal collection (the day we rescued Sarah Jane)