I may have decided what I want to be when I grow up. Well...one of several options. Food critic, wine taster, librarian...and my current desire? Animal rescue. Not throwing myself between clubs and baby seals (although I know that was a dream of mine when I was in 4th grade), I want to be like the people of the Lynchburg Humane Society and the Angels of Assisi in Roanoke.
You may recall (or you can click here to catch up) that I fostered a cat for AoA. Since that time, I've been a fan of their Facebook page. Daily appearances in my news feed show a staff and volunteer force that wants one thing: furever homes for every unwanted cat and dog (and rabbit, guinea pig, etc.). In addition to hopelessly adorable kittens - I am treated to pictures of cats and dogs whose humans have turned their backs on them.
Yes, I know that sometimes it is because of very reasonable circumstances. Perhaps an elderly person who must move to a home or facility that doesn't allow pets. Or maybe a family that has lost an income and can no longer afford to properly take care of their fuzzy friend. But there are also the stories that are much less understandable - abused and abandoned pets. No matter what the reason, a lot of the pictures are of dogs and cats that look confused and lost. They don't understand why they are in this scary place with cages and strange smells and not enough hands to pet them...no couch to snuggle on.
In the midst of this scene - which could be very depressing - is the spirit of the staff and volunteers. It is infectious. These rescuers have found a great use for social media - they share the stories of these animals with their "fans" and then those people share the stories with their friends. You see encouragement from other volunteers - and that all translates into hope for the next pet, and the next one, and the next one.
One of my favorite rescuers to read about it a foster named Willy. He has a goal of fostering 100 dogs. I know he's going to accomplish it. A foster takes in an animal so that the animal can #1-get a break from the stress of the shelter environment and #2-relearn trust in humans. One of his current fosters is a hound named Fallon. So scared in the shelter that he (she?) huddled in a back corner trembling. For a few days, the postings were of Fallon burrowing behind couch cushions where he felt safe. Last night's picture was Fallon sleeping as "liquid dog" - so relaxed he was sleeping in this awkward position. Content. Safe. Secure. Loved.
Willy has an assistant in his goal of getting dogs ready for their furever home - his buddy Olaf. Olaf is a goofy dog...and I believe is part pit bull. This "scary bully breed" dog is a marshmallow that not only allowed Fallon to use him as a pillow - but when he was awake and Fallon was still resting comfortably, he just stayed put so he didn't disturb his new friend. If that doesn't make you catch your breath with emotion...you are a robot.
Some of the Angels fans keep telling Willy that he will "foster fail" with Olaf - that Olaf isn't going anywhere. I think Willy just rolls his eyes and smiles a little. He is dedicated to finding the perfect family for each of his fosters. He knows that the right situation is out there for Olaf and he'll keep letting people know about this wonderful dog until the match is made. Because he knows that will open up a new space for his next foster - which opens a new space at Angels - maybe that opens a space at the "pound" - that keeps another pet from euthanasia.
I'm impressed by all the dedicated staff and volunteers that I've "met" through Facebook. And even though my one rude cat is all I can handle right now - I will keep spreading the word about the great work that they do.
Are you looking for a furry family member? I beg you to consider this: Don't shop, adopt.
Looking for a volunteer opportunity? Consider training as a dog walker...or go fill Kongs with peanut butter...or do some laundry at a shelter. Or maybe even open your heart and your home as a foster.
Too much for right now? Then at least consider dropping off some food, litter, treats, toys or peanut butter at your local shelter.
Olaf would want you to.