The Rescuer

29 Apr

If you follow me on Twitter it comes as no surprise that I love animals. I frequently mention my two dogs (see below), walking shelter dogs, and helping out at the rabbit rescue. When my parents came to visit recently, my dad expressed some surprise at how involved I’ve become with animal rescue. I started thinking about how I got started and why it has become such an important part of my life. I have a LOT to say about animal rescue at this point, but today I want to talk about why I believe in it so strongly.

"Mom, why did you bring him home?"

Agnes the Patient and Thor the Crazypants

I grew up with a variety of pets, but cats were the constant presence in the house. Before my parents had children they had two cats. We always had at least two feline entities in the house. As I grew older my sister acquired gerbils, I had two hamsters, eventually we even added a dog to the mix. The rodents were boring. The cats and the dog were much more entertaining, and there are few things as relaxing as sitting on the couch with a cat in your lap.

I moved to California for graduate school in 2003 and didn’t have time or money for pets. Fast-forward four years to 2007. I’m done with school, met my husband, and we live in a condo. He’s allergic to cats. We don’t have enough room for a dog. He’s traveling for work, gone for weeks at a time. I need something to do. I fall back on volunteer work, something I’ve enjoyed since college but haven’t had time for. I discover that the Placer SPCA is on my way home from work and stays open until 7 PM twice during the work week. I start volunteering with them in the cat rooms, visiting with the kitties, changing litter boxes, refilling water, but mostly just petting and playing with kitties. Eventually I switched over to the dog walking side of the operation, hoping it would give me motivation to walk around and be more active.

The primary reason I started volunteering was because I missed having pets in my home. As the years passed, it became more and more of a conviction. One of my major reasons for continuing to work on this cause: I believe humans are responsible for the care of domesticated animals. Humans brought dogs and cats and rabbits and parrots etc. out of the wild and into our homes. We breed them to have certain sizes, shapes, characteristics. These animals cannot survive in the wild anymore. They depend on us for food, for medical care, for affection. It is obvious to me at this point that as long as humans are around, there will be homeless pets. For every responsible pet owner there is at least one irresponsible pet owner. Sometimes even the responsible ones fall on hard times: illness, death, economic hardship.

I do not believe that animals are disposable. The numbers right now are heart-breaking. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that three to four million dogs and cats are euthanized every year (link) That’s equivalent to the entire (human) population of Los Angeles (3.7 million). Every year. Closer to home, the Sacramento City shelter has euthanized over 300 dogs just in the month of March this year. That shelter doesn’t have the luxury of holding on to animals until they can be adopted like the SPCA does. When they run out of space, the animals that have been there the longest wind up on the kill list.

Someone left Jenny in a parking lot. She has a great home now.

In light of the millions of pets that are euthanized every year, some people ask, “why bother?” They actually covered this in our SPCA orientation when we all looked a little shell-shocked toward the end of the presentation. The volunteer coordinator shared the story of The Boy and the Starfish. Now that story is a little too smushy cheeseball for me, but it really does get the point across. Here’s the TL;DR: millions of starfish on a beach, a boy is throwing them back in the water one by one. A man asks “why bother, there are millions of them? You can’t make a difference.” The boy looks at the one in his hand and replies, “It makes a difference to this one.”

Even if we’re only saving a fraction of the homeless pets every year it’s better than nothing. We’re saving lives. At this point I’ve directly rehomed two animals so far (including our dog Agnes):

Agnes rolling in the grass

Seriously? How could you resist this face?

I’ve been less directly involved in probably two hundred rehomings. By that I mean I met the animal, played with it, walked it, and would remember it by name if you asked. Any of them could have wound up at a high-kill shelter, could have been hit by a car, died of starvation or an infection on the street. Instead they have loving homes now.

If you want to get involved in your area you can:
1. Donate your time as a volunteer. Many rescues work with VolunteerMatch. Most shelters and rescues have a website or at least an email address.
2. Donate your money to a local organization. Each local Humane Society and SPCA is typically an independent organization. Most of them get no funding from the HSUS or ASPCA. I did not know this when I started volunteering. If you want your efforts or money staying local then I recommend looking up your closest groups and donating to them directly. Most groups have at least one fundraiser event every year.
3. Donate to an umbrella organization. Of course HSUS and ASPCA are also involved in rescue efforts, but they tend to be bigger-picture things like busting dog-fighting rings, funding SNAP (Spay and Neuter Assistance Programs), and working on legislation.
4. Donate stuff! Our shelter always needs cat toys, dog toys, towels, blankets, sheets, newspaper, hot dogs, dog food, cat food, cat litter etc. Call or email your local shelter and find out what they need.

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One Response to “The Rescuer”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Adopting Shelter Animals: Myth Busting « Seven Deadly Divas - June 1, 2011

    […] on Divas, we established that I’m passionate about animal rescue. Today I’m going to talk about why shelters and rescues have some of the policies they do. […]

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