Don't pity shelter pets.
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to spend some time with two amazing shelters. Overall I was blown away by the love and compassion the staff and volunteers showed for the animals in their care. It got me thinking about the lives of animals in between homes.
I spent a few hours on Friday volunteering to take photos at the Humane Society of South Platte Valley. Recent studies are showing that professional quality photos can help shelter pets get adopted faster.While I was there I got a chance to meet several super sweet dogs and cats and the amazing people that care for them. One bulldog mix was so excited it took about ten minutes of him running in big circles before he even slowed down enough to have some photos taken. I also met Red, an older dog who would stand on his head for a good rump scratch. The staff and volunteers showed so much love and compassion for the pets in their care. They played fetch and tug and gave ’em a good scratching. And as we were wrapping up our photo shoot they were getting ready to give all the dogs a bath to make them even more appealing to potential adopters.
On Saturday I was honored to be the photographer for the Cat Care Society’s Festival of Felines. The Festival of Felines is an annual open house event with face painting, refreshments, and even a sketch artist. There was also a chance to vote on your favorite Painted Cat. Off the main hallway are several rooms where the cats reside. Not in cages but in little colonies. One room dedicated to the old ladies of the shelter. One to the scaredy cats. And a playroom for the kittens. The staff and volunteers were so warm and sweet and shared some of the life stories of their charges. I learned about a trio of older cats who came to the shelter after last year’s flood. Their home was lost to the flood and their elderly owner had been placed in a nursing home. It warmed my heart to see both visitors and caretakers sitting on the floor snuggling with the kitties up for adoption.
Throughout my time working in vet hospitals I have heard “I rescued him from a shelter” as an excuse for all manner of ill-behaved dogs. I’ve heard it used as an excuse not to bring kitties in for proper medical care, “She’s terrified of the crate, she thinks I’ll take her back”. Not to mention crazy people behaviors. I’ve met people who don’t ever close bedroom doors. Even refuse to take vacation for fear of sending their pets into flashbacks of the shelter they came from. Coming from a shelter doesn’t automatically mean an animal has been traumatized. Granted, not all shelters are run with the same love and commitment as the two I visited this weekend. There seems to be a complete misconception that all shelter pets have been abused. Or that they are somehow broken. That they have been dumped because there is something wrong with them or their prior owners. But the reality is many of these little furies end up in shelters because of their owners changing lives. Often giving up their pets is a heartbreaking decision people make in desperate hope they will find a loving family.
My own Swota is a “rescue.” I found her on Craigslist while shopping for a new dog crate. Her two previous owners loved her very much. Her first was an elderly gentlemen who could no longer care for her, her second was a young couple who had lost their home to foreclosure. Ask any training professional from Caesar Milan to Victoria Stilwell and they will tell you that dogs live in the moment. Once placed in a new home they don’t sit around and stew about why their prior owner didn’t want them. As long as they are loved they are happy. And old dogs can learn all new tricks. “Rescued” dogs and cats don’t need pity, they need love and furever homes. If you don’t have room in your home for another furry one consider volunteering. Every shelter can use some extra hands for petting, walking, and playing.