I’ve been around animals all of my life. It’s really the only thing I’ve ever felt passionate about. As I got older I began to get involved in animal rescue and adoption and became more and more aware of the plight of animals in our country, and our world. Volunteering for a couple of animal rescue shelters, I watched the endless supply of inhabitants. The crates and cages were never empty; if anything, the shelters often had to turn animals away (or euthanize them) because there just wasn’t enough space to hold them all. My job was to help “socialize” the animals and to give them some individual attention while they were there. So many of them were so traumatized from the entire experience. Just imagine being put into your car and just left somewhere without warning, never again to see the family you had come to love and think you were a part of, never again to see the place you had come to think of as your home. Just an hour before you had felt safe and content, without much of a care in the world; an hour later you are suddenly terrified and confused, surrounded by strangers in a strange place, with strange smells and a lot of noise, nothing at all familiar, and with you are dozens of others who seem to be just as confused and scared. Where once you had a comfortable bed with a familiar scent, now you are placed into a cage, not knowing what is going to happen next, or if it will hurt. Where once you could walk about relatively freely, or maybe enjoy the pleasures of a yard of your own, now you were only taken out of the cage a couple of times a day for a few moments just so you can relieve yourself and then be returned, and that’s if you’re lucky. Some shelters are so overwhelmed that the animals rarely get out of their crates or pens to relieve themselves; they just have to find a spot where they won’t end up stepping in it before someone has the time to clean up the mess. I’ve read that most dogs have cognitive ability at the level of a two year old child. Imagine if this was all happening to your child, who was still too young to speak, or make sense of things, or ask questions. Imagine if you were suddenly gone from your child’s life, and they were suddenly dumped off with strangers in a strange place. Wouldn’t that child be terrified? Well it’s absolutely no different for all of the more than SIX MILLION animals who are sitting in shelters every day! They are just as terrified. They are just as confused. They are just as unable to speak for themselves or understand. And they often become just as depressed as you, or your child would, in the same situation. Every day as I tried to give these love-starved dogs (in this case) some time and attention, I just couldn’t understand how any human could abandon their pet like this. Could they really be so lacking in empathy? Can people really be so far removed from their own emotions that they don’t even think of what they are doing to these beautiful creatures that they once called THEIR pets? Do they ever think of it from the animal’s point of view?
In the years that followed, I have seen more and more of this lack of empathy and compassion, and lack of thought given for the animals. Respect for animals is, to a large degree, nonexistent in our society. My Inbox is filled every day with petitions and calls to action, each asking for help for a particular animal or group of animals, or to prosecute an abuser or stop some legalized slaughter of animals. Cecil the lion was only one small example of the thousands of atrocities that are perpetrated upon animals every day, every minute. Did it occur to you that the Dentist’s only defense was that he “thought it was a legal hunt” ? The fact that this was a needless, horrific act, whether legal or not, never even crossed his mind. For years I’ve wondered if it could be proven that there must be something wrong with a person whose idea of FUN is to kill something. It’s an acceptable concept in the human world, so why not for animals? Is it because they don’t speak a language we understand? It’s really all that separates us. If your dog (or cat, or bird, or guinea pig, or rabbit) could ask you where you were going when you put him in the car to dump him at the shelter, if he could scream your name, if he could beg you not to leave him and sob loudly as you hand his leash over to someone and make your way out the door, could you still do it? Would you? Because I’m sure all of the feelings are there inside the animals. Every day, scientists discover more and more that animals are capable of feeling emotion. Anyone who has ever loved a pet knew that a long time ago. To the rest I can only say, we know at the very least that animals feel fear. It’s one of their greatest defenses for survival. So if there is one emotion, doesn’t it follow that there must be other emotions – perhaps even a full range of emotion?
So why am I here? Why have I started this blog? Because I believe that one of the reasons why I am here on this earth (maybe the only one) is to speak for the animals, and to be one of the many who helps to make many others more aware, and more animal conscious. (Self appointed, yes, but emanating from within.) Every petition hurts. Every call to action hurts. It hurt when I went to Albany to lobby for Bills to end certain animal abuses. It hurt when I was adopting my dog and at least three more were dropped off while I was signing the papers to bring him home. It hurts every time I see another homeless cat wandering the streets, trying to survive the cold winters and the lack of food, water and love. It hurts every time my dog still reacts with terror when he enters a room lined with tiles and stainless steel, just like the shelter was (and more than two years later). To quote the character John Coffey in the movie, “The Green Mile”: “There’s too much of it — it’s like pieces of glass in my head, all the time.” Even so, I can’t be one of those people who closes their eyes and covers their ears whenever the ASPCA commercials come on. It hurts me just as much as it hurts the next person, but closing my eyes and allowing myself to remain ignorant just means more animals will suffer. So which is easier to live with; Watching the heartbreaking commercials or knowing that if I don’t, if I don’t keep it fresh in my mind’s eye, more animals will suffer? It’s the watching that creates the motivation to then create a change, because IT IS so horrific and unbearable! I (we) have to watch the commercials because otherwise the animals will just keep having to go through it, and alone!
And finally, admittedly, I am here in this blog because I can be somewhat of a zealot on this topic. My hope is that perhaps a blog will allow me to channel the passion more constructively. At least in a blog you can shut me down if you want to. Not always the case in real life. If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for listening.
“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” (A.A.Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh)