I have a dream ... and let me be frank ... it's a big one ... probably, almost certainly, an impossible one. It's that all animals everywhere be as dearly loved and well cared for as those lounging on the sofas or curled up by the firesides of those of you reading this blog post right now.
My dream is that every animal could know the pleasure of a gentle touch, the security of a safe and loving home, the feeling of a full stomach as they lie down to sleep at night in safety and comfort, either in their own cozy bed or snuggled up next to the humans who delight in so lovingly caring for them.
|Every animal deserves a soft, cozy bed like the one that Tucker & Phoebe relax in at my office.|
The truth is ... when you come right down to it, dogs and cats have very simple needs and desires. They don't really care about fancy collars, or expensive sweaters, dog treats shaped like human cupcakes, or fabric "cigars" filled with catnip. They may enjoy them, or not, but for the most part those are things that humans care about. Don't get me wrong ... I'm the first one to admit that I enjoy indulging my animals with some of the very same items I just mentioned, and that's not counting the cakes I bake to celebrate their birthdays (which they enjoy very much) or the Halloween costumes I dress them up in (which they really do not find so enjoyable). I do this not because I think they really care that much one way or the other, but because it gives me pleasure to give them these things, although not in lieu of the things they really desire, like my time and affection, a brisk walk, a roll in the grass, a romp in the yard, or the joy of chasing down and "killing" a squeaky stuffed toy or catnip mouse.
Given how little dogs and cats really need to be happy, it is all the sadder to me that so many of them will never enjoy what they all, when you get to the very crux of it, want most of all, which is, simply, someone to love who loves them in return, and a place to belong. However humble the home, so long as they are truly loved and valued, and their basic needs are met, they will be happy, indeed will thrive. Why, then, do so many of them languish in shelters waiting in vain for that day of joyous homecoming that never arrives, or die unnoticed and unmourned on highways or in back alleys?
The answer is as simple as it is heartbreaking ... according to recent statistics, there are 45 cats and 15 dogs born for every human. You don't have to be a mathematician to very quickly figure out that due to irresponsible individuals who refuse to spay or neuter their animals, the dogs and cats on this planet outnumber the humans by as much as 45 to 1, and that is a recipe for homelessness, hunger, misery, and the unnecessary and tragic putting to death of between three and four million dogs and cats each year in the United States alone, according to the HSUS. And in the face of such statistics, it would be easy to be beset by hopelessness and despair, or to feel that the solitary efforts of one person to make a difference or effect a change are so insignificant as to be little more than wasted effort.
Like the story of the little boy and the starfish that we've all heard so many times that it often seems to have lost its meaning, what does the saving of one really matter in the face of so many other, overwhelming, losses? It's easy to think that, since anything that we can do is so small in the face of all that needs to be done, what's the point of even trying. But imagine, just imagine, if everyone felt that way?
Imagine if there were not shelter workers willing to work long, hard hours at a very difficult, often heartbreaking, job for very little money just to make a difference? Imagine if there were not independent rescue organizations, and the special angels we call foster families, willing to open their own homes, not to mention wallets, to animals who, because their time has run out in a shelter, have nowhere else to go.
Imagine ... just imagine ... if that one life that wasn't saved because someone was too tired or too busy or too overworked or too overwhelmed was the one curled up next to you right now on the couch.
The reality is that not everyone can work in a shelter. Not everyone wants, or can afford, to. The pay is certainly not commensurate with the importance of the work that is being done by these individuals, and even if the pay was better, there is not enough money in the world to make what these people do every day any easier, or any less heartbreaking. What more difficult task could there be for someone who loves animals than to be forced to be a party to the senseless deaths of the millions of animals per year who are killed for no other crime than that of having been born in the first place into a world where there was no room for them, and no place for them to go?
Not everyone, for many different reasons, can found a rescue organization, recruit volunteers and foster families, and figure out how to raise the funds necessary to care for the animals they save for months or even years at a time before the right person or family is found to adopt them, if one ever is. Not everyone, regardless of finances, is able to take an animal into their home, care for him as if he were their own, and then selflessly give him up when a forever family is found.
But here's the good news. There is no one right or best or only way to make a difference. If you can't adopt an animal you can foster one. If you can't adopt or foster you can volunteer for a shelter or rescue organization. You can raise funds. You can donate money or time, or whatever you have to give. But whatever the limitations, of time, of money, of space, of emotional fortitude, the inability to do one specific thing to make a difference is no reason, no reason at all, to simply do nothing.
In this community of animal lovers that flourishes so ably and well here in the Blog-o-sphere, there are, just as there are in "real life," the heroes, the legends, the superstars. Then, also as in the "real world," there are the lesser lights. We can't all be superstars, unfortunately. But we should not, because we fear that whatever light we have to shine will not burn as brightly as we might wish, be reluctant to shine at all. We should not, because we cannot do everything, refuse to do nothing at all.
Whatever contribution you have to make .. make it. Whatever light is yours to shine ... shine it. Whatever feeble spark to make a small difference in this world may exist within you, make it your mission to nurture that spark. Cup it carefully in your hands, and breathe on it ever so gently, that it may come to glowing life.
In reading one of my favorite blogs today, I saw a picture of this little girl:
|Estelle, from It's a Pittie rescue (photo credit to rescue of same name)|
Naturally, the sight of this sweet little face touched my heart, although, when I went to look at the rescue's website, I found myself particularly drawn to this little cutie:
|Faylean, also from It's a Pittie (photo credit to rescue of same name)|
Unfortunately, I can't adopt Faylean or Estelle right now. I torture myself constantly with the idea of getting a third dog, but while I will never say never, I know that right now isn't really the right time. I don't live in Chicago, so I can't foster them either, but I decided to make it my Christmas present to myself to make a small donation to It's a Pittie in honor of Estelle and Faylean.
It's not a big thing. It's not a life-changing thing. None of the little things I do, during the holidays and throughout the year where and when I can, to try to make a difference, are all that momentous in the scheme of things. In November when I take my annual donation of food and toys and treats to the shelter that helped stand between Tucker and a world that must have looked awfully big and scary and lonely to a scruffy little dog looking for someone to love, I always wish I could do more. In February when I make a similar contribution to the rescue group who pulled Phoebe out of a Miami shelter and found her a loving foster family to care for her as their own until I arrived to take her home forever, I feel the same way. The things I do are not big things, but neither are they nothing at all.
My resolution this New Year, which, as hard as it is for me to believe it, is almost upon us, is to continue doing what I can when I can, and to not fail to do something just because I can't do everything. But I also want to find ways to do more, to hold myself more accountable for making a difference in the world. Wanting it, wishing for it, and dreaming about it aren't enough. I have to continue to take the actions I've taken in the past, but I also have to actively look for other ways to make a difference. As the saying goes, if you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Or, as the song says, which is perhaps more appropriate to the time of year: let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.
May peace be with all of you this holiday season, and in the coming New Year.