Sunday, January 10, 2010

"Buddies"--An Animal Journal for Sunday

"We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." --Immanual Kant 

Saturday was the initial orientation for new volunters at The Buddy Foundation Animal Shelter.

Upon entering the roomy and clean facility filled with natural light, one notices dozens of people with  expressions of contentment, working briskly and happily with their colleagues, moving purposefully from reception desk to intake room, from cat quarantine to dog run.  This was something like the first steps on my personal "breakwater".  If I apply my skills and enthusiasm, and use my experience well, I know I can move in a new direction, and devote a good part of myself to this work. 

What an inspiring, fun, and informative tour it was!  I was part of a group of six prospective volunteers. There was a high school student with his mother; a cancer survivor; a College athlete; and a war veteran who worked with Service Dogs.  Each volunteer is given a choice  to work with either dogs or cats, with the option of doing both after a few weeks of regular service.  Most of my group selected cats.  Many were noticeably afraid of the dogs.  I chose the dogs. 

Eventually, I want to do both. (Maybe this is another way to reinvent myself: I will run a shelter of my own some time, with Mark, who loves animals as much as I do.) 

I would do it all....feed and walk the dogs, comfort new dogs, clean their cages, medicate the sick cats, wash bedding, clean windows, pull weeds,  organize the donated food items and supplies and solicit for more, stage the gift shop merchandise, initiate community programs, man booths at local business shows, meet with prospective families, evaluate adoption applications, provide love to these creatures, and offer friendship and assistance to the generous fellow volunteers. 

I would do it because these creatures need us very much.  If there is any grand scheme to how the world is organized, I believe that animals, especially needy ones, are here to teach us as much as we are here to help them, and that our better humanity emerges by caring for them.

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The cat rooms were divided by age.  There was a kitten room with bassinets, low furniture and pillows on the floors, and plenty of room to climb.  This was the loudest room, with the mewings and meowings almost drowning out the soothing strains of Tscaikowsky that wafted over the shelter's sound system.  

In the rooms for older cats, many were napping, like millions of other senior citizens at that time.  These adult cats loved to nestle in the special boxes, cubbyholes stacked and arranged like sculpture, from where only a pair of mysterious eyes can be seen on those still awake. 

And there were the special needs rooms.  I was drawn to a very talkative cat who could not find a home because he had diabetes, and needed an injection of insulin every day.  My heart broke a little, and later I went on line to learn how to provide feline insulin

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The dog pens were noisier, and had an earthier aroma.  (The cat rooms were amazingly oder free!)  I will spend more time devoted to dog stories later in this series.  I made many new friends, including Abel, a sweet Golden Retriever "puppy" who washed my face after his walk.        My favorite so far is Starsky, a Bassett-Boxer mix.   He appears to be emerging from a block of stone in which the sculptor couldn't make up his mind which breed to finally sculpt.  If you stare at his face and body, you can almost see him switch back and forth between the two.  A sweeter dog you may never find...he should have a good home, and soon.

The Buddy Foundation is filled now to capacity, but there is one special intake that I hope gets a new home very soon.  A Great Pyrenees dog, a large breed related to the St. Bernard, and all white fur, was accepted because its owner is dying.  He was lying on the floor waiting for a familiar face.  If he is still there next week, I will talk to him, try to pet his massive white head.

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Animal shelters become filled to capacity at this time of year.  Often, people receive pets from well-meaning but misguided friends or relatives.  Recipients of these animals often are not awarwe of the commitment, cost, or time involved in their new companion's care.

Dogs and cats are also the victims of bad economic times. The Chicago Tribune reports from a shelter in Decatur that people who are victims of foreclosure and are evicted are unable to have their pets in their new apartments.  Others relinquish their pets because they can't afford to feed their children and their animal companions both.  The most heartless will release their animals into fields, where they often starve, or freeze to death, before they are found and rescued.

Shelters like the Buddy Foundation are there to achieve two goals:  First, to find homes for these animals. Hard as that is, adoption standards are stringent.  No one wants to see a shelter dog be subject to more abuse or neglect, or be returned.  Second, to provide the most comfort and healthy care to the animals who reside there.

That is why I was happy to see so many caring volunteers in my first visit.  I am excited to become a part of that, and earn my way to higher levels of responsibility.

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."  --Anatole France


  1. The Anatole France quote is good, very true.

  2. Way to Go! What a compassionate and thoughtful way to show your love for animals. All of these pets deserve and hopefully will get loving, caring homes. It breaks my heart to see and hear about so many that end up in shelters. The Anatole France quote is absolutely true and you can't explain the love for a pet to someone that doesn't have or never had one.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. I'm happy to have your support in my endeavor! Glad to see you here again Russ. Welcome, Greener Side!

  4. Awesome post Tom! You know I'm constantly seeing reports that the people that run many of these shelters were indifferent to the needs of the animals and were only interested in making a buck, but your story renewed my faith that there are good shelters out there where our animals can get the love and care that they need. That's so great that you get to experience such an obviously warm and loving animal care facility and have the ability to see it through the eyes of the animals themselves as well. Well done!