Friday, May 15, 2009

Hope shines from shelters

Birds in a barrel: these adorable ducklings were rescued from a roadside.

I'm always talking to animal-loving citizens who are too scared to go near a shelter. I understand their fears, because I used to be one of them.

I viewed shelters as places soaked in sadness. Row after row of lonely eyes looking mournfully from behind bars, eyes that seem to be pleading for clemency.

But then I started to research the comings and goings of shelter daily life. The more time I spent behind shelter walls, the more I realized how wrong I was. It's true that I witnessed tragedy and heartache at times, particularly in the back areas that the public doesn't see. But I also experienced hope and inspiration of mind-altering magnitude.

I started shedding my prejudices and began to look forward to visiting my friends on the front lines of animal rescue. They care for their charges as if they were their own, nurturing animals who have been thrown away by society with patience and compassion.

Shelters are filled with animals with sad stories, but there are umpteen happy tales there, too. Animals whose pain has been soothed. Those who finally have a place to lay their head, a pit stop that's replete with fresh clean water and delicious food. A safe haven where they are loved and comforted by staff who have devoted their lives to rescuing them.

Unfortunately the public's fear of shelters has a negative impact on adoptions. Some people opt to buy animals from breeders or pet stores rather than brave a visit to the local shelters. What a shame.

Yesterday I visited the Richmond Animal Protection Society. Check out some of the current residents.

No one knows where the mother of this duckling disappeared to.

A tiny furry pod of baby bunnies is off-the-charts adorable.

Poor Pandora refuses to eat, despite the tasty treats that are strategically placed near her snout. She was rescued while running through rush-hour traffic on the freeway near the Alex Fraser bridge. It took animal control officer Shane Burnham more than two hours of chasing Pandora on foot before he finally caught the terrified dog. She was so afraid that she mutilated the catch pole used to capture her. "Shane saved her life," said RAPS executive director Carol Reichert. "He phoned in after an hour, but we had no other calls for him, so the chase continued on. She kept trying to get back onto the highway. He had to run through fields and blackberry bushes to get her."

Texas was rescued on the grounds of the Vancouver International Airport while running inside the fenced areas. He could have sprinted along the airplane runways had he wanted to. Texas was riddled with infected open sores, and a rotting tooth indicated he sustained a forceful blow to his face.

But look how happy Texas is now...

This shelter is always coming up with innovative ideas, and here's a good one. They've buried three plastic pails in the dogs' play yard, punched holes in the bottom, added a solution called Septonic, and turned them into composters. No wasteful plastic bags required, and the results will be great fertilizer.

The shelter animals and the people who care for them always appreciate a friendly face, a donation, or even a helping hand. At RAPS yesterday, this local manufacturer dropped by with an offer to use her fabric remnants to make soft felted cushions for the shelter cats. Carol (on left) was thrilled. Gestures of support from community members such as these keep the staff's mood upbeat.

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