Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Some shelter animals need a leg up

This cat took an interest in me while I was visiting Whatcom Humane Society. I have more than a dozen photos of her in different poses sticking her paws out of the cage.

One of the reasons people get upset visiting shelters is the sad sight of animals pushing their paws out from behind the bars seeking affection.

But these aren’t the animals most deserving of pity.

Their demeanor—begging to be chosen—helps sell their strengths to potential adopters.

While shelter workers and volunteers do their best to keep all the animals in their care balanced, happy and comforted, there will always be those claimed by kennel stress. Pushed into the back of their cages, looking terrified, perhaps even hissing or growling as people walk by.

Only a handful of human beings would choose these animals instead of a friendly, outgoing one. Not many will step up and see past perceived imperfection to select a companion who will need some extra love, affection and attention to trust again.

These rare few have learned a secret that keeps rescuers going. An animal’s issues don’t have to be just an inconvenient hassle. By giving them a chance, we stretch ourselves. Our patience, our ability to love unconditionally, to accept things as they are.

The resulting bond between animal and guardian is strengthened because of the journey the two have taken together to get there. And the joy and satisfaction that comes from saving is reward enough.

Because by saving them, we also save ourselves.


Anonymous said...

You are so right. When I went to our local shelter almost a year ago to select two cats, the shelter worker pointed out one who didn't meet one of my criteria. I didn't want someone young, mainly because I felt they would be more likely to find a home. This one had come into the shelter almost a year before, one of a litter of six. The other five were adopted in short order, but a terrified kitten who tried to make himself invisible didn't stand out as a desirable pet. He was destined to grow up in the shelter, I was told, unless someone patient and loving was willing to pull him out of his shell. They felt there was a sweet little spirit in there though, waiting to be tapped.

We took him, and after almost a year, he has blossomed into Mr Personality Plus. Because of the extra time we've spent with him, he has almost become human. He has attitude beyond belief and gives us untold joy.

The moral of this story is that if you have enough time and love to coax these little ones, they will make it all worthwhile. Beyond your wildest dreams....

Anonymous said...

Carreen, this is why I love your blog. You're so good at expressing the difficulties that unwanted animals and their rescuers face, and great at explaining the reasons we rescuers keep doing what we do! So many rescuers, shelter staff and volunteers instinctively know that the shy and terrified animals are the ones who will amaze us the most--by eventually opening up and returning the love they're shown. THANK YOU!

Shelly Patton said...

What a wonderful article, Carreen. Occasionally we have potential adopters come into the shelter and specifically ask to see the dog or the cat that has been at the shelter the longest. Some people ask to see our least adoptable. Some will only consider bringing home the animal that “no one else wants.” It is like these people were born to love the loveless. They see great value in those animals other people have passed over or cast aside. The fearful, the old, the black, the sickly, it is these animals that they reach out to. And when they do, we the shelter workers feel refreshed and motivate to continue with our humane mission.

Thank you everyone who has seen, as Carreen says so well, “past perceived imperfection to select a companion who will need some extra love, affection and attention to trust again.” You are my heroes.