So it's Tuesday, but it's still Best Shot Monday (a day late!). Since I'm the photographer, it's rare that I actually get a picture of myself with a shelter dog (at least one that's not a crazy selfie). Credit for the photo above goes to my Jacksonville shelter volunteer buddy Angie Benz. I love this picture. This is Alfalfa. His name was Zues when this picture was taken, but the next day one of the shelter staff pulled him up in the system and saw that his name when he was with us before was Alfalfa, so they changed it back. Yep, he was there before. That's one of the things that breaks my heart about shelter volunteering. If you've been around for a while, you inevitably see dogs come back through the system. I didn't see the reason for his return, but one of the reasons we took him out for this particular photo shoot was because he was ping-ponging in his kennel and was almost able to jump out over the top. Definitely not safe for him! Though very frustrated in his kennel, I think this picture clearly shows what a gentle giant he is out of his kennel. His glamour shot is below.
So back to my Why We Do This. Shelter work is hard. Very hard. Whether you are a staff member or a volunteer. You get your hearts broken, sometimes even shattered like this. But as volunteers, you continue to come back because you know they need you. First, the staff needs you, because there simply aren't enough of them, which means, second, the animals needs you even more so they can get out of their kennels, feel a little sunshine on their backs, smell some fresh breezes, get some kitty cuddles, and learn that they are lovable...and loved...and are more than just an I.D. number. But while you may get your heart broken at times, you always are rewarded handsomely with the unconditional love of those animals and the thankfulness of the staff.
And you are rewarded by stories like this: remember my post last week, Meet Gordon, Please Meet Gordon? I did fall in love with Gordon, but truth be known, I was inspired to write his story by another dog who we lost that week; I was determined that Gordon was not going to share her fate. Well, between shares from my Facebook page and shares from the shelter's Facebook page where the shelter manager posted it, Gordon's post was read nearly 2,000 times in two days. I posted the story on Monday night; the shelter shared it on Tuesday morning. On Friday, someone came in specifically to meet Gordon, and on Saturday, Gordon went home with that somebody on a sleepover. As loving as I know that dog is, I feel pretty good that his sleepover will become his forever home.
That's Why We Do This. For dogs like Gordon. And Alfalfa. And Kay. And Dallas and Gus. And Honey and Tuga. And the thousands upon thousands of animals that enter the doors of municipal, open-door shelters nationwide every single day. It frustrates the heck out of me when I see keyboard warriors bad mouth our shelters. These shelters don't get to pick and choose what animals they take in. They take them all, whether it's a stray off the street or 60 dogs in a hoarding case. And then they have to figure out not only where to put them, but also love them, heal them, help them recover from trauma, help them learn that humans really can love them, and then figure out what's going to be the best route to help them find their new homes.
Thank you to the staff who are charged with caring for all these animals and who get their hearts broken all the time. They are some of my greatest heroes. And thank you to all the volunteers who help them; their compassion is unmatched. The next time you say "someone should do something about that!" be that someone. Adopt. Don't shop. Foster. Volunteer. Donate. Educate. That's Why We Do This. (And this post reminded me of this post ... and that though I now live in two places, I've never really left ... and I cried happy tears this time.) Alfalfa is available for adoption at Jacksonville's Animal Care and Protective Services, 2020 Forest St., Jacksonville.