One of the benefits of my work travel is cable. Tonight I watched an absolute tear jerker of a documentary called One Nation Under Dog. It's divided into three sections; Fear, Loss, Betrayal and covers the darker side of our obsession with canines. If you love dogs, you'll be a member of the choir and cry through the whole thing. If you have no idea of the pain of animal shelters or the loss of a soul dog, then please watch, then volunteer or adopt from your local shelter. Too many dogs (cats, etc.) end up in shelters (the documentary has some sad statistics: only 20% of American dogs are adopted from shelters; 25% of dogs in shelters are purebreeds). Of course, if adoption is not possible right now, you can always donate time or money.
And, while I'm being preachy, give someone who has lost their soul dog a chance to talk and cry about it. I lost my almost 16 year old dalmatian/pit mix (a shelter dog) in 2005. I still weep for the loss of my best friend. Putting Isaak to sleep was the single hardest decision I ever had to make.
OK, here is a confession:
In another life, most of my twenties in fact, I worked in animal shelters. I started out a technician, then became an animal control officer, dabbled in animal welfare investigation and then back to technician before I escaped that career. I truly believe I was emotionally damaged in those years: the pain and abandonment and abuse and senseless slaughter of 1000s of animals took its toll. I ended up quitting at the end of a short noose (the only job I left on bad terms after the damaged employees became abusive towards each other coupled with bad supervision who, sheltered from the death and misery, took sides or ignored the rampant issues). It took me years to get over the depression and soul wrenching experiences that field gave me. I mean to say, you can't spend years unloading a freezer full of euthanized animals weekly and come out cheery and perfect on the other end. Once I snapped a Polaroid of a mound of dalmatians all piled up for the rendering truck (white and black spots on snow). This was a year or two after the re-release of Disney's 101 Dalmatians on DVD. The image has haunted me for years. See what I mean about the damage? You certainly cannot look into the eyes of a puppy, feel its little tongue on your hand and watch as the light softly fades from the needle you put in it's vein and think the world is a happy place.
I look back on those years with remorse and a feeling that I will never be able to undo. I went into that field because I truly love animals (and have since birth!) All of my co-workers (even while mean to each other) loved animals and wanted the best for them. And all of us gave each animal, no matter how sick or unloved or mean or damaged it may have been, as much love and comfort we could while it was in our care. Shelter workers take one for the team, they really do. If you are lucky, you escape before you begin to feel apathetic towards it all.
Most of my pets have come from shelters (although, not all of them). Orca came from a rescue. Someday soon, I hope we can add another adult dog or cat to our mix and that guy or gal will come from the shelter. I'm just waiting on the KY house to be a done deal and for my job changes in the fall (less travel!) and I hope I can pick out someone hard to place and give them another chance.