They might be your neighbor or co-worker, or the person that delivers your mail. They could be the person standing next to you in the checkout lane, or the nurse that takes your blood pressure, the clerk at the cash register or the person that picks up your trash. You might know their name but, you probably don’t know who they are.
They are the nameless workers at your local animal shelters and rescues. They are the ordinary people who are doing extraordinary work on behalf of the abandoned and abused animals of our community.
Like you, families, hobbies and commitments to their church. They have birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate, and friends with whom they enjoy spending time. Yet, despite all that, they commit a portion of each week to those dogs and cats that someone abandoned or ignored, because it became too much of an inconvenience. They care for those dogs and cats that someone abused and injured, over and over, until losing interest. They console and comfort the forgotten and frightened animals, because it is a need that won’t go away.
They don’t do it for money or for awards and recognition. Even those that are paid receive very little. Often, they just turn around and spend a portion of their earnings on treats and toys to help make life a little more tolerable for the animals in their care. Why do they do it? Because, they have to. They do it, because if they don’t, who will?
It’s not that they are impervious to the heartbreak and sadness. They cry real tears everyday. For the small, gentle, wimpering pit bull that was used as a bait dog. For the broken terrier puppy, tossed from a moving car. For the aging, blind dog turned loose to fend for itself. And, for all those trusting, loving creatures who had the misfortune of being victimized by members of our community.
They see the effects of cruelty and irresponsible ownership everyday and ask the same questions we would. “Who could do this to another living creature?” “What kind of cold-hearted monsters live around here?” “How stupid can some people be when it comes to caring for an animal?”
They see the worst humanity can do but, are surrounded by the best of humanity. Their fellow workers who show up day after day, week after week, not knowing how many tears they’ll shed before the day is over. But, who are willing to take that chance because of what they get in return.
That first kiss from a dog that had never known what affection felt like. The happy wag of a tail by a dog getting its first experience with playing a game of fetch. A scared, scrawny cat finally purring on a warm, safe lap. Best of all, a dog or cat picked for adoption by a family that is committed to giving it the home and life it always deserved.
Pound Buddies Animal Shelter and Adoption Center is under contract with Muskegon County Animal Control and is obliged to take in every stray that animal control officers pick up. Recently, the number of strays has been overwhelming due to people moving prior to the start of school, economic duress and puppies that have reached the age where they can’t be sold as puppies anymore. On one particular day, animal control brought in a litter of eight Cattle Dog pups that had been found in a wooded area, where they’d been dumped and left to fend for themselves; victims of people who have no respect for life.
Without shelter workers to care and feed, exercise, play, console, comfort and clean-up, shelters like Pound Buddies would not be shelters. They’d simply be “death houses”. In many ways, shelter workers can be viewed as the difference between life and death for the dogs and cats that have nowhere else to go. For without them, the task would simply be too overwhelming for the organization.
Pound Buddies does not have infinite space to house the endless stream of strays and abandoned animals, so they rely on other area shelters and rescues to take some of the overflow. Noah Project, Heaven Can Wait, Muskegon Humane, Harbor Humane and Lake Haven Rescue are a few of the many area organizations that are striving to keep as many animals safe as possible until a home can be found. But, they don’t have infinite space either.
So, dozens of dogs and cats are being euthanized every week because of the foolish, negligent, greedy, selfish, cruel and ignorant actions of people in our community; people that could and should know better.
Yet, still the workers show up each day to comfort and console those animals, and show them a bit of human compassion and affection; even the ones whose life will end that day.
It’s not that they are stronger than we are, it’s that they feel more obligated to balance some of the bad with some good. Otherwise, how would you explain investing a few hours giving an old dog one last experience with human kindness, before he’s walked to the euthanasia room?
Shelter workers are the lifeblood of every shelter and rescue. They are the ones who bring hope to the animals by showing there are those who care about the problem of pet over-population and homelessness; showing there are those who care about them and their predicament.
They are the ones who say, “I want to take them all home and fill their lives with love.” But, they can’t. So, they bring all their love to the shelter and share it with the dogs and cats that, otherwise, would have nothing.
Support your local shelters and rescues. Volunteer. Donate. Adopt.
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