October 17, 2014

Love, Adopt, Donate, Volunteer, Share, Give a Chance, To Be Free

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe’ —a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

~Albert Einstein

Identical sights of nature you and I share: tall trees, gushing waterfalls, rain drops, broken sticks, wildlife, mud puddles. Because it’s a world made for us, creatures under the sun want the chance to experience this beautiful thing that is life.

It’s Tuesday afternoon, and I pull up in front of my local area humane society. As I reach for the dog snacks and rope toy on my passenger seat, I feel as though I’m about to visit loved ones in prison. “Lucky for the dogs,” I think to myself as I enter the tan building of the animal shelter, “I get to take a few of the dogs out and let them run free for a time.”

Straightaway, I notice that all the dogs, of every breed and size, whether sitting, laying or standing, are quiet. They look at me through the cage wire. Some have eyes speckled with gold, and some have dark  eyes or ice blue. And the moment I speak in the high-pitched tone any animal lover would understand, their ears perk up and they begin jumping at their cages with loud, happy, barks. They know I have come to walk them. The rattling of my chain is a dead giveaway.

Unfortunately, I can only walk four of them. And there are nearly 50! I have just an hour this day, which allows each dog fifteen minutes. The remaining dogs, sadly, will have to wait for another dog-walker. And since there’s not a constant flow of volunteer dog-walkers some dogs may be spending another day in their cage without a walk.

This is no fault of the workers, of course. They’re hard at work with laundry, cleaning, shots, fundraising, adoptions, dog and cat bathing, phone calls, feeding, etc. And funds certainly don’t allow for paid dog-walkers, so they are not at all to blame.

When my hour is done, I walk past Gypsy, Beauty, and Felix, a few dogs I won’t be able to walk. Beauty, a handsome lab mix, stands strong against the cage with her tail waging quickly, as if I’m going to walk her next; Gypsy, an American-staff mix, tilts her head ever so sweetly as if her pose might sway me to walk her next; and Felix, a hound mix gives a soul-deep bark as if explaining why he must surely be taken next for a walk. I feel horrible. I have to leave. I apologize to them out loud, but of course they don't understand; they get further excited.

I tear up as I pass them. It’s never easy to leave. I return to my car, hoping that other volunteers will soon come. Mostly, I hope that when I return, most of the dogs have found a loving home, and will be like their wolf ancestors and free to run as far and wide in the landscape as they were meant to do.