I remember the first time I ever stepped foot into an animal shelter as an adult hoping to volunteer. I was in my 20s (that was about 20 years ago…where has the time gone oh my gosh!!) and I was attending a volunteer orientation. I also remember crying the entire way home. My husband was outside mowing the yard when I got home and I tried to pull myself together and literally not look at him…as if he wouldn’t notice I was being weird and my face was a burning hot red. He took one look at me and said…”You can’t do this if you’re going to come home crying every time.” And now that I’m writing this I feel like his words have been repeated in various scenarios…like when we have dropped a foster dog off at his/her forever home…”We can’t keep doing this if you’re going to spend the entire weekend crying about this dog.” When I’ve come home crying from an adoption event because no one gave my foster a look because he was a little shy. And most recently, when I’ve talked about adopting more senior animals he said “I don’t want to be sad about animals all the time.” We have lost three animals over the past year and a half and while he has been sad about that, I’m pretty sure that he was referring to me. The thing is…when dogs go from homeless to the shelter they are in a good place and when foster dogs go to forever homes they are in a good place. It’s happy. And when I’m thinking with a clear mind I know that when a dog or cat gets to live a full life in a loving home or when a senior animal is adopted and gets to spend his last years being loved more than anything, it is happy. It’s all completely worth it.
So I volunteered to take the night shift during this Slumber Pawty that we participated in…the 10pm – 6am shift. Even though it’s basically the sleeping shift, I figured it would be the least fun and knew I likely wouldn’t get much sleep. (This was my idea after all!) I’ll be honest, at about midnight I thought…this is going to be a long night if I don’t sleep. And as I sat there in that kennel, Natalya snuggled up beside me…but ready to spring into action should anything move…I began to think.
Now Natalya is as sweet as can be. But she does have a big bark, and she wasn’t afraid to use it Saturday night (especially if she heard something suspicious in the night LOL…I don’t think that was her norm though.) But when I looked into her eyes…I saw eyes that led directly into this beautiful soul. The eyes I’ve seen so many times. Ones that say “Thank You” or “I’m scared” or…”I’m ’bout to lay on you. Let’s get cuddly.” LOL.
While being in a shelter is a better situation for many dogs it still isn’t an easy experience. At the very least they know they’re being taken care of and it’s just different, and at the very worst it’s scary as hell. As I sat in that kennel I looked outside and thought about how it might feel. There are noises outside and inside, you can’t get out, and you are relying on humans to help you (humans…you know, the ones that let you down before). The next day I thought about how I felt after not sleeping well and how I would feel if I was actually staying for 24 hours. I might wanna bark and tear some toys up too at some point ya know!
My point is…not always, but sometimes it takes time and patience to get to know the loving soul behind those eyes. I hope you won’t overlook a loving cat or dog that might be shy or quirky or barky. I hope you’ll give them a chance to see if you both can move beyond it. If you’ve met my boy Colby then you know he’s a little fraidy and shy, but so much less than he was. It took him at least a year to warm up to us. A whole year. But when you meet him, you’ll say oh my gosh he’s the best boy! Being in the kennel with Natalya made me think about all the dogs we’ve fostered over the years and all the rescue dogs I’ve met. How each of them are special. But just like people sometimes…you have to meet them where they are and give them time and space and love. You have to appreciate and respect their story, even if you don’t know all the details. You have to believe in second chances and know that they are 100% worth all the effort. Rescue animals have so much love to give! It’s all completely worth it.
Three of us took 8 hour shifts in a kennel at Gateway Pet Guardians and finished out the St. Louis Area Shelter Slumber Pawty yesterday afternoon with the Dragonfly team raising $4,610! That’s $3,610 more than our original goal and $610 more than our 4th and final goal (LOL)! I’d like to give a big THANK YOU to Holly and Missy for not just volunteering their time, but also for hitting up their family and friends for donations and for sharing the cause on social media! (I know that both can be uncomfortable things to do.) Overall, the event raised nearly $300,000 for 15 organizations! You can still donate too…right here!
And our new friend Natalya is available for adoption! She just had puppies and is ready for her forever home. Find out more about her here!
I’d also like to say thank you to so many of our members…y’all really came through for us! We truly appreciate your continuous support of our charity efforts (especially me!), as we really could not do it without you! AND this event put us at approximately $10,500 donated to and/or raised for Gateway Pet Guardians! Last September we committed to $10,000 for each of our charity partners so this is exciting!