Last weekend, I spent Saturday afternoon with some exceptionally adorable cats and dogs. And some of the hardest working people on earth.
When I started volunteering with animal rescue in 2010, I began writing down my thoughts and experiences. When I started fostering later that same year, I began collecting the thoughts and experiences of the animals I fostered. About a year ago, I published them in this book.
(Click on the book to purchase a copy from Amazon.)
Animal rescue is physically and emotionally exhausting. Being constantly confronted with the evils of humanity and the desperation of innocent lives takes a toll. Giving your time and home up to animal after animal only to continue to see an endless stream going into the pound can be tiresome (though entirely rewarding).
But it’s all of the other work that goes on behind the scenes that is truly draining.
I spent 3 hours at this adoption event practicing my own special form of resistance training as I was pulled around the gardens by a 40 pound puppy that wanted to meet everyone. EVERYONE. Multiple times.
But I’ve been away from animal rescue for a while. I took a break. So, I’d forgotten just how hard it can be. It was at the end of the event, when it was time to break things down and leave, that I remembered just how hard these people work.
See, for these folks, an adoption event isn’t just showing up with a foster animal, playing with puppies and kittens, and then heading home to relax.
It’s spending the morning packing up supplies. Dishes. Water. Leashes. Food. Toys. Treats. Litter. Boxes. Towels. Poop bags. Crates. And honestly, have you ever broken down a well-used crate? They get rusty and defiant. I’ve nearly lost several appendages in my years in animal rescue, not from the animals, but from these damn crates.
It’s spending several hours out in the heat of the day holding onto leashes with very strong, excited puppies on the ends of them, monitoring small children who want to scream and grab onto puppy, answering questions and engaging with the public, and picking poop up off the ground.
It’s packing up everything and everyone you brought to transport it all back home or back to headquarters and unloading it all to return it back to where it all was.
And then, after all of that, it’s feeding and cleaning kennels. It’s following up on emails and phone calls from potential adopters. It’s giving meds and vaccinations. And then, maybe you get to take some time to do all of the millions of chores that have piled up in your own life. Maybe you get to do the dishes, laundry, mow the grass, pay the bills. Before finally collapsing into bed.
Now, let me be clear. This is not the case for all of us in animal rescue. Some of us go easy and only take on one or two fosters at a time. But I’m talking here about the heart, the core of our organization.
It was pushing 90 degrees out there. We’d spent three hours getting pulled around by dogs (and even a few children). And then we had to carry boxes of supplies, tables, crates, and animals back to the parking lot and load them into vehicles.
Now, I get whiny about this type of thing, because that’s who I am as a person. But I also voluntarily run 17 miles in the middle of the night and spend my Sunday morning carrying 50lb sand bags up and down hills and knocking out burpees and incline pushups. So, the breakdown process, while exhausting, really is something I enjoy.
But these people that do these events weekend after weekend have been doing them since before I started in animal rescue 8 years ago. They have given a good portion of their lives to this work and they’re showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. And they do this while also giving every single second of their spare time to this work.
In the time I have known them, Becky and Leslie have never not had multiple fosters. The two of them brought all but one of the fosters that were there on Saturday. Do you know how exhausting one puppy is? Try packing up and transporting two 3-month old German Shepherd mix puppies and two 6-month old Walker Hound mix puppies and then throw in three cats, to boot. Plus their crates, food, and other supplies. And I’ve never once seen these women show anything but complete and total affection to every single animal they save.
Pat spends everyday coordinating our foster program. I served this role prior to Pat taking it over. I managed to handle it for about a year, and I barely managed that. It is NONSTOP phone calls and emails, Facebook messages and frantic pleas from the pound, sudden animal emergencies and begging for more foster homes. There is no downtime in this role. Pat has been doing this for at least that last four years. Maybe more? Because I can’t even remember when I stopped. And she fosters multiple puppies nonstop, as well.
Janet spends everyday coordinating cat care in the homes where others are unable to. She can tell you details about every cat that has come through our headquarters. I can’t do that. And I spent several years videoing and interacting with these cats every week. But I can barely recall even a few of them. Janet has one of those hearts that is able to hold a sacred space for every. single. animal she encounters. And it is beautiful.
Susie is every damn where. She volunteers her time photographing events all over Bedford County for countless organizations. She spends hours every week taking the most breathtaking photos of the animals in the pound. I used to do this work, too. Taking low quality photos and trying to maintain some sense of hope in the face of the devastation that you find inside a pound. But Susie is able to find the promise of hope in these animals’ eyes to share with the world. And then she spends her weekends at adoption events, playing with animals and escorting children by the hand that would otherwise be too afraid to go pet the rambunctious puppy, before heading off to photograph another community event. She is Bedford County. (But the good part. Not the questionable parts.)
There are others that give countless hours and I don’t mean to neglect them here. But I am so in awe of these women that I’ve described here that I need the world to understand. When you say that you are too tired or too busy to do something, these women are giving everything to this work. When you question why our No-Kill Shelter isn’t yet built or why aren’t we saving more animals, these women are sacrificing every ounce of energy they have saving every animal they can.
So, here’s my plea. Volunteer. To foster. To help run a program. To help at an event. Commit to one animal. Commit to one event. You don’t have to give over your entire life. That is for a rare few that are made of the stuff required to do that. But you can help them by committing once. Just once. That’s all. If we all did that, we’d help relieve some of the stress carried by these women, and have some fun saving lives in the process.
Click Here to visit the website and download a volunteer application or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Donate. To help feed animals. To help vaccinate and spay/neuter them. To help build a No-Kill Shelter in Bedford County, Virgina.
And if you want a little insight into some of the animals that have been saved and what it’s like to open up your home to foster animals while also donating to the cause, then go ahead and purchase Fostering Love and Laughter (by clicking on the photo of the book below). I’m excited to be able to donate my first real royalty check to BHS soon. It’s not much, but it’s also not nothing thanks to my friends who have already bought the book. It could be more if others will buy one, too.
And spread the word. Because these babies deserve some of your commitment.