Not many of us have been left untouched by these hard economic times we are muddling through right now. But even harder hit are thousands of pets who are pouring into shelters at unprecedented rates.
I’ve seen an increase in the number of phone calls and donation requests I’ve been getting from animal rescue groups, and it is the same story each time: shelters are overflowing with dogs, cats and other pets given up by people who’ve lost their jobs, had their homes foreclosed, or have been forced to move to find employment.
I am too dignified to take apart a stuffed toy, but I just want to needle Opie.
For many of these animals, this will be the last stop. Dogs and cats who are in perfectly great health and would make the best of pets will be put down because there are not enough homes to take them in. Imagine getting the death sentence for no fault of your own.
There are many great rescue groups that are out there doing the most wonderful work to help save animals, and there has never been a better time to stand up and offer your support. The Best Friends Animal Society and the ASPCA are two such groups that rehome abandoned animals and deserve every penny you can give them.
But even if you can’t afford to give money, there are other things you can do.
Just because I don’t fit into a cat bed is no reason I won’t do it.
The way I have always done it is to foster shelter dogs. As a foster volunteer, I take home a rescue dog and take care of him/her until I can find them a permanent home. I also interview prospective adopters, answer their questions, and show the dog.
Animal shelters in any city or town are always, always looking for foster volunteers. I’ve never had a more rewarding volunteer job, and it’s not even a job– it’s fun. Fostering an animal is a great way to save not just the life of the animal you take home and help place, but you also free up valuable shelter space for another animal. The reason why shelters end up putting animals down is because they do not have room to accommodate all the animals that pour in each day.
One of the reasons I hear most often from people who say they can never foster a dog is because they say they’ll get too attached to the animal and will find it hard to give him/her up to another person.
I’ll get back to you later — I just need some alone time right now.
Sure, both Desi and I get attached to each of our fosters, whether they stay with us for a month, six months or a year. We hate the moment when we have to say goodbye. We miss them, reminisce about each one of them, put up pictures of them on our walls, and often wonder how they are doing.
But never, looking back, do we ever regret that we fostered them, or that they aren’t with us anymore. In fact, we only feel real happiness knowing that we found them loving homes where they are happy and cared for. Then it’s time to get our next foster, and we’re back in love again.
Can’t foster? There are other ways to help. I clip coupons from the newspaper and the Internet for dog food, cat food and treats that I can buy cheap or even get for free, and I donate them to the animal shelter which distributes them to pet-parents who can’t afford to buy food for their companion animals but don’t want to give them up. It helps keep animals in loving homes, and reduces the number of dogs and cats in shelters.
Shelters can also use donations of used goods. Blankets and towels are always welcome. Over the years, my co-workers and neighbors who’ve lost pets would bring their old toys and any cans of leftover food to me so I could take it to the shelter.
You know I have you wrapped around my paw!
Even just spreading the word about the importance of adopting from shelters can help. It amazes me how many people have misconceptions about shelter animals– I’ve had more than one co-worker or neighbor looking to get a companion animal ask me about concerns whether the animal will be “bad” in some way because it’s from a shelter. It never hurts to correct such wrong impressions, and to let people know that shelter animals are usually always vetted for behavioral problems as well as health issues, so it’s actually safer to adopt from a shelter than it is to buy a cat or a dog from a pet store or a breeder.
Whew. As you can see, I interspersed my post with pictures of my own kids, each one special, each one gorgeous, and each one a rescue. They’ve never given me a dull moment, or a moment of regret. I think they make a great advertisement for shelter animals, don’t you?