It is easy to lose hope when you are in the animal welfare world. Everyday I am blasted with dogs on death row, rescues who need money for veterinary costs, or petitions to stop the abuse of animals across the world. It is a sad, sad group to be a part of most of the time.
However, the last week of my life has proven to me that there is so much hope, so much to be thankful for, and to be proud of.
Last Sunday, my husband and I did the first transport leg from Chicago to Minneapolis. We were the ones picking up the fostered dogs. There were two dogs: Carl and Smokey. They were Shih Tzu from CACC who were both on death row until NorthStar Shih Tzu Rescue stepped up to take them. And NorthStar was only able to because two compassionate women said they would foster the dogs sight unseen.
Carl had a troubled past and could be a bit reactive. Smokey was old and had some severe illnesses that needed immediate treatment. These two women each took a dog for 30 days and treated him like a king. When they met us in the Ikea parking lot, there were tears streaming downs their faces. They had fallen in love. Carl’s mom wanted to make sure he would get the training he needed and be placed in a home that would understand him. Smokey’s mom went down the list of meds and foods that he needed as she wiped the tears from her cheeks. Both of them handed us shopping bags full of things the dogs had acquired in just 30 days: toys, blankets, food, treats – these dogs were loved more in 30 days than, perhaps, their lifetimes.
I was completely enamored with the affection these women had for the dogs. Sure, I had fallen in love with foster dogs before, sometimes in as little as 2 days, but to see other people fall in love and care so deeply about a “temporary” dog they never met before, I was beyond hopeful.
Tuesday, a few animal advocates and I read public statements at the Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting. We are trying to bring about change at the Cook County Animal Control department. Chicago is huge and crazy, but to see a group of us willing to take it on is hopeful.
Wednedsay I was invited to speak at a high school near the city. I spoke to over 200 students and many faculty about my book Bark Until Heard and the truth about puppy mills and pet stores. I hate public speaking, but I loved every moment BECAUSE the students and the teachers were so interested in the subject. They truly cared about the conditions of the dogs and they really want to do the right thing. The questions they asked were phenomenal. I sold out of my books and they want me and Thorp to come back with more. To engage with future generations about improving animal welfare and to see their eyes light up and make a genuine connection is beyond hopeful. I left the school that afternoon on cloud 9.
Later Wednesday afternoon, I found myself at CACC to pick up a senior dog named Snuggles who was surrendered by his owner. CACC’s Director retired last week and the 2nd in command left about a month ago. I was pleased to feel a different vibe when I walked in. I could actually sense change in the air. The employees were kinder, more helpful. It felt better. Add to that a group called Advocates for Chicagoland Animals petitioning the Mayor to hire a Director with animal sheltering experience and a passion for saving animals, and I could hardly hold back a smile. Chicago is on the precipice of HUGE change. A high kill facility has the potential to soon save lives IF the right personnel are put in place. There are over 1200 signatures on the petition in less than 24 hours. So many individuals stating their personal reasons as to why they demand better for the animals at CACC. YOU can help by signing the petition here.
Thursday rounded out the week with three more hopeful experiences. I was interviewed by a Florida newspaper for my upcoming book signing in Cape Coral at The Waggle. I never know how reporters will feel about my work, but this reporter was extremely supportive. She, too, understands the horrors of puppy mills and backyard breeders. She rescued her dogs and believes strongly in adoption only. She was pleased to share my story and encourage people to attend my signing.
I had also gone into a small local book shop in Crystal Lake and asked if he would carry my book. Once he learned what it was about, he, too, was supportive. He would love to share that message and do whatever he could to bring about awareness.
By nighttime, I had read that the Chicago ordinance to prohibit pet stores from selling puppies and kittens from mass breeding facilities was UPHELD in court! We had won! Thanks to The Puppy Mill Project, pet stores in Chicago can only offer cats and dogs from shelters and rescue organizations! Even on a political level and a judicial level there was absolute hope for animal welfare!
In my world, tears come everyday. The sick dogs and unwanted cats make for depressing reading all of the time. As animal advocates we can easily become overwhelmed and burned out. This week has taught me so much and given me such hope.
We are not alone. There is an entire population wanting to make a difference, eager for more knowledge. There is a new generation who WANTS to do the right thing. They care about animals. From people wiling to share their homes with strange, complicated dogs to people willing to speak publicly in the name of change, the tides are turning.
The days can be sad, but it is time to wipe the tears and look-away from the heart wrenching posts and celebrate how far we have come and how much we have to look forward to! This week is just the beginning. Animal advocates pat yourselves on the back – we ARE making a difference and there is an army of people waiting for us to give them direction so they can join in and help!