Ahhhhhhh….the holidays. A time spent with friends and family. And flailing. Flailing over what to cook, who to buy for, who to send cards to, so on and so forth.
I’ve also noticed, for some, it’s a time to be unbelievably judgmental! “You only spent how much?” and “THAT’S what you’re getting him/her?” I mean honestly. Who needs that ANY time of year?
I was also reminded of how judgmental some people can be when it comes to animal rescue recently. For those who don’t know, Guardians of Rescue is non-profit 501c3 that does a number of good things to help animals and people in need. They have one particular program called Gimme Shelter. What this basically means is the GOR volunteers build dog houses and distribute them to pet owners who can’t keep their pet indoors.
The flak I saw this group get on Facebook was downright disheartening. GOR is all about education and enlightenment for pet owners. The comments from allegedly “good” pet owners were obnoxious, narrow minded and rude.
Look, if Meredith - Champion of Creatures Great and Small- Festa offered my three brats dog houses, Magoo would scream and race back into my house, Ringo would pee on it and Sassy would bark "Hope you’re comfortable in there, I‘m going back on the couch." I get it.
However, what some people fail to realize is dog poop happens. People get thrown out of their homes for any number of reason. Rather than surrendering their pets to overcrowded shelters where it will potentially be euthanized, they keep them but must have them stay outside. They aren’t negligent. They simply don’t want to give up their pets due to what is usually a temporary living situation. If anything, rather than judging these people for falling on hard times, they ought to be given credit for trying to do the right thing. And from what I understand of GOR, they seek these people out because they are often too embarrassed to come forward and ask anyone for help.
It’s almost too easy to condemn someone for not doing what you would do. And we could debate endlessly where/if these people went wrong and judge them for how they live. BUT, and this is my, I mean a, big but, no one ever really knows what goes on behind closed doors. All we do know is people need help. Dogs and cats need help.
I was talking about all of this with Meredith (aforementioned COCGAS and Guardians volunteer) and she told me the following story about a man they recently delivered dog houses to:
“The owner of the dogs was hurt fixing his home to make it better for him and his dogs. He fell off the roof and broke both of his legs. This put him in a wheelchair. RSVP had been helping him feed the dogs due to his injury, and asked us for help setting the dogs up better while he recuperates. His house is not finished, and since he is in a wheelchair, the dogs must spend most of their time outside while their owners legs heal. These dog houses will keep his dogs safe and warm while he gets better.
Some people try very hard to do the right thing, and just need a little help and guidance. This particular gentleman asked for help. That was the right thing to do. It's when they don't ask for help that the animals suffer. All dogs and cats we work with get spayed. We help the owners get vet care when needed. We educate them. Most cases of abuse are due to just plain ignorance, by working with people and showing them the right thing to do, you stop the chain of abuse and neglect. Sometimes if you just take the animal away, the animal gets euthanized due to shelter overpopulation and the owner just gets another pet. In order to change things you have to educate people or it never stops. You can't just take the dogs away, unfortunately it is just not that simple. Intervention, education, and assistance is the way to a better future for both people and animal.”
I know it’s tough to consider others at a time of year when you’re fretting over to how pay for gifts (or your mortgage), where your guests are going to sleep (or mourning the recent loss of a loved one) and where to put the obnoxiously large Christmas tree (or not because you were forced into a shoebox sized apartment).
If you know of a family in need of shelter for their pets (or you see yourself in Meredith’s story) or a colony of abandoned cats needing protection from the elements please contact Guardians at firstname.lastname@example.org. To help with the “Gimme Shelter” initiative, email: email@example.com.
I have to admit, I’m judging everyone who judges. I guess that doesn’t make me any better, really, but I am.