I rescued a human today.
Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels. I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her. I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn't be afraid. As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didn't want her to know that I hadn't been walked today. Sometimes the shelter keepers get too busy and I didn't want her to think poorly of them.
As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn't feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone's life. She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me. I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship. A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well.
Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms. I would promise to keep her safe. I would promise to always be by her side. I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes. I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who haven't walked the corridors. So many more to be saved. At least I could save one.This story is circulating through the animal welfare cross-post lists right now. I usually find most of these kinds of posts sappy and sentimental, and not at all grounded in the reality of the problems we are struggling against. But this one struck me, primarily in light of the book I am currently reading: Kindred Spirits: How the Remarkable Bond Between Humans & Animals Can Change the Way We Live (by Allen M. Schoen).
We focus so much on our saving them. But in so many ways, they save us, too. There is no doubt that studies have proven that having a pet has both physical and psychological benefits. Dr. Schoen (a veterinarian) recounts numerous studies showing that pets can lower blood pressure, ease depression, and encourage exercise, and the list goes on. But I think there is something even more elementary, more primal in our mutual saving. That feeling of connection to another living being goes beyond what science can explain. That bond lives where all of those immeasurable things live - love, compassion, grief, tolerance, and patience. And animals have a way of gently teaching us all of those, often even without our knowledge.
I often hear people joke about not trusting someone who doesn't like pets. I don't think it's a joke. I don't trust someone who is so disconnected from this world that we live in that they feel no connection, compassion or responsibility for the living beings around them. They need saving. Perhaps a trip down one of those shelter corridors in the story above might be the way. If you ever feel lost and disconnected, visit your county shelter. You will not, should not, be able to leave unchanged.