Tuesday, November 30, 2010

25 Days of Hope

The holiday seasons of both Christmas and Hanukkah call us to be hopeful, to be renewed and to celebrate possibilities. The Christmas story tells of a new beginning for those that have been rejected, alienated and sometimes even tortured. And Hanukkah celebrates reclamation and dedication of the sacred.

My friend Rebecca Guinn, director of Lifeline Animal Project, describes the plight of homeless pets as the only time we round up and kill the victims. Regardless of your religious beliefs, there is no denying that we, as humans, have asserted dominion over the earth. We take the resources at will and use them almost exclusively for our own benefit. We expand our communities into every inhabitable space, eliminating any flora or fauna that seems to inhibit our "progress." We justify our actions as the right of "civilization."

Yet, I often wonder, how civilized are we? We are the only species that routinely catches, houses and then kills millions of other living creatures because we have allowed them to become overpopulated. We are the only species that ties up other living beings, organizes death fights with other species (and historically, with our own species) for our own entertainment, and deliberately abuses and tortures other living beings. How civilized are we really?

As a child, I loved Christmas. Of course, I loved the presents, the parties at school, the church Christmas plays, etc. But more than that, I loved the feeling of hope, renewal and possibilities. During the holiday season, things happened that would never happen at any other time of the year. My family members who had been arguing all year would put aside their grudges for the family Christmas dinner. The grumpy people in our rural neighborhood would actually smile and invite us in from playing in the snow. For the whole month of December, the anticipation of Christmas morning was exhilarating, not just because of the presents, but because of the thrill of the newness of it all. As a child, I didn't quite understand why it gave me hope, but now I realize that it's because it made me think that just maybe we were a community of kind, loving and welcoming people after all.

So, how does this relate to homeless pets? When I walk through one of our county shelters, I often see the same emotions that I remember as a child. I see the anticipation on the faces of many pets who still have hope that I might be the one. For the dog that stands at the front of the kennel, wagging excitedly as a I walk by, ready to join me on a walk, the hope of a new beginning is still alive. Or for the young kitten who meows and reaches out and grabs my shirt, the possibilities are still endless. But I also see the dogs and cats that have lost that hope. They cower in the back of the cages and runs. They rarely greet me at the front of the cage, and often won't even turn their heads to look at me.

For both of these, the still hopeful and the hopeless, the holiday season can be a new beginning. We owe it to them to invite them to our celebration of hope and renewal. If we exclude those who need a new beginning the most, we have missed the true meaning of the season.

I invite all of you to celebrate 25 days of hope this December. Beginning on December 1, and ending on Christmas Day, I challenge you to take one action every day that brings hope, renewal and reclamation for the 8 million pets a year that enter our nation's shelters, and even more so for the 4 million that never leave alive.

Not sure what to do? Visit our AARF Facebook page every day for ideas. Every day, I'll post one action you can take to create hope for the homeless pets who so desperately need it.

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