Shelter animals

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the dogs.

And cats.

I drove to a local SPCA shelter, camera in hand – well, on the floor beside me – to assist in creating adoption materials for the furry friends in the facility.

Today, there were nine dogs, ten or so adult cats, and a smattering of kittens. Discussing the schedule with the facility manager, we decided to start with the dogs, taking them singly out on a grassy area behind the building with a handler, where I’d greet each, play a bit and then shoot the pictures. Hopefully, the kind of pictures that move someone to adopt.

If there were time remaining I’d visit with the cats and picture them as well.

Oh, I could fall in love, many times over. Well, nine today. The first time I visited a shelter, it was to shoot young puppies for adoption. Today I pictured a variety of breeds and ages from nearly a year to nine or so, and mini to rather large indeed. Today’s visit, far more so than with the puppies, reaffirmed my belief in the work of the BC SPCA.

I met the little ones first. (I think the staff might’ve been determining how I’d work with the dogs.) Both of them were lovely little guys, friendly and inquisitive, but also a bit distracted by “I’m outside! It’s not walk time! Whee!” responses to being out on the grass. Both of them danced a bit with the handler, and I snapped away, giving each my attention as the camera caught theirs.

One was a stray brought in to the shelter, the other was surrendered as the owners no longer had the time for a dog. That’s a common story; given the vagaries of life, it’s one I can understand, if not always appreciate. Stuff happens, and bringing your pet to the SPCA is a much preferable choice to leaving them somewhere for someone else to find. If someone does indeed find them.

That’s what happened with the next guy I met: he was tied up at a dump site with a note that he was free. He was found and brought to the shelter. He’s more than friendly: he’s exuberant in meeting new people and wanted to explore everywhere he could reach on his lead. Energetic, he’ll need a high energy person to keep up with him (or a big yard and toys!) He’s one that I’d love to have in my life, but I only have that level of energy when I’m both very well rested and very highly caffeinated.

Of the six other dogs, each stands out in their own way. I was covered in kisses from a couple, and hairs from a couple more: I received head butts and more than one dog stood against my hip as I petted, getting more touch.

I came home with rather disturbing imaginings of how some of them must’ve been trained by their previous owners, and yet inspired by how resilient they all are, most notably the one that cowered from my stranger’s touch. As we were finishing up and the handler walked the last back into the building by another entrance, I went in by the side door I’d been using, passing by the kennels. Now back inside for over thirty minutes, she approached her kennel door quietly. When I rested my hand against the door, she gently nosed against it, sniffed, then licked at my hand. Incredible resilience. She’ll make a wonderful, loving addition to a home.

I’d time remaining, so I visited with the adult cats next, and I’ve just two notes: I’ve never met a friendlier, warmer bunch of cats in my life, and I’ve more to learn when it comes to picturing them well.  Still, the purrs were cool: one on my left hand, one at each of my legs. I have a few lovely photos of them that I’ll send to the manager when I’m finished processing.

If you are considering a pet, please visit your local SPCA, humane society, or rescue society to meet the incredible furry friends that can be found there. If life won’t accommodate a pet, consider donating time, funds or supplies as you can. With winter fast-approaching, any extra old blankets you’ve around, or any new ones you’d care to part with (that lime green one from your mother-in-law?) would be welcome. Toys, dishes, leashes and collars, travel kennels, and many other supplies are often needed: ask your local organization what they might need.

In searching for a quote to close with, Ghandi feels appropriate tonight: “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” While I suspect many may feel he was referring solely to people, I believe that our animal friends are members of society and our treatment of them part of the measure.

The SPCA and organizations like it are also part of that measure, and I’m grateful they’re here.

(To see a selection of pets available for adoption in British Columbia, click here. For other jurisdictions, please Google your local no-kill shelter. )


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