July 14, 2011

A Little Time, A Great Gift

~Today's post is written as part of Blog the Change for Animals~

My dog, Kiva, holds a very important distinction: she's the best dog in the world. And she's in very good company, because there are a lot of best dogs in the world — at least one in every household where a dog is loved. Every dog...and cat, bird, reptile, fish, small mammal, insect, crustacean, amphibian who is loved by a human, is someone's best pet in the world.

There are millions more best pets in the world, too. But you wouldn't know them, because no one's ever given them the title.

I've been volunteering for service dog organizations for a long time. I've worked with puppies bred specifically for the purpose as well as shelter dogs who enter service dog training because they've shown an aptitude and personality that fits with service. Some of the dogs make it through the full program and some don't, but every organization I've volunteered with places all their dogs (graduates,  change of career, and pets) into carefully screened homes with people who pledge to love and care for them.

I've also worked as a part-time photographer and copywriter for an animal shelter. Depending on the season, a dedicated group of volunteers and I might photograph and write bios for hundreds of animals every week. Hundreds. Every week.

For the dogs, I'd advise my volunteer staff to try to photograph them outside in the sunshine whenever possible. Help potential adopters imagine what the dog might look like on a walk in the park or in their own backyard. Photograph the cats on a colorful blanket or in a cozy corner. We'd make sure the bunnies, mice, and guinea pigs always had clean bedding and wiggly noses for the camera.

Sometimes, though — too often — their bodies spilled the secrets of a tragic past. So...we'd capture their spirit. Thousands of animals looked into my lens, and no matter how thin they were, or lonely, or confused, depressed, aged, patchy, damaged, or disfigured they may have been, each one genuinely had a sparkle. With some it was a roman candle, others just a tiny glimmer. But each one knew they were the best pet in the world. They just needed someone to give them the title.

Working with service dog organizations and animal shelters has shown me the extremes of human and animal tragedy and triumph. It's challenging and inspiring and, yes, often difficult. As a service puppy raiser, the question I'm asked most frequently is "How can you give them up?" As a shelter worker, it was, "How can you not adopt them all?" The answer to both questions is strangely the same. I can do my part to help the person who truly needs a service dog, just as I can do my part to help the millions of shelter animals who truly need their person. With both questions, the really important thing is simply the first word: "How?"

Volunteer. Just do what you can, when you can. There's no commitment too small. All the little efforts by every volunteer, every day, add up to one great BIG! You can volunteer with a service dog organization to help a person with a disability find greater independence. Or volunteer with a local shelter or rescue in any number of capacities. Either way, you'll be giving an animal the gift of being called the best in the world.

Go ahead. Click one of the links above to start your search. You'll be really glad you did.


My blog, Raising Ruby, is the chronicle of a little yellow service puppy as she journeys toward becoming a service dog for a person with a disability. Raising Ruby and BTC4A are both nominated for Best Cause Related Blog in the 2011 Petties Awards (Raising Ruby is also honored to be nominated for Best Blog Post). Whichever one of us you choose, please make sure to vote, because everyone involved in this competition is a winner! The Petties offers a $1000 donation in each category to the shelter/rescue of the winner's choice (I've chosen Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies), so vote today to show your support for these generous donations. 

Vote twice daily: 2011 Petties Award Ballot

My deep respect and gratitude to all the shelter animals in this post who kindly and willingly let me take their photos.


BtC4animals said...

Thank you so much for this post. I've made it through 9 links and this was the first to make me cry. When you said those best pets just hadn't been named yet... ugh. So true.

A little bit goes such a long way. I too have written for and photographed animals for rescue. They just loved those moments of being center stage. And I loved getting to know them well enough to share their stories. Beautiful little lights, all.

Thanks for Blogging the Change and for mentioning the Petties finalists! Best of luck on winning!


Hilary said...

I agree with Kim, here. This is so moving--we need to give each animal recognition. Every time you photograph one, that animal is remembered. Thank you!

Mogley G. Retriever said...

Thanks for reminding your readers that there are many ways you can help. Some volunteer to drive and transport, some take photos and do write ups. Some spend time playing with and exercising the imprisoned. Some organize fund raisers or help answer mail.

There is room for everyone's talent, to help a dog.

Mogley G. Retriever

Ruby's Raiser said...

So true, Mogley. There is room for everyone. :)

Tamara said...

You're making me cry too... This blog post does more than any other I've read to encourage people to get involved and to cherish those animals that still need homes. Thank you :)

successjustclicks said...

SUCH a great post! Volunteering is so important and what I love about your post (even though it wasn't the point) is that you can volunteer in MANY ways to help animals. You are allergic and can't physically tend the dogs... volunteer to do website upkeep. Can't physically get to the shelter regularly? Volunteer to help at adoption events that happen periodically. Can't bring yourself to walk the dogs for fear of bringing all of them home? Share your gift of photography and get those gorgeous and soulful faces up on the web. Shelter too far away to go often? Consider fostering.

There are so many things you can do... from actually tending the animals to donating your skills (photographer, chef, makeup artist, computer programer ... whatever, the shelter may find a use for you! LOL).

Thanks for posting!

chandra said...

I really love this message! As I volunteer for my local humane society, I know the difference a photo makes for an animal who is looking for his forever family and a forever family who is looking for their newest member. Thanks for all you do for the animals and for spreading the true greatness of volunteerism.

-Chandra at Daley's Dog Years

Kolchak Puggle said...

What a wonderful post. Great photos make such an amazing difference for shelter animals. I love the idea that every dog is the best. So beautifully put.

Richa said...

Thank you for writing this post. Though I always tell people to not judge by just one picture.. sometimes that one picture though says so much!

We are foster parents with 2 rescues and it is such a bittersweet moment when they get adopted.

Thanks for blogging the change!
Richa and Chewie at http://find-me-a-happy-pet.blogspot.com/2011/07/blog-change-vets-at-animal-aids.html

scotsmad said...

Great message. We can all help a little.

XXXOOO Daisy, Kendra 7 Bella

Anonymous said...

What a great post. I'm sure we can all help in some way.

Anonymous said...

great post! you have such a way with words..really touches the heart like no other.

Heartprints Pets said...

Fantastic post! I volunteer for a local shelter and photograph the dogs and cats in need of homes, and profile them for different media, and it's absolutely amazing getting to know them a bit and share their stories. So many wonderful and spot on comments as well!