A nursing mother dog, dragging her emaciated body on paws torn and bleeding to the closest humans to beg help for her pups, born and raised alone in a barn.
A weak and starving kitten, wracked with infection, losing his eyesight, freezing in the cold and rain.
Litter after litter of pups and kittens - ‘oopsie’ litters from overwhelmed families, helpless babies abandoned in boxes on the pavement or dropped one at a time at different homes stretched over miles of county road, left to fend for themselves or to die.
A tiny dog dropped over an eight-foot chain-link fence in the dead of night.
Illnesses, injuries, abandonment...crisis follows crisis in a ceaseless flow. Midnight calls, racing to the shelter, trekking across fields to find a lost pet, sitting up til midnight with a birthing cat, driving through the wee hours to send dogs to a better life...picking up the broken pieces of animal lives shattered by careless humans.
This is the life of the shelter worker. Day after day, unbelieveable and hard, and many tears are shed.
What keeps us going? What pulls us back into this crazy world to lose our hearts again and again?
The first snuggle from a dog who is learning to trust. The look of wonder in their eyes as they snuggle into a warm bed with a full belly...maybe for the first time ever.
The hiss and snarl of a feral kitten melting into a rumbling purr.
The shining joy on the faces of a family as they adopt a pet for the first...or the fourth...time.
Healed bodies, fat bellies, wriggling pups with quick little tongues and wagging tails.
Because now -
The mama dog, Laci, is safe and warm, puppies weaned and wounds healed, loved and secure with a wonderful family.
The sick kitten, Graham, one-eyed, fat, and spunky, is bringing joy and light to the life of a lonely older lady.
The little dog dropped over the fence, Bubbles, is spoiled rotten along with her doggie siblings, riding to work each day with her owner and claiming the couch at night.
The work goes on, but it fills our hearts with joy to look back over the year gone by and reflect on lives saved, and new hope.
For while we certainly butt up against some of the worst of human nature, we also get to see some of the best. We have volunteers that get out of bed at 2am to drive hours in the dark to send dogs to new homes. We have those who show up faithfully week after week to hold and comfort cats, to get dogs out of the shelter for walks and playtime. Other folks provide food, toys, supplies and funds to keep the shelter going.
Foster families open their homes to those in need of a little extra care and the comfort of a home - sometimes for a few days, sometimes for weeks. Bottle moms get up night after night to feed tiny orphan kittens by hand. Some people spread the word, raise awareness, share pictures of pets looking for a home over and over and cry tears of joy when they finally see the happy adoption update.
This Christmas, we are grateful to everyone who plays a part in helping us save lives. No gift is too small, no time given is without meaning. This Christmas, we look back with joy on all the dogs and cats we lost our hearts to this year, and we smile to know that they are safe, warm and loved for the holidays. Because, when all is said and done, love is the greatest gift of all. And love, you know, makes the shelter world go round.
Merry Christmas to you all, from everyone at the shelter - four-legged and two-legged alike!