It's Our Turn: If you pet them once, they'll love you forever
How do you resist that face? As you squat outside the pen, scratching the furry back cemented against the chain-linked gate, you know you've got to go. But as you stand, he stands with you, mushes his nose against the gate as his backside sways with the momentum of his tail. The dog rumbles a whine at you and stares with watery brown eyes, begging for just one more rub.
Lately, I've been volunteering at the local humane society about once a week. It isn't much, but the time I do give is spent interacting with the cats and dogs, petting and playing with them until a permanent home comes along. And I'll admit, it is really hard to leave those furry faces behind each time. They are just so excited to have someone giving them attention and don't hesitate to return it. Even if you pet them once, they'll love you forever.
Although I have a dog back home - a coy corgi named Elvis - I still find that interacting with these other animals is beneficial. I've gotten to experience things I otherwise wouldn't have, such as wrestling with a large dog as he brought me for a walk. I felt what it was like to have drool flung in my face when a sturdy Shar-pei/lab mix shook out his droopy jowls. I even got to play with my dream breed, a German shepherd.
Not to leave the cats out, of course. I've had tons of cats throughout my life, most of them all related, so I've had the same type - gray/brown tabbies. At the humane society, I've been able to hold a huge variety. Gorgeous animals: white fur and one blue and one yellow eye, golden tabby, Russian blue, calico, long-hair, and tons more. While most are excited to see you, meowing and flicking their paws out of the cage doors to nab your passing sleeve, there are some who have a typical cat attitude: "Thank you for your service, human."
Did you know that petting a dog can relieve stress? True story. Along with that perk, there are tons of pluses to volunteering at an animal shelter, not to mention that the animals benefit too. Granted, some people aren't animal people, but for those who are, try visiting a humane society.
I've seen mothers bring their young children, exposing them to the world of animals and responsibility as they giggle over the wet kiss a dog managed to sneak. College students have come in, weary from homework and studying, only to be energized by the spazzed antics of a cat trying to catch its own tail.
What makes me sad, though, is knowing that those animals were found on the street or simply dropped off by someone. It's hard when an animal and owner don't click, but I think there are ways that can help prevent a little of that disconnection. Being well-researched is one. Know what you're getting into before you do it. Even adopting animals from a shelter can't be done on a whim.
Back in 1961, when Disney's 101 Dalmatians was released, many people rushed out to get the famous breed. Unfortunately, many weren't prepared for such an energetic and high-spirited dog, so a lot of the Dalmatians ended up without a home.
At least that part of the equation, unawareness, can be helped with a little Google and expert advice. Be serious about wanting to adopt an animal because they are part of your family. They are a long-term commitment. This doesn't just apply to dogs and cats either. Birds, fish, hamsters, ferrets, horses, etc. - all of them require an understanding, a proper environment, and a home that wants to love them.
I love being able to see contentment on an animal's face, when a cat shuts its eyes and extends its neck as you scratch its chin, when a dog relaxes as you caress between its eyes.
Each time I leave the humane society, I want to take every single animal home with me. An impossibility, of course. I don't even know how I'm able to walk away. But for the short time that I'm there, I can give an animal the love and attention it needs to stay spirited until a permanent owner takes it home.
So how do you resist that face? Well, I'll get back to you on that.
"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.