I headed home from Birmingham today after lunch, stopped and visited with my mother-in-law in Meridian, and then headed to the shelter.
One of my favorite times at the shelter is Sunday walk throughs.
We have a dog named Tebow who has seizures, similar to a person with epilepsy.
Whether it's Monday, Sunday, or Christmas Day, Tebow has to have his medication, so two board members (myself and our former president) started sharing the afternoon responsibilities.
I give Tebow his medicine first (so that I don't get distracted by everybody else and forget).
Then, I take my time, walk around each kennel, check water bowls etc. but also speak to each resident.
I take my time and look into their eyes.
I get into the kennels with most of them.
Many of them are wary, not necessarily of me...but of life itself, I think.
Archie and Cooper don't trust anybody...they cower in fear when people are around...even though they've lived at the shelter their entire lives.
Dee Dee is also fearful, and from time to time, I get the idea that she not only is afraid of people but harbors some kind of hurt against people.
Penny is a little fox. She flips her cot and gnaws on the legs...and then, looks at me like she has no idea who did it.
John sometimes has an accident in his kennel and I clean it up for him because I can't stand the thought of him not having a clean place to rest.
Juliet and Prudence are starving for attention; they are both black lab mixes and are frequently looked over.
Girl is a black/chocolate lab mix, is a little shorter than the others, and has been known to stand her ground with the other dogs.
Herb is a broken soul...adopted and returned just recently...He hasn't been the same since he came back.
Fee Fee is another black lab mix who has a pure heart...she wants to please me...and wants to give me kisses.
Chance is a goober...and probably the most unpredictable of the bunch. He's also loud.
Honey is another scared, small dog. The fear in her eyes just kills me. If I could only convince her that we want to love her.
Aurora is the loudest of the bunch and is the most hyper. I can get in most of the kennels with the dogs...but not hers, nor Chance's.
Hank is a sweetheart. I try to give all of them a chest scratch since most dogs love that.
Asher is one of our newbies...a gentle giant who tries to climb in my lap and I swear hug me.
Lillie is a "hound dog" who's spirit is also breaking. Sometimes she doesn't get up anymore when we walk into the back room.
Lonnie is a nut. Seriously. He spins around everywhere he goes...he doesn't want a treat. Just love.
My Boomer waits as patiently as he can for me to get to him. I get in his kennel and we talk. He is as happy to see me as I am to see him...so much so that for the first time I can remember, when I get out of his kennel to go on to Sienna next door, he cries. My heart breaks a little more.
Sienna is another newbie...an incredibly gorgeous chocolate lab...used as a puppy making machine...and then thrown away.
Pacino and EmmyLou are in quarantine. I don't get them out but talk to them just the same.
Donovan, Apache, and Sissy are all in the "puppy" room.
They are not puppies...they are just younger dogs and the newest of the bunch...we hate to just throw them into the back with the old timers.
I can let these guys out one at a time since their kennels are in a smaller area of the shelter...but I always have to put them back in.
I can't tell you how many times I'm asked:
"How can you do it?"
"Doesn't it just break you heart?"
It does break my heart. Every day.
But, if I don't do it, these gentle souls are punished even more than they already have been.
What if my touch, my chest scratch, my head pat, my voice is the only one they heard today directed at them individually?
No matter how much it may hurt me, I won't take that away from them.