Ahead of the Curve

Sometimes it feels really good to be ahead of the curve. Granted, it has not been a frequent occurrence in my life—but every so often when it occurs, the satisfaction is sweet. I have never been what my students would have called “with it”. Case in point: when Facebook was the epitome of hot techno-coolness, I could not see any point in joining. A passing fancy, said I. The people I spoke to regularly were either living in the house with me, or were just a phone call away. I was quite happy in my limited connectivity. One day I was having a casual end of the period chat with a class of very bright senior students when the subject of Facebook came up. Did I have an account, they asked. Yes, I said, I do have a Facebook account. Amazement amongst the ranks soon turned to horror and disbelief when I admitted that I had only one Facebook “friend” and that was a peregrine falcon named Kinny who lived in a scrape on the 34th floor of a high rise in Indianapolis. I had to admit that I joined Facebook specifically to “like” Kinny’s page so that the local peregrine rescue group could gather 1,000 “likes” and receive a $1,000 grant. Horror turned to pity, and by that evening I had 35 “friend” requests—my entire class had rallied to save me from my pathetic self!

They need grieve no longer! Finally, as a volunteer with WaLHFMF, I have achieved the illusive “with-it-ness” I formerly lacked. With its communal cat and dog facilities, outdoor recreation areas and ample space for potential adopters to meet and interact with our dogs and cats in a natural and holistic environment, the Center is on the cutting edge of animal rescue facilities.

Sadly, so many shelters across the country are housed in former “dog-pound” style buildings. Traditionally intended for very short-term stays, these facilities were often the end of the road (literally speaking) for millions of dogs and cats whose chances for adoption were limited by space and time constraints. It is true that many of these “pound” facilities still exist, but many have transitioned to the more humane and contemporary “no or low-kill” philosophy of rehoming our former pets. For many years I volunteered in such a facility. Built of concrete blocks in the very worst part of our small city, our shelter struggled daily with the physical plant. Dog pens surrounded our only large “cat room”. A room filled with steel cages stacked two and three high. Concrete floors and lack of windows added to the prison like atmosphere where cats were subjected to the daily onslaught of up to 50 barking dogs. Dogs on one side of the building were able to access a small sunlit space built as part of the pens, but the other side languished in perpetual gloom.

Rotating dogs so that they could all enjoy the air and sunlight helped some, but it made for a sterile and hostile environment for dogs already suffering the stress of being surrendered or found stray. Cats often became withdrawn and depressed, suffering in silent despair. I often left in tears. Staff and volunteers alike dreamed of the day that we could afford to build a shelter reflective of our love for and devotion to our animals.

In contrast, the Center allows our animal guests to show their true colors. Friendly dogs wrestle over a single coveted antler, more sedate dogs, such as Buddy Beagle, cheerfully greet visitors with a nose bump and tail wag. Cats wash their faces atop cabinets and tables, blithely unconcerned with the canine antics just inches away. Large windows and a lovely and well-tended garden dotted with bird feeders provide much needed amusement for our feline friends. The dogs have come to recognize the sound of my car and joyfully congregate at the front door knowing that hugs and kisses (and sometimes treats) accompany my arrival. Potential adopters are able to fully assess the personality of a cat or dog. It is immediately clear who is dog or cat friendly; who immediately engages with children; who is outgoing, shy, calm, playful. All the attributes that make for a successful adoption are present from the very start. Dogs can be walked in a safe and calm environment. There are no warning signs; no locked gates; no slamming of cage doors. It is a peaceful and welcoming place and we animal lovers are indeed fortunate for the far-sighted efforts of a determined group of animal lovers. Heck, the place even smells good! The Center is a Shelter in every sense of the word. You, too, can be ahead of the curve. Open daily Tue-Sat 10-12! Visitors welcome. C

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