You don't have to hang out with San Gabriel Valley bloggers much to figure out that we're a crowd who loves our animals. We've read all about Pasadena Adjacent's miraculous cat Tova. We've followed Petrea's sweet Boz on walks everywhere from Hahamonga to Cal Tech. I think everyone who keeps up with Karin, our beloved Altadena Hiker, has fallen in love with her dogs Albert and Phoebe. Recently, Karin introduced her readers at Altadena Patch to a certain little pooch with an irresistible underbite who was waiting (and waiting... and waiting) to be adopted at the Pasadena Humane Society. Pepe's story struck a nerve with people around the world who kept checking in to see if he had found a family of his own yet. A few weeks went by, and we all started to worry. Everyone knows that despite any shelter's best efforts, at some point there comes an end of the line.
When Karin finally let us know that Pepe had found a home, I could almost hear the collective cheering. I certainly let out a few whoops of my own, before grabbing my own furry little monsters, snuggling their velvety ears, and thinking for the million-zillionth time how much better life is with little four-legged creatures about. Ones that always love you. Ones that you always love even when they dig up your flower beds or throw up a hairball on your favorite quilt.
According to the ASPCA, "approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats). Shelter intakes are about evenly divided between those animals relinquished by owners and those picked up by animal control. These are national estimates; the percentage of euthanasia may vary from state to state." Statistics like this make animal lovers like me feel an indescribable despair. The ASPCA also informs us that "five out of ten dogs in shelters and seven out of ten cats in shelters are destroyed simply because there is no one to adopt them."
Misty and Molly, the photogenic pooches in today's picture, came from an unwanted litter of puppies. Mirabelle, the extremely elegant cat you might remember, was from an unwanted litter of kittens. I suppose you can say that Jon and I rescued them. But, in reality, they are the ones who rescue us. Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote about her cocker spaniel that "his ears were often the first thing to catch my tears." She summed it up well. There is no amount of bad news, bad health or bad moods that can't be improved by a wagging tail or a loud purr.
After my father passed away, I remember sitting on the back porch with Misty and Molly on either side of me. There is a moment after losing someone so dear to you that you just think you might implode from the vacuum it creates inside. I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't even want to think about it. I remember sitting there for a long time, just feeling the warmth of those big, wonderful dog bodies beside me. Misty had her head in my lap. Molly just kept staring at my face before getting up, wandering into the yard and coming back to me with her favorite bone. Usually, I had to engage in a bit of tug-o-war to get that thing out of her mouth, but on this day, she dropped it right at my feet. I don't think I had a better offer of condolence.
Several years later, when I was on bed rest for 7 weeks with preterm labor, it was Mirabelle who sat on the bed with me, day after day, night after night, only leaving to eat and visit her cat box. When I'd feel contractions and start to panic about delivering a premie, Mirabelle would snuggle up closer and calm me down. When the baby would kick, Mirabelle would often lift up her head, move closer, and gently put her paw on my belly.
We may have given these critters a house to live in, but they have helped make it a home. The joy that these fuzzy rascals have brought to my family is not something that can be adequately expressed in words. Words are too human. Animals know better than words. But animals -- especially all those waiting in shelters -- also need us to speak for them. Karin's column today at Altadena Patch is a great place to start.