Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Grateful - For everyone who steps outside of their comfort zone

The world is not a safe place right now for people who've lost their income. It's important for those of us who have incomes to stay optimistic and to use our resources wisely to grow a sustainable future, but that optimism should never be allowed to blind us from the realities that too many less fortunate are facing. This is equally true of dog owners who are having a hard time meeting the needs of their pets.

On behalf of those people who are committed to their pets in spite of their hardships, we want to thank every volunteer, rescue group and granting organization who've made giving to low income dog owners a priority in their mission this year. We simply can't help the dogs we've assigned ourselves to help without addressing the needs of their owners first. We have to put blame and judgement aside and value the bond every pet owner deserves to have with his pet, even if he has to make decisions that more privileged dog owners might disagree with. Selling puppies to keep the lights on and feed the kids. Wouldn't you?… Giving your dog away on craigslist when too many landlords turn you away? What choice do they have? … Sleeping outside on the cold cement because local homeless shelters won't allow pets? You know you'd do the same.

The photo on the right has served as a wake-up reminder to me since badrapper Christine Allen snapped it at one of our owner support events. Clearly not a woman of means - it doesn't look like she can afford dog sweaters from etsy much less obedience lessons much less quality vet care. To make sure her puppy got her (free) vaccinations, she showed up four hours early to one of our events in a not-so-safe East Oakland park to secure her place in line. Whenever I find myself slogging to muster the energy to sew together the pieces of another shots fair, I call her image up and presto, my attitude gets itself in line.

We're incredibly grateful to PetSmart Charities, who "gets it" - that dog owners need support, and who helped us help hundreds just like this lady in 2011. And to our diehard volunteers who've perfected the art of compassion in these communities. And to everyone reading who nods 'Yes' when we mention the need to extend ourselves outside of our comfort zone in order to help the dogs by helping their people.

Below is a thanksgiving story from a cyber friend Amanda Verlander in Massachusetts about a moment when she realized how lucky she was. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Hi BadRap Friends:

I am a follower of yours from way out here in Massachusetts. I had to share this story – well – some reflections on a chance meeting really, in New York City last week.

I was in NYC last week on business, and I was walking up Sixth Ave around 5pm on a crazy cold and busy Friday night. There, on the ground, propped against the wall of a bank, was a homeless woman sitting with a sign asking for money to feed her dog. As I got closer, I saw that covered in a blanket next to her was a very tired, white pit bull. The dog lay, its belly against the cold concrete, quiet and almost unmoving, as the thousands of rush hour footsteps brushed past her curled up body.

I spoke to the woman – her eyes fluttered open. I said that I have a pit bull too, and handed her some money. I noticed one tiny star tattooed under each eye on each cheek. Really? She asked, as she emerged from a kind of trance. Then she laughed – do you dress yours up in silly outfits too? I looked and saw that her dog had a little wool hat pulled down around her bully ears. A pool of wet saliva or drool or something lay on the ground beneath the dog’s nose. I said a quick prayer inside – please don’t let it be from a respiratory infection. It was such a cold night. I laughed and said that my girl has a banana costume that we dress her up in it because she loves bananas. The woman smiled – Really? Bananas, she asked? MMM hmmm – take care of your momma, I said out loud to the dog, as I walked away.

I ran back to the building where I’d been working all day and grabbed two leftover turkey sandwiches from lunch – and then jogged back to where the woman sat outside. I bent down and she opened her tired eyes again. I said, here – take these – and she said, I’ll only take one. I said, no – please – take one for you and one for your dog. That’s why I brought the turkey. She said ok – the dog lifted its nose for a moment, sniffing, showing a mild interest in the plastic box containing the sandwiches. Then she put her weary head back down on the sidewalk. What’s her name, I asked – her name’s “Keelo,” the woman said.

I said good bye again. I wished so much that I had a camera at that very moment, to capture their picture and this moment in time, before I walked away. I would send it to every person who has ever doubted the souls of these dogs. To the same people who doubt the souls of those who love and need these dogs, and who try so hard to care for them, even under the most desolate of circumstances.

A train ride and six hours later, I climbed out of a cab in my small town in western Massachusetts, I looked up gratefully at my little, one hundred year old brick house, so warm and strong against the cold, clear darkness. Within these walls, I knew that my little girl and sweet husband lay sleeping, peacefully. I unlocked the door and tiptoed inside, waking my 9 year old dog, Rosalind. . .who may be getting grey around the muzzle, but she is still the most energetic and pushiest broad I know (besides my 5 year old human daughter). And yes, she is a pit bull type dog – more of a staffy – squat and chesty – I bent down to give her a big juicy kiss on her soft black cheek, scratched her ears, and said, I missed you my girl. . .thank you thank you my lovely girl, for always being there for me – for all of us.

Happy Thanksgiving, Bad Rap. Thank you for all that you do for these dogs and for the people, rich or poor, who love them.

Amanda Verlander
Greenfield MA


Rachel said...

Thank you for the wonderful post. Getting our shot fairs implemented this year has been one of the most fulfilling things I've encountered in rescue. They make me love it all over again.

And thank you for that final photo! I now the inspiration behind one of my favorite pieces of art by Jessie Marianiello, of which I'm lucky to have a print

Dianne said...

What a lovely Thanksgiving story. I need to make some end-of-year donations (I sold my condo) and have been wanting to sponsor a shots clinic for Bad Rap. What would it take to do the job? (WARL already got their big check).

Anonymous said...

I'm going to repeat myself here... I don't think it can be said enough.

Thank you for posting this, Donna. The economy is having terrible effects on individuals and families. Those of us who have a little share what we can and hope those who have more share proportionately.

It by grace that people like you and Tim, and all the volunteers at Bad Rap give so much to people who love their dogs. And it is with gratitude we salute the work you do. Thank you.

Kingsgurl said...

Whew, D, thanks for posting this. I was having a little pity party about having to borrow the gas money to make it to the next shot fair and that put it back in perspective for me. My dogs and I are warm and safe in our home, and while the paycheck doesn't seem to stretch as far as it needs to, at least there IS a paycheck, and there is a car to put the borrowed gas in! See ya in Hayward

Jay said...

What a story that was. I've got a reason to be grateful today. Our little pit bull mix Girly suddenly vanished before dinner last night and she had never done that before. We spent an hour and a half calling and looking for her when suddenly she pops up out of the darkness with her tail going a hundred miles a minute. I was so happy I burst into tears.

We got her about 6 years ago; someone had pushed her out of a moving car and we think she was abused before hand. We love her dearly and that was just scary.

Anonymous said...

One of your best Bad Rap - always leading the way with compassion and wisdom - knowing exactly how to make the difference.

In appreciation always -

Lynn in N. Cal

Aleksandra said...

That's beautiful Donna, thanks for sharing. I am always touched by what a gifted and thoughtful writer you are, and today I'm equally moved by Amanda Verlander's skill.

Donna said...

Rachel - I totally hear you on the shots fairs being one of the most gratifying events a rescuer can participate in. It changes us as much as it changes things for the clients and their dogs. So glad you're able to do them (please tell us about them when you do, k?)

Lisa - Looking forward to working with you in 2012. Thank YOU for giving so selflessly.

Dianne - Can we get you here sometime for one of the events? Maybe in the spring? Let's talk as we sort out our dates for 2012 events.

Indygo Wolf - so glad you found your girl. Too scary is right!

Lynn - You and your group have been on the same path all along. We plan to do more work with local allies in 2012 and hope to finally connect with New Hope for sharing and more.

Alek - I just know that you and Love-A-Bull will be a force to be reckoned with with owner support work in 2012!

Toyin O. said...

What a touching post, thanks for sharing.

Dianne said...

Donna, I would absolutely love to come out for an event in the Spring! I just need lead time to find someone to give the diabetic cat his insulin and take care of the wild child Savannah Jane. Keep me posted (you know how to find me).

Becky Coley said...

Thanks for the gratitude post. We all need to try to love unconditionally and without judgement - just like our dogs do!

Anonymous said...

If that was a young Caucasian female who had piercings along with the tattoos under her eyes--I've met her.

It was on fifth ave before Thanksgiving in 2008 I saw her and her dog in a thick blanket and gave her something (money or food, I can't remember). She looked my she should have been graduating college not hugging herself in the street. The image of her shocked me. And her pet loyalty hit me.

I didn't see her for months until one summer day she had the dog on a leash near seventh ave. The dog's legs looked thin and weak. Then I hadn't seen them in over a year and I wondered if the dog made it. I looked for them from time to time and nothing...

NOW I know they're okay. Thank you Amanda. Thank you Donna. It was meant to be.

rhyme said...

awesome post! look forward reading more post


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