And the cats! While most of my writing is about food, wine, and travel, things that I really love and am excited about, I don’t often get into one of my other big passions, animal rescue. I have been volunteering at the MSPCA in Jamaica Plain for almost 3 years now, and it has been a pretty life changing experience.
I started out as just a cat volunteer. To be honest, I have never been a dog owner, and many of the dogs, especially when they all started barking at once, kind of terrified me.
The MSPCA gets TONS of cats, strays, surrenders, abuse cases, at any given time of the year they are always full of cats, and especially after kitten season. There are some pretty lame excuses and irresponsible people out there. Once I saw a complaint from an owner that their cat, that they didn’t have fixed, kept getting pregnant on them. Um, duh? Still, for all of the idiotic excuses and laziness, I would rather see the cats safe and fed in the shelter than on the street. And for people like this to never be allowed to have a pet again.
Volunteering often made me sad at the start, but it has always been so worth it. An older cat whose owner passed away, suddenly feeling comfortable enough to eat because a kind volunteer pays extra special attention to her, a matted, neglected, scared cat suddenly playing with toys like a kitten because he feels safe for once. . . there have been so many rewarding moments.
After spending a lot of time at the shelter and mostly in the cat isolation unit (for cats with colds, tummy bugs, things that are usually treatable but spread like wildfire if not contained), I started wandering into the dog room for a visit here and there. I would hand out treats or bring extra tennis balls to throw into the kennels, and little by little I felt more comfortable being in the room.
At about the same time the MSPCA introduced their Safe Walk program, a multi level program that includes hands on training and classifies the dogs according to a variety of factors so that walkers with various levels of experience are easily matched with the dogs they will be able to handle. I started out as a green walker, walking the older, calmer, smaller dogs, and have spent the last 6 months as a yellow walker which means I get to walk some of the bigger, more boisterous dogs and those who might need some additional training.
Slowly, my fear melted away, and my knowledge of dogs increased, especially my knowledge of pit bulls. Portrayed in the media as monsters, I have never met a pit bull that I didn’t love. They are loyal, extremely intelligent, obedient, loving, and playful.
You haven’t lived until you have had a 70 lb slobbering pit bull on your lap. . .
Pit bulls’ greatest qualities can also be their biggest downfalls. They are so smart and willing to please (They were called nanny dogs in earlier centuries as they were trained to watch small children) that they will do what their owner wants them to do. That means, if their owner trains them and abuses them into being aggressive, they can be aggressive. It’s from these types of situations that the stereotype comes from, and like with most things, mainstream media loves to paralyze people with fear. In fact, there have been many cases where a dog has mauled someone, the media has automatically called the dog a pit bull, and in actuality it has been a lab or some other big breed. Any animal can be dangerous, and precautions should always be taken. . . case in point, a 2 year old being left alone in a basement with two 80 lb dogs. . . no matter what the breed that is an accident waiting to happen.
To be honest, I am more afraid of the Chihuahuas than the pitties. . .
And, for some living proof that even the dogs trained to be violent are rehab-able, check out Vicktory for Cherry on Facebook. He is one of the dog’s from Michael Vick’s horrific dog fighting ring, and he is happily living with a family and is BFF with a tiny kitten named Walker. http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Vicktory-4-Cherry/229640882187
Anyway, a little bit of experience goes a long way, and the training I have received at the MSPCA has benefitted me, the dogs, and their future owners as the dogs are constantly receiving some sort of training.
I apologize for the not-so-great photos. Turns out it is not easy to get an excited dog to look at you for a photo!
I loved the heart on this little lady’s side, along with her spiky hair do
I love volunteering at the MSPCA and I really look forward to getting there whenever I can. There is such unconditional love and gratefulness from shelter animals, and I wouldn’t ever get a pet from anywhere else.
I see that I have a bunch of new blog traffic this weekend, so if you are new, WELCOME! If you missed my earlier posts this week, definitely check them out: Salmon with Zinfandel and Cherries, Taste of Cambridge, CRAVE Launch Party, Friday Foodie Feature, and Wine Picks for your Holiday Weekend.
Are you a dog or a cat person? Have you ever volunteered for an organization or cause?