It’s the end of January and I’m in California on deployment with the Humane Society of the United States Animal Response Team, assisting over 80 dogs (and a few cats) that are awaiting adoption from a confiscation case. As always, the circumstances that lead law enforcement to take custody of the animals are deeply disturbing—but my teammates and I try not to dwell on such thoughts while we are here. Instead we focus on providing excellent care and raising the animals’ spirits as much we can.
Delivering food and cleaning cages is only part of the job. Dogs are social and have emotional needs as well as physical ones. So we spend time touching, encouraging and playing with each dog twice a day during long walks on the grass. Some of them have never had daily meals and personalized attention. After their exercise, we offer soft blankets and giant cookies (not unlike good 1960’s flight attendants) and you can see the gratitude in their eyes.
All of our new canine friends deserve homes but they each have their own brand of charm. Some are silly and gregarious. Others are thoughtful and shy. Just spending time getting to know their personalities fills me with joy.
I’m serving aside some of the coolest people, too. Our crew works hard but keeps the energy fun and I’ve really connected with my roommate Oletta. She runs a very special dog camp in Oregon called Adventurous K9, where the dogs go off-leash in a pack and enjoy long romps through the forest. You will absolutely love the pictures and videos on her website!
The dogs here are finding homes day by day and getting them ALL placed with loving families is the ultimate goal. But we are already making their lives better. It’s heartwarming, really. For all the stuff I do with animals, I think maybe my rescue work, this work—making a difference in a time of crisis—brings me the greatest fulfillment. The results of our effort are so tangible, so immediate. Hunger is fed. Pain is relieved. With tenderness, even fear is forgotten.
And every day brings the most symbolic reward… a roomful of wagging tails.