Come Play with Me: Volunteer to Help Shelter Dogs TODAY

Hello, nice to meet you, says Leo. I realize, it feels hard to see me here after months-on-end. Just imagine, what it feels like, for me to be here.

Shelter dogs. So many of us are aware to some degree of their plight. Even more of us avoid involvement, for walking through the doors of our community shelter feels like contemplating how to untie the Gordian Knot.

What do we do? We look away. We distract ourselves. If the subject comes up in quiet conversation over a cup of tea with a friend, we sigh in mutual concern.

We return to our lives, get into our cars, and forget all about it. The problem of homeless dogs in overcrowded shelters feels to be more than any one of us can take on.

Meanwhile, the dogs sit in kennels, day after day, neglected, overlooked, and confused. In some shelters, for 22-23 hours daily. The people they once loved and would open their hearts to again, have long gone back to their routines of feeding the kids or tapping away at their laptops. The Pittie mutt / Shepherd mix / Heeler blend that once occupied that corner bed in their office or family room is now but a memory.

Back at the shelter, their once-loved dog now sits alone, feeling abandoned and confused. Did they make a mistake? Did they wear out their welcome, outgrow those puppy paws? Did they get overexcited in a play session, and found themselves experiencing a one-way-trip in the family car?

Few can know what happens in the life of a shelter dog with any truth. People make mistakes as dogs do; they fall upon hard times, their girlfriend says, Eh, not so much, it’s him or me. Sometimes, their people even die, and the dogs wind up uncared for and about in a local shelter.

The reasons why dogs wind up in shelters as of late range the gamut, from Covid deaths to Fentanyl overdoses to economic struggles to to canine adolescence setting in; to lack of training or simply, misfortune. Some simply land there as people cannot bear to witness the stages of elderhood, so they drop off the senior dog at the shelter on their way to the grocery store. Others claim the stresses of pack dynamics to be too challenging, and choose one over the other, in a Sophie’s Choice kind-of-way.

Meanwhile, disorientation arises in the mind of a shelter dog. Loneliness flows in like a mountain creek fed by snow melt in the springtime. Desperation builds, stress takes over. Dogs are companion animals, born to walk beside their humans through rainstorms and darkness, along trails and pastures. They are meant to sit beside us on the patios of sidewalk cafes and trot happily along on their way home. They long to be in our homes the way we long for lasting, unconditional love.

A number of these now-homeless dogs might see the inside of another living room and come to love again. Some will embark, at the will of others, on a harrowing cross-country journey to a place where they are wanted.

And many, caught in the unfortunate system that cares less about their precious lives and devalues any one dog for the overwhelm and inability to meet their needs, will lose their precious, beautiful life. They will become part of the list every Friday at an underserved shelter in San Antonio, Dallas or Houston, categorized under the soulless designation,

Urgent Pets: Capacity Euthanasia List; updated every 15 minutes.

What can any one human being do?

Before we discuss such things, let’s just touch on the reasons Why. Most of us already know:

It makes the world a better place to live.

Alternatively stated, people helping the most vulnerable in our culture — homeless animals — creates a collective unity of compassion. Stepping up to help feeds that part of ourselves wanting to belong. It gives us a sense of purpose. It grounds us in our lives. It also makes an impression on those who’ve given up owing to the struggles in life, fallen on hard times, or simply, turned away. It inspires others to join in, and creates a tribe of heartened people, all acting on their concerns instead of sitting and worrying for the fate of the world.

It also gives us place in our communities, and shows others that they have the same. Those beautiful, wanting-to-live, vulnerable dogs, just waiting to be seen and loved again.

If all those reasons don’t find resonance in some part of your awareness, just keep going until you find one that does.

Or, contact me — I’ll listen until we do.

So, how can we begin to help, with a spare hour on a Tuesday afternoon? Every shelter is full of dogs in need of attention and exercise. Of touch and massage. A little Oxytocin goes a long way.

Of play and interaction. Of companionship and connection. Of cleaning and care.

Most shelters have minimal staff and maximum demands, demands they struggle to meet, day-in and day-out. Just ask a shelter worker:

Is there anything I can help you with today?

Some might look at you sideways, as they’ve grown used to doing it all themselves. Others might lean in and hug you before they collapse in exhaustion.

All will be grateful, because in showing up and giving whatever you have to offer to help homeless dogs, it is better than nothing at all. And it all contributes to a happier, more loving collective in which to live.

So, what do you say, do you have an hour on a Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning or a Friday night, to love on a shelter dog? Your help won’t be turned away…

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