Make a Difference
As you are reading, Kate Koelker, the SPCA clinic manager, and I are at a conference at Humane Alliance in Asheville, North Carolina, where they are neutering tens of thousands of pets every year despite billboards emphatically asking pet owners not to do so.
As a happy by-product of the conference, my daughter joined us over the weekend for an early birthday celebration. (Happy Birthday, Snugs! Sorry I couldn’t be there on your special day!)
We spent Saturday drifting down the Green River in giant yellow tubes. Later, we strolled Hendersonville’s lovely streets. Where Aiken has beautiful hand-painted horses, Hendersonville has hand-painted bears. Dozens of them line their thriving downtown area. We poked around in a few of the quaint shops before they closed.
There was a lovely book store featuring North Carolina’s indie authors, a mystic store with the wafting fragrance of incense, and finally, a darling doggy boutique filled with delectable treats and adorable outfits for pooches. I couldn’t resist. I knew Henrietta Beans, the SPCA mascot, would absolutely rock the peacock feathers and sequins.
As I was checking out, the clerk complimented my T-shirt. Having spent the day at the river, I wasn’t really dressed to impress. Jeans, flip flops, and a T-shirt with a bit of white paint on the shoulder. Puzzled, I examined my attire. Ah. A Petfinder T-shirt.
Petfinder is to finding the perfect pet as Match.com is to finding the perfect mate. It’s an online service that helps people find the just the right pet. The SPCA lists their pets on Petfinder.com and so do hundreds of other wonderful rescues. The searcher plugs in their breed, sex, and age wishes, and voila! A potential match list is created. My dog, Django, was a Charlotte SPCA listing on Petfinder.
The clerk asked if I worked for Petfinder because she’d like to have a Petfinder poster for her store with some information regarding the “Adopt! Don’t Shop!” movement. I told her I worked for the SPCA in Aiken, South Carolina and that we list our pets on Petfinder. She was visibly excited, having met one of her kind and began to chatter away about the work she did for a large Humane Society in Wisconsin.
Excitement soon turned to dismay as she expressed the different perspectives people in the South have compared to those in the Midwest. She said visitors to her shop ask daily if she sells puppies, which explains her need for a Petfinder poster. “Sells puppies?” I asked. “Is that legal here?”
She replied that she often sees customers with dogs they bought at a place up the street. Inevitably the dogs have some terrible genetic problem that has cost the owner hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
She was amazed when I told her I was not aware of any pet stores that sell dogs in South Carolina. While I don’t consider North Carolina to be uber-metropolitan, there seems, at least in Asheville and Hendersonville, to be major pushes for recycling, buying local and helping others. In the pizza place we ate in Friday night, the plastic and paper products were fully compostable and proceeds from the lentil appetizer funded potable water projects in East Africa.
But puppy mills are OK? When I told the clerk about the anti-neuter billboard, she hung her head in dismay. She said after 25 years in this endeavor, she has all but given up. She said she knows in her head she has made a difference, but in her heart she just doesn’t feel the outcome is worth the output. This is what is known as “compassion fatigue.” It is the place where dedicated people run out of steam. It’s not specific to animal welfare. This is a common problem with police officers, hospice workers, social workers and teachers, to name a few.
So, I’m asking for a favor (or two). If you know someone working in those fields, pick up the phone. Send them a text, an email; tell them you appreciate what they do and that they do it well.
If you don’t know anyone you can thank, jot a quick note of encouragement to “The Former Wisconsiner” (I didn’t get her name) at Wag! A Unique Pet Boutique, 231 North Main St., Hendersonville, NC 28792. I know it would make her day to feel she is still making a difference!
And if you’re in the market for a pet, adopt! Don’t shop! Take a peek at what the SPCA and other fine rescues have to offer at Petfinder.com.
Chrissey Miller, CAWA
SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare