Through the Licking Glass
Say what you want about viewing life through rose-colored lenses. Some time ago, I learned to see life through slobbery windows, and it’s suited me just fine.
That’s why, when I was offered a job with City of Aiken PRT, a job which is a promotion by any rational standard, I hung up the phone and cried.
Not that I think being a recreation programs supervisor won’t have its own special brand of adventure. It will. Plus, I already love the staff at the City, having coordinated a number of projects with them through the SPCA. It’s just hard to believe that my escapades down the SPCA rabbit hole have come to a close.
The same time I interviewed for the volunteer coordinator position at the SPCA, I interviewed for the executive director position at the First Tee. I thought I nailed the First Tee interview, and the SPCA was a lost cause. I knew the difference between a slice and a hook but not between spay and neuter.
When I was inexplicably hired for the job with the SPCA, my ignorance was a source of palpable contention, evidenced by excessive eye-rolling, most of which came from a young woman with whom I shared a small, dirty office on Wire Road. Sybil was less than ecstatic about her new officemate. Of course, she was already sharing with a number of flies, a litter of bottle-fed puppies and a chair-stealing Chihuahua named Rish.
The office was conveniently located in the center of the building, which inevitably made it the cut through for volunteers and staff. They would enter (slam!) and exit (slam!) every thirteen and a half seconds, sprinkling gossip and wielding puppies, kittens and the occasional goat, hedgehog or snake.
None of this bothered Sybil. She seemed to have an Adderall-induced focus interrupted only by flavored coffee.
Three months after my arrival, one of the receptionists barged in the office with a bucket of rabbits. I asked Sybil if I could foster them. She said I “could try” and asked me what my name was so she could fill out the paperwork. As it turned out, Sybil didn’t bother to learn anyone’s name until they had made it through the first 90 days and elected to stay. There weren’t many who did.
In fairness, there was a great deal I didn’t know about Sybil either. Many of her cautious revelations caused my own eye rolling: her affinity for something called ChocoVine, for instance, and the ridiculous number of pairs of shoes she has, especially given how ugly they all are.
Over the years, I tried to no avail to teach Sybil about adult beverages that weren’t chocolaty or fruity, and she taught me to live dogs. That isn’t a typo. I meant to say “live.” See, there are people who love the beach and people who live it. The people who live it adore being covered in sand, sunscreen and salt when they crawl into a bed laden with line-dried sheets.
In that same way, there are people who love dogs and people who have made them their life. These people are reluctant to Windex the memories from the windshield and prefer to live life through the licking glass.
Sure, the floor is swept and a scented candle masking the smell of wet dog is flickering in the afternoon glow; but as the sun sinks low across the yard, it temporarily lights storm door artwork inspired by hundreds of unbridled greetings.
Sybil lives dogs and taught me to do the same. She loves other animals, too, including orphaned rabbits. She just happens to know there’s a less than 10 percent survival rate, and fostering is a fool’s errand, no matter how hard anyone tries. But it wouldn’t have stopped her, and she didn’t stop me either. She was sad for them and sad for me when they didn’t make it, and we decided to be best friends.
On Friday, reflecting on this long, strange trip, I began cleaning out my office but kept putting off the nose prints that smeared my glass door. As if the memories would be lost with them, I kept the precious knee-high smudges as long as I could. So irrevocably tied to the SPCA, I felt less like I was losing a job and more like I was losing myself.
By Friday evening, I found myself quoting Lewis Carroll’s Alice, “I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.” Luckily, Saturday brought a stray dog into my yard, and I knew that trading pit bulls for pickle ball did not change who I’ve become, just what I do for a living.
Chrissey Miller, CAWA
SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare