Last week, a dog named Serta was adopted from the SPCA Albrecht Center. She was the last to be adopted out of nine dogs rescued in July from a horrible neglect case out of Saluda County. Serta was named so because of the filthy, decaying mattress she was found lying on during the rescue.
When she was leashed and pulled up from her crumbling bed, Serta could barely stand due to the weakness in her legs. Her ribs were visible through her flea-ridden coat and there was a heartbreaking hopelessness in her eyes. Our Veterinary Care Center team estimated her age to be about five years, so who knows how long she lived in those deplorable conditions, or how long she lay on that decrepit mattress.
I didn't get to know Serta very well during her time in the shelter, but I did take her for a walk a week prior to her adoption, and found her to be great on a leash, never pulling and never jumping. She didn't bark or lunge toward other dogs and had no reaction to the horses next door. She sat politely for treats and gently accepted them from my hand.
Considering her horrible background, her sweet behavior was surprising, but testament to the training and enrichment she received from our staff and volunteers during her three month stay, not to mention the much-needed medical treatment and nutritious food she received immediately upon arrival in our shelter.
Serta was just one of about twenty dogs and cats adopted from the SPCA last week, and just one of nearly 850 this year, but her story stuck out to me, and reminded me of the story of the starfish. Do you know it?
It's part of a sixteen page essay written by Loren Eiseley in 1969. The original story is short and has been adapted numerous times over the years, but the gist of it is this:
A person is observed walking along a beach after a storm in which thousands of starfish were washed ashore. The person picks up each starfish and throws it back into the ocean.
The observer, thinking this a foolish and futile effort, asks the person why. "You can't save all these starfish. You can't begin to make a difference!"
After a brief moment of frustrating discouragement, the starfish thrower picks up yet another stranded creature and hurls it into the ocean, replying "Well, I made a difference to that one."
The star thrower's words and determination inspire the observer, so he joins the effort, doubling the amount of starfish that are saved. Soon, others on the beach witness their work , are also inspired, and join in, eventually saving every single starfish.
I have yet to see a starfish make its way through our shelter doors, but I do see hundreds of cats and dogs and a few other small companion animals come to us every year, seeking help and an eventual home. And while we may not be able to save every single one, due to untreatable illness, injury or dangerous aggression, we are able to save the majority of them.
But we would never be able to do that, if people weren't inspired to help. Each adoption, each story, like Serta's, serves as an example of the difference one person, or a group of people, can make in the life of an animal.
And as more and more stories are shared, more and more people will take notice, and hopefully be motivated to make a difference in the life of another animal, whether that be through rescue, adoption, volunteering or donating.
"Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever." -Karen Davison
To see how you can make a difference in the life of one, or many companion animals in our community, visit LetLoveLive.org.
Sarah Neikam is the Marketing Director for the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. She is an Aiken native and has been with the SPCA since 2012. Sarah's family includes three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna and Grady, who are all living happy, loved lives thanks to the efforts of the SPCA.