Each evening brings another round of battle. For homeless animals, surviving the night goes beyond escaping the multitude of dangers ever present in their environment. Once providing them a shield of darkness as they search for something to eat, in winter the night becomes an added enemy-a cold predatory beast from which no relief can be found. Animals on the streets, animals who can’t find decent shelter in pleasant weather face yet another night of hideous cold where no semblance of shelter they might find can offer the smallest comfort. I don’t know how they survive a single night of 13 degrees, let alone a winter full of them such as the one we’re experiencing.
After fighting so hard for their lives night after winter night, many homeless animals succumb to the unforgiving cold but not before going through the horror of freezing to death. Recently I was purchasing supplies for Alley Animals when I mentioned to the clerk how I loathe winter because of the impossible struggles it pounds on homeless animals. The clerk smiled as she replied, authoritatively, that “freezing to death is painless.” I don’t know how anyone could say such a thing but I didn’t argue the point.
She probably meant no ill will by her remark, and she may actually believe that freezing is a painless death. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help assuming she dressed warmly before going outside in the icy air that swept across our area from northern Canada. I was willing to bet she put on gloves and boots and a thick coat before braving the snowy roads on her way to work that morning -- just as I did -- because feeling the effects of deadly cold is not at all painless. I wondered if other people glibly shrug at the mention of animals in the frigid air while thoughtlessly declaring that being forced to endure hours and hours in 13 degree weather doesn’t hurt.
As another cold evening began to take hold, a distraught woman called us. Frustrated after having pleaded for help from a number of organizations but finding none to offer assistance, she wearily explained the predicament. A kitten had gotten stuck within a wall of her house; she couldn’t be positive about the location but she heard the little one crying for nearly two days. Having been refused help from every organization they’d contacted, the woman and her husband were at wits end. This time, however, the woman wouldn’t be turned away; this time she called the right place. As soon as Alice heard that an animal was doomed to die inside a wall, she wasted no time getting to work on the situation.
With the help of our good friend, Jeanie Willis, discussions were begun with a contractor to determine exactly what needed to be done to free the kitten, and how much the work would cost. After explaining to us and to the woman how he would go about the job, the contractor quoted an estimate. During further telephone conversations with the woman and her husband, Jeanie sensed a growing hesitancy on their part. Exactly why the woman, so eager at first to have the kitten rescued, would suddenly cool was not clear to Jeanie. Money was a possibility.
Everyone at Alley Animals agreed that finance should not stand in the way of this rescue. Both Jeanie and Alice notified the woman that Alley Animals would provide full payment for the work (including all necessary repair), but the woman and her husband were still reluctant to proceed. From this point on we could do nothing more than leave message after message on their answering machine, with no return call by either the woman or her husband. The contractor was ready to begin work, we were prepared to write a check for the full expense, the kitten was more urgently in need of help with every passing minute, but we were at a standstill. For the rest of the evening our messages on the couple’s answering machine were met with a stony silence.
A long night passed. In the morning, both Jeanie and Alice attempted to contact the woman or her husband. Nothing. By now we knew the couple’s decision was to let the kitten die, trapped inside a wall or pipe or floor of their house while they moved about, warm and comfortable. They were content to eat hot meals and sleep under soft covers while a kitten, frightened out of her mind, froze and starved some few feet away.
We encounter this kind of human roadblock with alarming frequency, though not always as blatantly as in this thwarted rescue. Too many people see homeless animals as a nuisance rather than as living, breathing individuals in need and worthy of our help. These same people forget or choose to ignore the fact that animals did not abandon themselves to the streets -- one way or another, human beings put them there. We are the ones accountable for their pain and suffering, regardless of whether we’re honest enough to admit it
In the neighborhoods we travel, all too often the residents look on the animals trying to survive there as contemptible, and they see our efforts on behalf of homeless animals as contemptible, too. If we have difficulty dodging the hostility aimed at us in the alleys, just imagine how much harder animals must struggle against hostility, danger, and hardship every minute of their lives. And, long winter months turn their one ally -- the night’s cover of darkness -- into another bitter enemy with an inescapable and penetrating bite.
By participating in our Winter Raffle, you will help ease some of the misery this world heaps on creatures who deserve our best effort. You will make possible our nightly trips to the streets and you will ride with us in spirit as we travel the alleys. Without your help we cannot continue. Only through your support can we stand with them, six nights a week every week of the year, as we try to bring some small relief to lives otherwise filled with torment. You are their hope.