Seeing first hand what animals go through on the streets casts a whole new light on daily activities -- or so it has for me. Ordinary experiences become examples of contrast. As the cold digs in its heels, each time the outside air hits me in the face I think of the many thousands of animals assaulted by it, not as temporary discomfort the way it is for me, but as minute after deadly minute of winter’s long battle. I think of them as I go inside a place of business or the car or home and find relief from the elements in a heated environment -- no such luxury warms the faces and feet of homeless animals.
I used to love a walk in the falling snow and the feel of crystalline flakes softly pelting my face. Now I see snow as a bringer of distress, forcing animals to fight even harder for the most basic necessities; snow buries whatever food they might find, and walking through it without any way to protect their legs or feet lands them in the unforgiving jaws of frostbite. The freezing cold is painful, being wet in the freezing cold is far, far worse.
In mid-November when shopkeepers bring out their holiday decorations, a familiar ache begins its yearly creep into my life. It is the ache of knowing that, as people gear up for holiday festivities, homeless animals must gear up for the difficulty of getting through the winter. I remember seasons past (before I stepped onto the path of animal work) when I shared in the happy excitement stired to life by daintily strung lights and brightly colored accessories, now but a pleasant memory of the way things used to be.
Our human privileges stand in stalk contrast to the misery of homeless animals. And, along with the thousands of animals in the alleys we travel, millions of homeless animals in cities and suburbs far and wide are there because, one way or another, human beings put them there -- we are the reason for their misery. Recognizing this sad fact pushes out of my reach the wish for a white Onistmas and the childlike delight visiting so many human hearts this time of year.
Years ago, Alley Animals was invited to speak at a community association’s monthly meeting. I saw this as an opportunity to spread the word about the plight of homeless animals and of our work on their behalf as well as a forum for changing attitudes and behavior toward other creatures struggling just to live. Looking back, I smile at my own naivete. Those attending the meeting weren’t interested in the substance of our work or in the plight of homeless animals. They wanted to know what was the most unusual animal we’d ever seen in the alleys; what was the most dangerous situation we’d been in; what was the worst injury we’d ever seen in an animal we rescued, and on and on. Subsequent invitations to speak to groups yielded much the same result. My grand hopes of inspiring change quickly gave way to a hard-nosed realism.
Yes, we each have spectacular street stories to tell, but the core of our work has to do with spending eight hours a night in the alleys, with doing our part to lessen the pain animals endure without relief. We need not wonder whether a homeless animal will sustain a life-threatening injury or illness, but when, and how long will he or she suffer an agony you and I cannot comprehend before death finally brings a peace to his or her body and soul that life on this earth coldly denies them. This is why we return to the alleys six nights a week -- if we can lighten their burden even momentarily in the form of a small meal, if we can rescue some of them, we have brought a small measure of good to those whose lives are very bleak indeed.
Please Consider remembering Alley Animals in your
Will. Animals on the streets go on struggling to survive at
all cost, and we will go on fighting to better their lot.
If you have been blessed in this life, you can share
your blessings and help us help them even after you’re gone.