Some of those still among us, whose
strength and spirit of forgiveness
constantly remind us
of the others waiting to be taken off the streets.
No Place Like Home....
"Puppy and loved today....dog and stray tomorrow." Such is the case for this dog who was under a year old when she was abandoned. She soon became pregnant and, as any mother will, she found a place to make a home for her babies. Underneath the porch of a vacant house she dug into a pile of garbage. As she gave birth to her puppies on top of old cans and broken bottles, on top of all manner of filth, this young mother nonetheless made a safe place for her family.
On our route through the alleys we heard the puppies crying and we found them curled up next to their mother on the junk heap. We pulled them out one by one; after some doing, we secured the mother dog and put her in the car with her babies. We could see she was thin and sickly. We had her seen by a veterinarian and the worst was so; she had distemper and she had passed it along to her babies. They are gone now, but they will always have a home in our hearts.
More Faces From the Streets
Alley Animalsí focus is street work; weíre in the alleys six nights of the week every week of the year and because our route gradually expanded over the years, we now alternate between sides of the city - one night we travel through alleys on the west side, the next night the east. Each side has become a full nightís work. No two nights are alike in the alleys but one thing remains constant; no matter how optimal the circumstances on any given night, traveling 300 or more alleys at a stretch is never easy. However, if a night in the alleys is hard work for us, how much harder it must be for animals trying to live there.
Each season brings its special difficulties to the lives of homeless creatures. Just as summerís choking heat will make fast work of bringing down a sick or injured animal, so will winterís freezing cold. Bitter weather lowers our precision which in turn lowers our potential to succeed in securing an animal who needs help, particularly if the situation requires lengthy and sustained effort. The bitter cold bites at our fingers and penetrates our clothing, but we have a warm car awaiting our return. Homeless animals have no recourse for getting warm; they must search out food and water in the cold, sleep in the cold, find places to hide in the cold. They have no choice but to get through it somehow without relief or die in its grip.
Another unrelenting hardship for animals on the streets in winter is the scarcity of water. Just as summerís heat quickly evaporates the puddles that provide their drinking water, winterís cold freezes them. In different ways, the heat and the cold bring about the same result; stealing water from animals desperately needing to replenish their bodies with moisture. An occasional driving rain brings temporary relief, otherwise a stinging thirst follows them through the days and nights of their struggles as they cling to the only life they know.
One factor of our work that never changes - the reason for Alley Animalsí existence as a humane organization - is the presence of homeless and abandoned animals who need our help. The fact that the alley route has grown from a 3 1/2 hour trip to one of 14 hours indicates the opposite. One might question why we continue to travel the alleys night after night (at no small risk to ourselves) and shoulder ever-rising expenses (medicines and veterinary bills, maintenance for the alley car, and the cost of 600 pounds of food needed for one week in the alleys).
But to ask this question is to weigh abstractions - personal risk against the groupís achievements, runaway expenses against a small working budget, difficulty of the work against tangible results. Weighing factors and assessing progress has its place in any constructive enterprise, but judging Alley Animalsí work cannot be done in any context other than the alleys themselves. I have helped lift a dog with two broken front legs into the car; I have watched my partner secure in a carrier a young cat who was so sick she was in the beginning stages of dying; yet if we had not been there to take these animals from the streets they would have lingered, the pinnacle of their pain and suffering not yet upon them but already severe enough to be quite beyond our grasp. In many an alleyís darkness I have heard the footsteps of animals disturb the trash and broken glass lying everywhere; I cannot see them but I hear them coming to eat the food weíve left. In other alleys animals show themselves even before we put out food. I see their faces and I cannot forget.
So, in answering the question as to why we continue to travel the alleys when the presence of homeless and abandonded animals persists - perhaps even increases - I call to mind their faces, the look in their eyes, the sound of their footsteps, and my answer is to ask a second question: How could we stop?
Dear God, please send me somebody who'll care!
I'm tired of running, I'm sick with despair.
My body is aching, it's so racked with pain,
and dear God I pray, as I run in the rain.
That someone will love me and give me a home,
a warm cozy bed and a big juicy bone.
My last owner tied me all day in the yard
Sometimes with no water, and god that was hard.
So I chewed my leash, and God I ran away.
To rummage in garbage and live as a stray.
But now God, I'm tired and hungry and cold,
and I'm so afraid that I'll never grow old.
They've chased me with sticks and hit me with stones,
while I run the streets just looking for bones!
I'm not really bad, God, please help if you can,
for I have become just a "Victim of Man!"
I'm wormy dear God and I'm ridden with fleas, and
all that I want is an Owner to please!
If you find one for me God, I'll try to be good,
and I won't chew their shoes, and I'll do as I should.
I'll love them, protect them and try to obey..
when they tell me to sit, to lie down or to stay!
I don't think I'll make it too long on my own,
cause I'm getting so weak and I'm so all alone.
Each night as I sleep in the bushes I cry,
cause I'm so afraid God, that I'm gonna die.
And I've got so much love and devotion to give,
that I should be given a new chance to Live!
So dear God, please answer my prayer,
and send me someone who will REALLY care..
That is, dear God, if YOU'RE REALLY there!
(Photos on this page by Lillian Leslie unless otherwise noted)