If you are familiar with Alley Animals, then you know we are a small group whose focus is to help as many as we can of the thousands and thousands of homeless and abandoned animals struggling to survive on the streets. This is why we travel the alleys eight hours a night six nights a week. Yet, not a week passes that we don’t receive calls from people looking to hand over their companion animals. These are animals who have known the safety and companionship of a home, sometimes for years.
The most frequent reasons for surrendering an animal include a sudden onset of allergies, the occasion of moving, the birth of a child. More often than you might think, people call looking to give away middle-aged and geriatric companions. Perhaps I should be more resigned, but I am astounded (even after all these years in this work) when someone is ready to hand over a twelve year old animal to a stranger. Over and over I am reminded that, although humans refer to animals as “lower” than ourselves, our own loyalty to those who depend on us falls woefully short.
Of course, calling humane organizations is a far more civilized course of action than just booting an animal out the door -- these are the animals we see on the streets with a sickening regularity. How do we know particular animals are “dumped”? The evidence is an abiding trust of people. Why animals who have been cruelly cast aside would honor humans with their continued trust is beyond my grasp, but this is one telltale sign of abandonment in animals on the streets.
As long as animals are plentiful, I fear there will be plenty of human abandonment of them, one way or another. Will we never -- as the rule rather than the exception -- give them a lifetime commitment instead of a relationship based on expedience? Thankfully, many companion animals are loved to the end of their lives as a member of the family, but the large majority are not. Animal shelters are filled to capacity with animals who are no longer wanted, and the streets are too.
I long for the elusive day when shelters and the streets alike take on a peacefulness because the human attitude toward companion animals has evolved into responsible commitment. Too often we fail to recognize and accept the utter dependency of another living, breathing creature as a serious responsibility. Our circumstance, our convenience takes precedence over the (sometimes strenuous) effort necessary to manifest a steadfast loyalty and a high standard of loving duty toward those whose lives we hold in our hands. The answer to lessening the number of unwanted animals lies with us, not with the animals; we are the ones who created their pain, and only we can end it.
Although I long for that elusive day when animals are treated as if their lives had meaning in and of themselves rather than as what they can do for us, I know such a day will not come soon. Certainly not in my lifetime. For this reason I know Alley Animals work will never be completed, and our nightly trips back to the alleys will go on as long as we are physically and financially able. We cannot make things right for the thousands and thousands of animals out there who desperately need help, but we will do as much as we can.
The summer heat has arrived early this year and the animals have been, as always, hard hit. The instances of their suffering never diminish. Cruelty cases spike in summer and already we have encountered a number of such cases. Rather than describe what animals have had done to them by vicious humans, I will instead trust your intelligence and understanding of the fact that animals badly need our help. Please don’t forget about us as you prepare for your summer vacation; we need your help more than ever because the horridness of life for animals on the streets will only get worse the deeper we go into summer. Please remember our work in the streets on behalf of animals, many of whom once believed themselves to be part of a family but now only know the urgency and difficulty of getting through another day without food, water, or shelter. If you can, please help us get them off the streets -- a donation in any amount will provide a piece of their ticket to freedom from suffering.
Some people believe any kind of life is preferable to no life. Those believing this have probably not been in the streets over and over for years and have not seen what we see. Every so often one or two of those we have taken from the wretchedness of the alleys sticks in my mind, their faces come back to me and remind me of the thousands still out there; bearing up under conditions you and I cant imagine. Two such faces have been visiting me recently. One, a pregnant female whose abdomen swelled with babies inside her while the rest of her body was no more than skin stretched over bones. She was no thin and dehydrated I wondered how on earth she would have managed to birth her infants on the streets, much less to care for and feed them. The other face is that of a male who lost all his fur, possibly to mange. He, too, was so thin that his ribs were countable. His eyes were pasted shut and crusted, taking away his ability to look for food or water, and his front paw was swollen to twice its normal size. Both animals tested positive for contagious, deadly diseases and would have died on the streets only after continued and increased suffering. This is life on the streets for homeless and abandoned animals. And, this is why we do what we do -- for them. We cant save or rescue all of them, but we do out best. We take no time off in the summer or any other time of year; perhaps when animals on the streets get a vacation from their suffering, well take a vacation too. Until then well be out there, eight hours a night, six nights a week, every week of the year, in the hope that we can make a difference for some of those who have done nothing to deserve the punishment of life on the streets.