If People Were Stray Animals


Stray Dog

If people were stray animals, wandering alone and hungry, how long would one range before her protruding ribs and sunken eyes betrayed her as rejected, unwanted, alone? How long would she dart in and out of traffic, looking for water or rest before some kindly motorist stopped, called out, and tried to entice her to safety with some morsel of food?

If people were dogs and cats, and you were to see one eating from a trash can, or skulking into the crawl space under your house, would you feed him? Would you try? Would you?

You think you would. You say you would. Yet you pass by daily. You avert your gaze from the halt step, the shriveled limb protectively hidden, the fear in the eyes.

“My life,” you Tweet, “My life is so full. I’m so blessed.”

Second Chance Animal Sanctuary

At Second Chance Animal Sanctuary, volunteers visit the animals daily. They walk the dogs. They play with the kittens and name them. They freshen the water, play tug-o’-war with the puppies. They fill index cards with descriptions that prospective adopters read:

If people were stray animals, we would all be worth rescuing. Groups of rescuers would band together, forming networks whose only purpose is to give care and comfort to the abandoned. We would form 501(c)(3) organizations for the rescue, feeding, and care of the lost.

If Lost People were Stray Animals

If lost grownups were stray animals or abandoned children, we’d understand. We’d know right away what was needed. We would approach with all gentleness the person whose way of life and way of being had been shattered. Moved by pity, we would patiently entice the starving-hearted with choice morsels. We would keep our distance but watch daily for the slightest sign that the traumatized were able to trust again. Small victories would be worthy of celebration.

“She approached me in public today,” your status update would say, “She hesitated before declining my invitation to dinner at my home. I can tell she’s starting to rely on our weekly coffees at Starbucks. Some day she’ll be able to trust me enough to accept that dinner invitation.”

How lovely, if each traumatized person were valued as much as a stray animal. How the abandoned and unwanted must long to be loved when they cannot love themselves. How they must long to have someone whose first act of love is to see, the next to listen. To be noticed is to have value; to be worthy of patient outreach and rescue is to be given hope. What if teams of volunteers sought out the shattered sufferers, removing them from their cages, taming them, showing them love?

I wish you could look past our bared teeth and growls with eyes of faith, love, and unreasoning hope, envisioning what might happen if we were fed, and gentled, and loved day by day until we could relax, even play again.  I wish you would see that every animal deserves a second chance.

Stray Pup

8 responses to “If People Were Stray Animals”

  1. Deb Avatar

    I thought you might be interested in this article. Near the end there is a bit about adopted children which might interest you.

    http://discovermagazine.com/2013/may/13-grandmas-experiences-leave-epigenetic-mark-on-your-genes

  2. Anne Avatar

    The irony did not escape me. What odd timing!

  3. Deb Avatar

    You made me cry. My notice would read:

    Deb is 52 and divorced. She often pushes people away and appears to be self sufficient but is not. Her confidence is shaky and she cries easily but has a good heart. She loves walking and needs a good friend who enjoys walking as well. A good sense of humor is essential.

    1. Anne Avatar

      Well played, my friend. I’m going to think about what mine would say.

  4. xtinehlee Avatar

    Anne, you are amazing. yes. so many strays. if only we could all learn from our own wounds and be more empathetic–and furthermore, do something to help other strays.

    1. Anne Avatar

      I hope that those of us who have wounds and try and gain perspective from them do try and help. That’s been my observation, anyway. It’s an advanced course in empathy, for sure.

  5. davidrochester Avatar

    This is a very powerful piece, and it made me sit and think for a while about the many people I know who work or volunteer for rescue organizations. Most of them are, themselves trauma survivors. And many of them work with animals because people who need rescuing…well, their bites are much deeper and more painful. I look back at my relationship with my friend Elissa, for whom I was a feral soul rescue project, and I don’t know how she found the strength and patience to do what she did for me. She came very close to giving up, more than once. I am burdened continually with the knowledge that I don’t have the strength to do for someone else what she did for me. Maybe someday I will. I hope so.

    1. Anne Avatar

      David, what considered comments you always leave. I think you may not realize that when you share your self through your writing, you do for others what your friend did for you. Though I no longer have the strength to rescue anyone, I try to survive by writing and talking with myself. Perhaps by these means others will find a path even if there’s no tangible helping human hand. I know you have helped me.

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