Today was my first time volunteering at ARNO, a local animal shelter. I had never had an experience with animal shelters, but my impression of them was…wrong. I came in eagerly, expecting to see some puppies, whom I would take for a long walk, who would have been desperate for attention, their eyes gleaming with puppy love. They would lick me and wag their tails happily. That is not what I came in to find. I saw sad, desperate eyes. It shocked me to see these animals, so desolate. I was assigned an easy task. To go walk a little Chihuahua/Pomeranian mix. Her name was Chloe, I got her leashed up fairly quickly, and I opened the gate for us to leave. She started to run, and I thought she must have been eager to walk with me. Then I realized something. She wasn’t eager to walk with me, she was eager to be free. To go outside of her cage. I wondered what experiences she must have had to get here. It was no wonder she didn’t look at me with affection. She had been shown no affection before. She had no right to trust me. I wasn’t there to make myself feel good. I was there to show this dog some kindness. After all she had gone through, she was owed this. It wasn’t the big difference I was searching for, where I would be thanked, and leave happy that I had a chance to change something. I walked away tired, and smelling like dog. But I walked away grateful to these dogs, for the experience, and to the people who did this constantly, expecting no payment in return. Seeing these dogs made me realize, maybe we aren’t all too far away from that. From feeling unloved, from becoming homeless, a stray. From learning to shut others out and fend for ourselves. I continued to volunteer at ARNO. And slowly, my relationship with these animals is changing. They are learning to trust again, to be rehabilitated, so that they can be adopted by a loving family, one who will give them what they deserved. Now I give these animals affection, in hopes that they will someday return it, even if it might not be to me.
My visit to ARNO
May 22, 2011