New Found Hope

February 12, 2012
As I stepped through the double doors, my nose was immediately assaulted with the odor of kitty litter and dog shampoo, and my ears ringing with piercing dog barks and innocent kitten mews. I briskly strode into the area I had been assigned and snatched the makeshift leashes off of their hooks. I gloomily looked upon the dogs I had seen there week after week, still in need of a home. Suddenly, my eyes were stuck on one of the unfamiliar faces: an emaciated Great Dane named Brutus.

This was my second month working at the animal shelter in Phoenix, a no-kill shelter dedicated to the rescue, and often rehabilitation, of animals. I had seen several unfortunate animals, some were injured from abuse, others were abandoned in midsummer with no water, and one cat that weighed 24 pounds and could hardly breathe.

Brutus was a little odd to see in the area of the dogs I exercised, most were puppies or Chihuahua sized, but as I looked on at brittle Brutus, I could tell he was nothing to be afraid of. I hooked the other dogs to their leashes, but something was different with Brutus. I unlatched the cage, and he merely cowered farther into his cage. I had to wait five minutes for him to come out, and then putting the leash on him was a whole new kind of trouble. It took several weeks for him to get better, and it became easier for him to trust humans as he was getting fed more regularly.

My heart nearly broke that first day with Brutus; he would not touch a toy or even run around. Eventually, I saw scared Brutus break away from his shell, and in about a month he was the bounciest, most playful dog I had ever seen. A few weeks later he was adopted by a family who was ecstatic to make him their own. I realized then that even though an animal is not a person, you can truly change their life. It was so uplifting to see that dog’s forsaken eyes to turn to ones that portrayed nothing but pure joy.

It was then I noticed that no matter what service you do, be it to animals or to people, it matters. It makes a difference. I realize that unless you give back, you have not lived. There is no greater amount of elation I have experienced than to see a smile on a homeless man’s face after feeding him a meal, or the blissful expression on a child has as they embrace their new pet. It was in serving animals, that I found even the smallest things mean something to someone.

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