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Snowbound – A glimpse into the life of a shelter animal

I know it’s not a perfect analogy. Being snowbound in a nice warm home, with my critters all around me, plenty of food and a roaring fire doesn’t sound like a bad life, much less like the life of a shelter animal.

But after being stuck at home for ten days (not including the 5 days the week before) I realized something was beginning to happen inside my head…and my heart.

I knew that many neighbors down the hill were getting out – some from day one, others after several days – but my circumstances pretty much corralled me back at the old homestead. My plan was to use this time to catch up on some reading, but I was so restless I’d pick up books and put them down again. Then I thought I’d try to do all those little end-of-the-year organizing projects, but I simply couldn’t stay focused.

So I moved to the window and began watching the snow fall…and fall and fall and fall. I’d look for signs of life…not that plentiful on my dead end street.

When something happened that engaged me – a telephone call or a knock on the door – my spirits would rise and suddenly I didn’t feel so imprisoned. But shortly thereafter I’d remember I was alone and I’d sense the fingers of hopelessness trying to reach out and touch me. I was trapped, and there was no way anyone could come and bust me out of the joint!

I’m not a party animal, but I’m not a recluse either – I probably fall somewhere in the middle. Toward the end of my forced confinement I had passed my ability to cope with the solitude. I knew it was temporary, and I WOULD get out, I just didn’t know when – and the not knowing made it easy to slip into despair.

One day I said out loud “I wonder if this is how the critters feel at the shelter.”

I thought about that for awhile. Anyone who has ever walked past the dog kennels or cat cages at a shelter has seen the sweet furry faces standing at the gate, hoping for a little recognition. But there are always some critters who stay back in the corner, eyes closed, not even bothering to get up any longer. They know, as I knew, that somewhere down the road other creatures ARE getting out – that something good is happening, it’s just not happening for them.

No animal lover can walk through a shelter and not feel their heart torn into pieces. You want to save them all…and it’s just not possible. But I think after this experience of being housebound I will better understand the look in the eyes of every shelter critter who is desperately waiting for his kennel door to be flung open wide so he can be free at last…and then he can go home.



Vicki Tankersley
posted on December 30, 2008 Reply

Wow, Chris, this is one of the most profound writings I have ever read. Since I, too, live in Portland, I know what you mean about being housebound (I just now got out of the house today 12/29/08). No matter how busy I tried to make myself be I would, also, become distracted and nothing ended up being done. The joy of seeing the beautiful snow falling soon became oppressive and I dreaded having to try and shovel the walks one more time. I worried about the wildlife and knew I only had peanuts for the squirrels; I felt helpless when it came to feeding the birds. I, too, knew that some people were able to travel in the weather, but my truck has such a light back-end and I had no sand to put into the truck bed, so I could get traction. I agree with you; it became a terrible time of despair. I am 54 years old, so I am no party animal, either, and even though I rarely go out, it’s just the thought of being trapped that becomes so suffocating.

And then your question of “I wonder if this is how the critters feel at the shelter?” It’s all very true what you have said; how some sweet furry faces stand at the gate while others stay back in the corner, eyes closed, not even bothering to get up anymore. What an utterly sad and heartbreaking thing to think about; yet, I’m so glad you have written about it. I know now that I, too, will forever think about those abandoned and unloved creatures from a much different perspective. I am so proud to say that both of my fur-babies were rescued and that I have given them a wonderful home with lots of love and compassion. I wish everyone on this planet had the chance to read your posting to your blog. Maybe more people would go to their shelters and adopt if they only knew how many homeless, lovable animals need “forever” homes. I would adopt more animals, but I worry that I would not be able to afford the vet care if one of them became sick, or injured and that’s why I only have two. Just two months ago, my kitty came home after a terrible fight and had to have surgery for an abscess on his jaw. The cost was $700.00. I am not complaining in the least, but good pet pawrents must be prepared to be able to give their “kids” the best vet care available, as well as tons of love, and that’s why I’ve had to set my limit to two.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this. This is one of the reasons I feel we have a bond and it all started when I was looking for “Rainbow Bridge” wristbands and I happened to find your wonderful website with your amazing books. You are a true “Angel on Earth”.

Your friends,
Blazer, Kitty Kimber & Mom (Vicki)

Chris Davis
posted on December 30, 2008 Reply

Vicki, thank you for your kind words. Maybe we need to be housebound every so often so we can explore our pereception of freedom – for all creatures!


Vicki Tankersley
posted on December 31, 2008 Reply

I couldn’t agree with you more, Chris.

Oh, and by the way, I received the books and wristbands I ordered in perfect condition today. Thanks for getting them to me so quickly. I actually have a friend who needs “For Every Dog and Angel” and a wristband right away, so I’ll have that in the mail to her tomorrow.

You are the best!

Vicki Tankersley and the kids

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