Joy: because the enthusiasm and love that the dogs lavish on anyone who will pay them attention is contagious and I can't help but feel happy for these lucky dogs who are patiently waiting for their families to find them.
Frustration: why doesn't the whole world understand how important it is to spay and neuter pets? I swear, the woeful, emaciated mamas that come in with huge litters of puppies break my heart into a million pieces.
Sadness: each dog at this one shelter represents hundreds of others who will never make their way to a safe haven and have a chance to live out their lives in the arms of a loving family.
Rage: pretty much the same as frustration but add anger.
Contemplation: obviously the problem of pet overpopulation is not a simple one or it wouldn't be so widespread. My last thought as I'm leaving the shelter is almost always, "What else can I do?"
What makes the dog on the left (McGee), so different from the dog on the right (Pokey)?
Today as I spent time in Pokey's run with her and watched her tremble in fear as I sat down next to her on her blanket, I had the same conversation with myself that I've had so many times before. McGee really does need a friend. This dog is so sweet and mild, I'm sure the two of them would get along fine given the proper introduction. McGee just hasn't met the right dog yet, but maybe this one would be just the right match for her. I wonder if we just took them on lots of walks together first if it might work out...
The inner monologue goes on for miles. Today as I sat stewing and brooding, Pokey decided that I wasn't so bad after all. She lay back down on her blanket and tentatively placed her substantial head on my thigh. Her wrinkly brow was knit with worry and she wore a pencil eraser sized scab on her nose from who knows what happened to her before she arrived. Suddenly, she took a deep breath and then let out a massive, rattling sigh from the bottom of her lungs. I felt her head grow heavier as she licked her lips and settled her skinny little body into the floor and my leg.
Her eyes watched me the whole time and her giant antenna ears were tuned in and waiting for any sign of trouble, but I could tell that we were maybe starting to be on a friendly kind of basis. I situated my palm on her head and noticed how she had brand new fur growing on her skull where the old fur probably fell out from malnutrition or mange. I rubbed the big crease between her eyes and since her ears were so ready for listening, I sang her silly made up songs about what a good dog she is.
While I sat, I felt all of those emotions. Each of them jostling around inside of me, demanding to be heard. I'm so glad you're safe Pokey. It's terrible that someone could have witnessed you starving and losing your fur and done nothing to help you. The fact that you are not sure whether to fear me or not is filling me with grief. I am so angry that you ever had to suffer for even one minute. How can I help you even if I can't bring you home with me?
Really, the only thing that makes these two dogs different is that I met McGee in July of 2012 when I had space in my home to bring home a new family member. Sweet Pokey could easily have been my dog as well if time and fate had brought us together at a different moment. I think, more than anything, this is the most painful thing that shelter workers and good Samaritans face: the feeling that you could love and cherish any one of the dogs that you meet, if only you could bring one more home.
For now, the reality of my one dog household outweighs the desires of my two dog heart.
If you or your loved ones are looking to adopt, please consider sweet Pokey. She is residing at The Humane Society of Calvert County in Sunderland, MD.