Sunday, August 26, 2012
Gone To The Dogs - SPCA Dog Jog
Occasionally in this blog I reveal little nuggets of information about myself that I may not have mentioned previously. Today is one of those occasions as the Intrepid Junior Blogger and I spent Saturday at an event that benefits a non-profit organization near and dear to my heart, and I feel the need to explain why it is so close to me. You see, we spent the day volunteering at the Fort McMurray SPCA Dog Jog, and animals are very important to both of us. We are both animal lovers, but for me it is a bit more, as I s pent ten years of my adult life working in veterinary clinics.
I never planned to work in vet clinics, it just sort of happened. One day I was working in a pediatrics office in Toronto and the opportunity to work in a vet clinic came up. At that age, my early twenties, a choice between working with children and animals seemed a very easy one, and I traded the howling of children for the howling of dogs (and quickly discovered that both do, in fact, bite). I spent ten years - an entire decade - working in vet clinics, and it was quite easily the best job I ever had. There were challenging moments - when beloved favourites died suddenly, developing fatal illnesses, or having gotten so ill that the kindest choice was euthanasia. There were animals injured in horrific ways, and the subsequent surgeries and treatments and healing. There were moments I'd rather forget, but there are moments I will always remember, like being the first person to touch a newborn kitten or puppy, or helping to bring a dying animal back from the brink and into the loving arms of their owner. It was job where I shed many tears, happy and sad, and on every single day a dog or cat or ferret was cuddled when the tears were too much to bear. It was, frankly, far and away the best job I have ever had, because it involved animals and the people who love them, and I happen to be very, very fond of both.
So, animals have always been a part of my life. I have had pet cats and pet dogs and pet ferrets. My current house is home to one crazy dog and two even crazier ferrets (belonging to the Intrepid Junior Blogger). We may have a houseful of creatures and yet we still find ourselves drawn to the SPCA, often going there to cuddle the kitties (due to allergies in our house we cannot have a cat). We visit the dogs, and we lament the plight of those waiting to find homes. And the Intrepid Junior Blogger, who has a heart much like her mother, loves them all.
When we heard the Dog Jog was looking for volunteers I asked the Junior Blogger who quickly agreed. A few days before the event we went to the SPCA for a round of cat cuddling, and it reminded us of why we agreed to volunteer for the SPCA - because the work they do is stellar, people. They take the animals that have been abandoned and abused, left for good and left for dead, and they love them. They don't just feed them and house them, you see. They love them, which is what all animals (including the big two-legged variety) need to thrive. And they even let people like the Junior Blogger and I come in and love them too.
The Dog Jog was scheduled for Saturday, and we had agreed to run the fish pond. The weather was a bit worrisome, but the event was planned rain or shine, so we headed to Howard Pew Park in Waterways, found our tent, and set up the fish pond. And then the dogs began to arrive, and I quickly discovered I'd be running the fish pond alone as the Intrepid Junior Blogger flung herself at the dogs with the kind of zeal dogs display when they fling themselves at a ball. She quite likely petted every dog there, from the retrievers to the basset hound, bloodhound to the Maltese. She was in dog heaven, surrounded by dogs of every colour and variety and breed and description. In her eyes I saw the same light I used to see in her grandfather's eyes, as he too loved animals and could not resist patting a soft coat and whispering some quiet soothing words into a furry ear.
The Dog Jog began with the dogs being trotted around the park, some with their owners and some dogs from the SPCA pairing up with willing and beaming volunteers. Those who had registered had raised money in pledges, and they happily jogged their dogs around. There was a BBQ and live entertainment, a silent auction and a guess-the-number-of-jellybeans jar. There were children and laughter and, unfortunately, some rain. There were, most of all, though, dogs of every kind, and after the rain some very wet dogs who brushed up against me leaving my jeans soaked and smelling a bit doggy (which is a smell I do not mind in the least). At the every end there was the golf ball drop, an amusing moment when golf balls were dropped from the cherry picker of a Shaw truck, and a moment when every dog in attendance seemed a bit stunned as dozens of golf balls danced on the grass, just out of the reach of their eager jaws.
There is a funny thing about pet owners. It's a bit like a secret club in some ways. We all know something that non pet-owners don't. We know that the love of an animal is something that you cannot compare or replace. We know that the love of a dog who greets you every time you come home like you've been gone for decades (even if you just went to take the garbage out) or the love of a cat that steals onto your lap at every opportunity is a love unlike any other. We know that the bond between pet and owner is something rare and precious, and that it warms our hearts unlike any other kind of love. We know that the love of an animal is pure and simple, not contingent on our bank account or the car we drive or even the words we say. We know that a dog will love us even if we are the worst scoundrel on the planet, and that a cat will love us even if we fail geometry tests (I know this as my childhood cat saw me through many mathematics-related scandals). And that is why I love animals, and why the Junior Blogger loves animals just as her grandfather did, and why we both love the SPCA. It is the place that helps homeless animals forge a bond with new owners, the kind of bond that one might think has greatest benefit for the animals but that truly has the greatest benefit for the human who will experience a love they have never even imagined. The SPCA doesn't just feed and house animals - it is a matchmaking service of the best kind, matching owners and pets and helping them to forge the kind of love that lasts for many years. And I know this first hand as I have seen owners shed tears of grief when a beloved pet dies after many years, when they let go of their best friend. And I know it personally because it has happened to me more than once, when my own beloved pets died of old age and illness, when my love for them continued in my heart and head long after they were gone.
And that, people, is why we volunteered for the Dog Jog. It won't be the last time we volunteer, and the Junior Blogger has for some time been making plans to do a school fundraiser for the SPCA. We will be there often to cuddle cats, and visit the dogs. And we will take the time every single day to cuddle our own beloved four-footed friends, the furries who share our house and who occasionally drive us crazy but who make us laugh. Because the love between a human and an animal is a bond that cannot be described, but must be experienced. If you haven't then I suggest a visit to the SPCA for a cat cuddle or to walk a dog. Try that bond out for a bit, and see what happens. If you are anything like me, even the slightest bit, you will discover a bond that has sustained us since the beginning of time, when early men shared their campfire with wolves, and discovered a love that is quite completely unconditional - and extraordinary.