Bush v Obama at the Animal Shelter

I spent most of my Saturday afternoon training at San Francisco Animal Care & Control. Lending some time to work with animals has been something I've always wanted to do, and now is clearly the perfect time to do so. As anyone who knows me is aware, if there's a dog within 200 feet of me, everything else goes blank: I must go hang with said dog. I've had a few run-ins over the years. I walked out of a restaurant in Brooklyn once, went right up to a resting Pit Bull and nearly lost a hand. I've had a few owners give me fierce looks after finding me hanging with their tree-tied pup.

I grew up with four consecutive German Shepherds: Greta, Guard, Axel and Apollo. At times, these dogs were my closest friends. I'm sure that many kids of broken families can understand the importance of an animal. When things are confusing and, at times, lonely, there was always one of the dogs. This comfort of sorts has ingrained in me a love not just for dogs, but for all animals.

Apollo at Christmas, 2004

I will defend a dog to no end. My love for them has had consequences that some may find extreme. I have a family member who's incredibly irresponsible with pets. She has had countless dogs, and every single time, after a few months, she grows bored and away goes the dog. There will be one excuse after another, but in the end, she just doesn't care enough. People like this should not have animals, under any circumstances. We had a verbal run-in about 18 months ago when she adopted her 23rd dog. I was slightly irate as I knew the dog would end up a goner in just a few short months. She attacked me for judging. The dog is now gone. Our phones remain silent.

To the subject matter. While touring the shelter yesterday, I inquired about the effect of the economy on the number of pets arriving. Our extremely kind teacher told me that the drop-offs have increased substantially over the past year or so. They attribute it to the economy and people's inability to pay doctor's bills. Since many of those surrendered are older animals, it's clear that the majority are let go due to bills that can't be paid.

Our instructor then turned to the positive. She said that since Obama's inauguration, the number of people signing up to volunteer has reached an almost uncontrollable level. The majority of new folks she speaks with say that they're inspired by Obama's call to service. She said that without this inspiration and the resulting volunteer influx, there wouldn't be the people or time to care for all of the animals.

It hasn't even been a week and we're already worlds away from where we were. I don't expect miracles from our new president, but from the top down he's charting the right course. Even dogs, birds, cats, and hamsters are benefiting.