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.