I write almost every day. And almost always I end up writing about myself.
This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "Good." But this time, instead of writing about myself, I want to write about something that I recently came across at the bookstore.
Shelter Dogs by Traer Scott is a GOOD book. Actually, it's better than good. It is heartbreaking and real and uplifting and sad and beautiful...all at the same time. It is an honest portrait of 56 beautiful, intelligent, loving beings--all of whom are dogs. I fell in love with the book at first glance. I was in tears before finishing the first paragraph.
In her introduction, Scott writes that Shelter Dogs "is a series of portraits that resulted from frustration, opportunity, and loss." She describes her many years of animal advocacy and her love for animals since she was a child, but she also admits that "in all those years of advocacy, fund-raising, and dog obsession, the one thing I never did was actually volunteer at a shelter. I tried, but every time I walked in, tears would come to my eyes the second I made eye contact with one desperate face. Everyone agreed that I just didn't' have the constitution for it. My friends suggested that I would continue to do good in other ways, but I always felt disappointed in myself." However, Scott forced herself to go back to the shelter and meet the animals with eyes wide open (read an excerpt here). And eventually her experience turned into this book.
Scott explains that, although she took many of these photographs for records and internet adoption sites, her files grew, and she began to realize that many of the dogs whose photographs where in her archives never made it out alive. She continues by saying that "despite our efforts, many dogs had to be euthanized simply to make room for the dozens more brought in every week by Animal Control. I found that no matter what, I couldn't bring myself to delete their photographs, which in some cases, were the only record of their existence. A few months later, I decided to begin creating true portraits of these dogs."
This book is dedicated not only to the author's parents and husband...but to "all the beautiful dogs in this book who were not fortunate enough to find a loving home."
Last night I layed in bed with this book until nearly 3 in the morning. Every single photograph exudes such character, personality, and a profound sense of dignity and nobleness. I spent time with each photograph looking at their eyes, their posture, their expression--and each one of them took my breath away. Diamond, Shadow, Bunker, Bonnie, Captain, Timmy, Celeste, Shady, Dumbledore, Smokey, Malaki, Hercules, Jake, Joshua, Stubbs, Bear, Sophia, Terrier, Tiger, Yogi... I wanted to snuggle into their necks, put my hand on their heads, stroke their backs, and plant big kisses on their noses. I wanted to talk with them and take them all for long walks in the woods. What I wanted to give to each and every one of them--was love. Some of the dogs in this book have since been adopted. Some never got so lucky and were, sadly, put to sleep.
Several weeks ago I applied for a job at an animal shelter. I wanted the job badly, but there were a lot of applicants, many of whom where most likely better qualified than me. But what this book has done is, well... quite possibly changed my LIFE. Or maybe, to be more precise, it has VALIDATED it. There is nothing on this planet that I love more than animals. And the tenderest place in my heart is reserved for dogs. Maybe even more precise would be to say that I WANT this book to change my life.
Abe died a year and a half ago. He was a shelter dog, too. But, more importantly, he was the love of my life.
Ever since losing him I have had a hard time even thinking about the pain and suffering of other dogs. I burst into tears at just the thought of it! Maybe I thought that if it was my job to work with animals, that I could handle the pain a little bit more easily. You can't cry every day at work. Ok...but I didn't get the job. So now what?
There's been a hole in my heart ever since Abe's been gone. Maybe that hole will always be there. When he died I quit volunteering at the shelter because it was too difficult for me. Making connections with other dogs only reminded me of what I had lost, reducing me to another puddle of tears. But what this book has reminded me is that there are dogs that need love and attention right now. I might not be able to adopt them, but I can spend time with them. I think it's time I pull myself together and use the love I had for Abe to help other animals. Really, honestly, I think it is one of my purposes in life. Why am I wasting time?
But what I really want to tell you is that Shelter Dogs is GOOD. It pays tribute to the lives of some incredibly beautiful beings...and, in doing so, I hope it will inspire you to get off your duff and do something. Why? Because there's a shelter dog that needs love--from you, from me. Scott's book is just a reminder. A powerful one. Today I'm thankful for this book. My heart needed a little cracking open--and Shelter Dogs did just that. See more of Traer Scott's dog portaits here.
Want to do something good?
In the USA:
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
The Humane Society of the United States
Canadian Federation of Humane Societies
Humane Society of Canada