Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: "Good"

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

In Canada:
Canadian Federation of Humane Societies

Humane Society of Canada


Anonymous said...

oh, I love this post! It's so like you to use your powers for, well, good. ;)

It's so hard to see animals in pain--something about their souls shines out of their eyes, and there is so much mute connection there.

kj said...

jessie, hopefully you know i greatly admire you but this post has sent me over the edge. if there is anything i can say i would with certainty devote my life to, it is helping dogs.

my stella is now with us 7 months and after 7 years alone on a chain outside, her healing is both miraculous and playful.

ps i have been away and am just now back. i am going to do the nov. novel writing also. i would like to hear from you about whether you are going to write an actual novel vs. work on your thesis, etc. i would better served working on my book on happiness but it's a self-helper, not a novel. i'd love to hear your thoughts.

:) kj

Anonymous said...

i adore you, you know...

i have two strays of my own and i have a weak spot for shelter dogs myself. i have often thought that if i had it to do over again (school) i would have done something with animals. when i grow up (haha), i plan to have a huge yard full of shelter dogs. :)
i can only manage my two right now, though.

sophie said...

I am running out to order this
book Jessie:)

My dog changed my life -
complete unconditional love -

i am just silly silly about
animals and cried two hours away
watching that silly cute
Flicka film.

Oh - have you read
"Dogs never lie about love"



Anonymous said...

Fabulous post, although I could barely read it for crying. I looked at the portraits and was just awestruck by the nobility of all those faces.

I have a fierce love of animals, and especially dogs. Mine are my soul companions.

You did a mighty "good" thing in writing about this! Brava!

BTW~thanks for your supportive comments on my post today :)

melba said...

I have never really had that intense love many people have for animals. Being the youngest I never chose the family pet. There were many though and I don't even remember what happened to them... birds, dogs, cats, hampsters. I saw the mommy hampster eat the baby hampsters when I was 5 and I think it scarred me for life!

Then when my parents got divorced and we lived with my father and stepmother they got a dog, Sandy. I liked her...but she was Kathy's (my step mom's) dog and so I never really felt close to her.

My roommate (in Atlanta in my mid 20's) LOVED her dog that lived with her parents in her hometown state. She always talked about him and when he died (from old age) she cried and cried and was really devastated. I tried really hard to have empathy for her...I did have compassion for her pain, but honestly I didn't understand.

Sean and I both agree that taking care of an animal would not be something either of us could or are willing to do at this time in our life. Like most children Ethan and Maggie LOVE animals. Maggie especially LOVES dogs. She wants to pet and play with every dog we see. Maybe someday.

Since reading your blog I have a better understanding of what it means to love all creatures...
The way you write about Anu...I know he is part of your family and you love him. I understand more, but honestly not completely. I am trying. I thank you for teaching me...


{I am a little nervous to post this comment. I do like animals, I just have never loved one animal in particular the way you have}

Endment said...

I don't have the words to share my thoughts about pets and their loss or pain ---
Thanks for the lead on the book!

tara dawn said...

What a beautiful and heartfelt tribute...your post and Scott's book. Your words are a much needed reminder to me to get out there and do the things I love of those being spending time with these loving and lonely beings. Though I haven't much time these days, I think I'll just have to find some or make some...these beautiful creatures deserve it, and so much more!
This post rings with conviction and compassion...your voice is strong and confident, empathic and so very loving.
And may Abe's soul rest in peace always!
My love to you sweet girl,

Colorsonmymind said...

First of all this is an amazing post for "good", and I mean amazing!

My aunt has 10 small dogs and 30 cats because she wants to save the ones who are not so cute, or not so perfect from the shelter-because she knows they have a less than good chance of getting adopted.

I don't volunteer for the same reasons you mention here. My first love was my uncles dog Scooter. I loved him and my heart was so sad when he passed.

Reading this post makes me see that these reasons, don't come from love but fear.

I may have to reconsider doing something for these shelter dogs-out of love.

Thanks for such a heart felt post