Well, they are almost here…

owner_surrendered_dogDespite the failing economy, the foreclosures, the unemployment, the holidays have come….again.  Things are different from past Christmases. People are scaling down in their gift buying, their dinners, their parties, and, regretfully, their very families.  Though it seems to go unnoticed by most of America, the rescue community is literally drowning in it.  The avalanche of family pets being dumped in animal shelters across the country have reached astounding numbers.  The once loved dog, has suddenly become a “luxury” they can no longer afford.  As if giving them up will somehow turn their financial woes around. They drive to the local shelter, hand over the leash to a volunteer, while telling the worker behind the desk that they “just can’t afford them anymore.”  This excuse has become the catch phrase of this tragedy.  An anthem for the quick fix.  Who will question it, with the country’s state as it is?  And so, the paperwork gets completed, the family leaves in their gas guzzling SUV, and what remains is a dog, once loved and happy, now confused, scared and facing an almost certain death sentence.

Rescues step in, they scramble to take on more and more animals, quickly filling up their fosters, and searching for adopters, that in this economy, are far and in-between.  They save one, only to have another hundred be dumped, the same day, to take its place.  Rescues beg for donations, caught between facing financial ruin themselves, or denying a young, highly adoptable animal its very life.  It’s a race against time. Against the shelters need to eliminate animals to make space for the next. Because someone “just couldn’t afford them anymore.”

I found myself remembering something I saw a long time ago back in New York as I waited forhomeless_dog_wag_tail_for_food a bus. It was hot, and noisy as Manhattan always is. People rushing, always rushing.  Horns honking, trucks roaring by.  As I stood in the heat, I noticed a homeless man and his dog sitting up against a building.  He looked like he had been on the streets for a very long time. His dog, though dirty, looked happy and content. And then I saw why.Someone came up to him and gave him some money. He thanked the good Samaritan. And even the dog looked up at the kind person, ears back, and seemed to understand what this offering meant. After the good Samaritan walked away…  they got up, walked over to a hotdog stand and bought a hotdog and returned to their spot against the wall. The dog just sat there, not lunging at the food, but calmly waited with patience, though I know he was probably hungry. He watched the man split the hotdog in half…… HALF!….and handed one of the halves to the dog. The dog took the food sweetly, and they both enjoyed lunch in the middle of the chaos of New York City.

homeless_man_with_dogThe memory of this man and his dog lives in the back of my mind. Coming to the forefront, every time I read that yet another dog has been given up because “they just couldn’t afford them anymore.”  I wonder what that man would think to hear these words.  For it was obvious, he felt he couldn’t afford NOT to have his companion.

He understood, the dog is our gift. A steadfast guardian. For no matter what our circumstances, the dog will always, ALWAYS be with you. Something they teach us everyday, but we still have yet to learn.  And I wonder, if we ever will.

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