The clock ticks faster for animals in need

Dec. 08, 2012 @ 06:14 AM

I once heard a woman compare animals to machines.

They don’t feel emotions like humans do, don’t even feel pain the way people do, she insisted. Instead, animals operate solely under genetic “instincts.”

I remember thinking there was something rather machine-like about her.

Still, there are distinct differences between the species. For one, time works very differently for animals than it does for people.

Do dogs and cats realize they have such short life spans? I’m sure people like the woman I describe above would dismiss such a notion. And yet, the love our companion animals have for us can be so intense –as if they can’t bear not to be near us – it’s like they understand their time with us is brief.

Then there are the animals that don’t have this special companionship.

Maybe they once did, perhaps as a cute puppy or kitten. Perhaps before a human companion died, or lost a job, or moved. At any rate, now they are frightened and disoriented, attempting to dodge traffic in a busy intersection or navigate an unfamiliar neighborhood.

Or they’re huddled in the farthest corner of a cage at our local Animal Control facility.

Ask any animal rescue volunteer, and they’ll tell you these animals seem to comprehend something about time running out, too.

Like Raye.

Until he came under the care of the Rutherford County Humane Society, no one had ever taken Raye to a vet. Even though he was born blind and the only puppy in his litter to survive.

From his first moments, Raye must have believed he was a dead dog walking. He was terrified of almost everything, especially loud sounds. Out of nowhere, the dog would suddenly engage in combat with an imaginary opponent. Other times, he’d walk his pen in tight, nervous circles, the tension palpable.

Three separate vets said he should be put down because he’d never enjoy any quality of life. And Pat Howe, the Humane Society volunteer tasked with his care, was sick over it. But the same grim suggestion from three different vets? It must be so.

Now Pat’s task turned to the surreal: find a suitable grave site for a dog that was still alive. Technically, anyway.

Then, in the middle of this macabre round of calls, something compelled her to hang up the phone and go visit Raye in his pen. For the first time, Pat felt no fear of the aggressive dog. She walked right in.

And for the first time, Raye didn’t react with snaps and lunges. Instead, his eyes unseeing, he inched haltingly forward with his paws toward the woman’s presence.

Something was happening. Fear was being replaced – slowly, but surely – with trust in the one person who had tried harder than anyone else to win it.

The instinct of a machine? I don’t think so.

Today, the two are firm friends. Pat says they play together. She says they even dance together! One day, she vows, she will teach Raye not to be afraid of other dogs and find him a companion.

This is the precious gift our county’s rescue volunteers give to the animals every day: another chance.

And now, can we please give something back to these good people?

Let’s review where we are currently at with helping animals in need in Rutherford County, roughly two years after the proposed new animal shelter that would have bought more animals more time died a painful, political death.

So many of us were discouraged afterward; most of all, I would imagine, the volunteers from the Community Pet Center who worked so hard and came so close to making a new shelter a reality.

And yet, CPC is still out there advocating for adoptions, for spay and neutering. They didn’t give up on the animals. Neither has the Rutherford County Humane Society, obviously.

I suspect many of you reading this column are generous supporters of one or both of these organizations. Well, there’s an urgent need for more people like you.

In fact, the need is so great here volunteers are constantly digging into their own personal funds. I know a woman who has actually had to choose between paying for her monthly medicine and pet food for her foster animals. Guess which one she chose?

If you haven’t been involved in animal rescue to date, but something is calling you to do so, consider opening your own home as a “foster” parent. It would be the best gift of all to animals this Christmas.

But if that’s not possible, both the CPC and RCHS will gratefully accept your donations of dog food, dishes, kennels, toys – and of course, money for veterinary expenses. Believe me, it will be one of those rare instances where you really can buy more time.

Perhaps for an animal that, like Raye, just needs a little more of it.


Stephanie Janard is a mother and full-time copywriter. She lives in Spindale. To reach Stephanie, email