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Thursday, June 26, 2008

An afternoon at the animal shelter

Shortly after noon I drove to the shelter to drop off the cans I got from my neighbors yesterday. I ended spending over 90 minutes at the shelter, talking to volunteers from the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) and other residents coming in to look at kittens. Nearly all the cages were full and many of the cats were there two weeks ago when I was at the shelter last.

I spoke to two of the ADC volunteers and complimented them on their good work--the shelter is always clean when I go there--and the two men seemed touched by my compliment. I meant it. The men knew all the dogs by name, could opine on each animal's personality, and did a thorough job cleaning each kennel and cage. They also gave each animal personal time.

One kennel with a label stating the pitbull-mix was "Blaze" stood empty. "He was put down this morning" said one ADC man, "He was a little crazy."

Later on he showed me an older black lab dog, fat from age and lack of exercise but clearly a dog that had been trained. "She's an old girl, and probably won't get adopted because of that" the man went on, "but she knows all her commands." and to show me he told the old girl to "sit" and the obedient dog did. That poor critter seemed resigned to her fate.

Almost all the kennels were full, too, which is a concern for me. There were a few cages empty in the cat area, but it was in the cat area where I spent a lot of time, cuddling with some cats and watching their overall characteristics. One black kitten with a small white spot on his chest reminded me of Arthur: outgoing and fiesty. He purred non-stop while I held him. A few minutes later a young family came into the shelter to adopt him. They had spotted him a few days ago and were coming to pick him up, along with another kitten they hadn't decided on.

I continued to talk to three ADC volunteers, inmates from Douglas. They are bussed to the shelter Mondays through Thursday from 8-3pm. They are carefully screened for animal abuse cases. "Have you ever been convicted for crimes against animals" is on their questionnaire.

It wasn't that long ago that I wouldn't have bothered talking to inmates, regardless of the reason of their incarceration. But watching them treat the animals so gently melted my heart. These men can't be all that bad if they can show tenderness toward animals. The interaction today with the ADC inmates taught me a valuable lesson about the human spirit. These men are examples of good people doing stupid things, and paying the price for society.

I finally left the shelter at 2pm, with a heavy heart. My heart ached for the homeless animals as well as for the ADC men working off their time. My only consolation was knowng I did my part in helping the shelter with my aluminum cans. I dropped off three large black bags of cans, which would bring a few dollars for the animals' welfare.

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