In America during November we celebrate many things: Veteran’s Day; Thanksgiving; National Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month; and Hero Dogs (although I’d like to say “Hero Pets”!)
A few weeks ago the American Humane Association honored dogs and their handlers during the National Hero Dogs Awards, celebrating dogs in the line of duty for law enforcement and the military as well as those canines assisting the blind, the disabled, the autistic, the infirmed, and many others.
Hero pets exist everywhere. Many of us have heard stories about dogs who save people from fire, rattlesnakes, intruders, drowning, and other dangers. But, it’s not always dogs who help or save their humans. Cats, too, have done heroic deeds, including the cat who helped save a young boy from a dog attack (see video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6GQR3Ym5M8).
Those of us who are pet lovers enjoy an inspiring hero pet tale, and there’s no doubt that the Dog Hero Awards inspire people. Yet, on an average day more than 9,000 animals are euthanized every day in animal shelters across America. Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, parakeets and many other animals die each day while thousands of others are rescued from kill-shelters, puppy and cat mills, and other death traps. Oftentimes many of these animals are older and have been used as breeders for people seeking “easy money” through the propagation of litters. National Mill Dog Rescue specifically rescues puppy mill dogs, both young and old, that have been confined in deplorable conditions; volunteers travel hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles, to bring into safety and love dogs that are neglected and used, many of whom have never had the pads of their feet touch green grass; these dogs are groomed, loved, cuddled, oftentimes for the first time. These rescuers, many of them volunteers, are the true heroes, saving animals from exploitation, neglect, even danger.
The animals, too, are heroes. Scared, de-valued, uncertain, they learn to play, to trust, to love, teaching us humans the acts of forgiveness and courage. Such was the case of Scarlett, a mother cat who risked her life five times to save her babies and afterwards found a new loving home.
Risking life, saving life – such is the ‘game of life.’ Whether a hero on the battlefield, as many of our military men and women are, a hero rescuing abandoned, neglected, or unwanted pets as are those involved with animal rescue and welfare, or those creatures who save their ‘families,’ both humans and other animals, from traumas such as fires, drownings, mental and physical disabilities, or intruders … our heroes need to be recognized, honored, and celebrated. People who adopt pets, especially those who adopt the older, infirmed, or disabled, are also heroes. November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month. Each of us can be a hero to a senior pet in need of a new, loving home. I’m grateful I responded to the call when I adopted Cody, a 10-year-old cocker spaniel used as a stud dog then tossed away by his owner after he could no longer “perform” for profits sought. Now, nearly 17, Cody has experienced several health issues, and we never know what the day will bring, but one thing I do know: this older, sweet-natured boy has brought many moments of joy! I also had a cat named Ama who lived with me for nearly 16 years, crossing the Rainbow Bridge at nearly 19 years of age — elegant, even-tempered, delightful, this girl gave me many moments of joy, love, and beauty in the 16 years we shared this life. Although I adopted her at a young age, we shared many “senior moments” later in life … and I wouldn’t trade those experiences and years for anything!
There are many benefits to adopting an older pet, including (1) most are already house/litterbox trained, and (2) what you see (in size and personality) is what you get. Yet, many older animals are relinquished for various reasons and therefore also euthanized each day. You can be a hero and save a life by adopting a senior pet this month!
Just as our military men and women are heroes, fighting, often struggling, and dying to keep the rest of us free and safe, so, too, can we ‘regular folk’ be heroes by saving the lives of animals around the globe. Adopt, volunteer, educate, advocate – step up and be a hero today! The love, dedication, and truthfully the actual life of an animal, is in your hands… mine, too. Let’s be the advocate heroes for animals in need today!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released August 19, 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, Creation Illustrated, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, River Press, and Douglas Budget newspapers. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for various rescue groups and she donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. She is currently venturing out of her comfort zone and writing a romance story for her first crack at National Novel Writing Month (a romance story with pet rescue twist!) She also intends to publish Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice – Lessons I Learned from a Blind Dog and Other Canines I’ve Known later this month. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.