You can be a hero and have fun doing it. You don’t even have to dump a bucket of ice water on your head, although the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness of and to fund research for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is definitely a worthy cause.
All you have to do is adopt a dog from the animal shelter in your area. In Port Aransas, that would be the Port Aransas Animal Shelter at 409 W. Cotter St.
Municipal animal shelters were first formed as a response to what was perceived as a public health issue. Stray animals can present a threat; they can be rabid, diseased or aggressive to people, other pets or livestock. In the event that an animal who is roaming the streets might actually be someone’s pet that simply got loose, animals are held in a shelter for a period of time. However, if they’re not reclaimed by the owner within a set period, often one or two weeks, they can be slated for euthanization. Some shelters like the Port Aransas Animal Shelter will put them up for adoption.
The Animal Friends of Port Aransas is the nonprofit volunteer organization that provides care, humane treatment and helps to find homes for shelter animals. The AFPA recently held an adoption event that resulted in all the shelter’s cats finding “forever” homes. However, there are still some dogs that need you to take them into your heart.
Adopting a dog from the shelter will make you an instant hero. You will have written a new future for and possibly saved the life of an innocent animal. There are many who wind up in the shelter through no fault of their own, abandoned by other owners who couldn’t or wouldn’t care for them any longer. You will join the ranks of the fine folks who have helped to re-home abandoned animals and you will get LIKED in spades on Facebook. You will feel immediately proud of the good deed you have done and you will feel that pride every time your new furry companion looks at you with grateful eyes. It doesn’t matter what kind of day you had, if you cut someone off on SPID or your cash drawer didn’t balance out. Your loyal forever friend will greet you at the door with tail wagging.
Now, let’s up the ante and make you a Superhero. Take your new furry friend for training and get certification as a therapy dog. Then the two of you can make brief but meaningful visits to the sick, the stressed, the feeble and bring a few moments of joy into their lives.
In a previous post I described accompanying my sister and her therapy dog Buster on a visit to a nursing home and rehabilitation center. I also recounted the experience of therapy dog handler Lee McQuay and Brandy. Now let me tell you about Abby, a 12 year old Golden Retriever that is a certified Therapy Dog with Therapy Dogs International, and her handler Gail Butler. I was introduced to Gail, a volunteer at Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon, Virginia, by Lee McQuay, a former Port Aransan now living in Mountain City, Tennessee.
Gail recounts how Abby seems to have a sixth sense about people who need special attention. In a story by Doug Janz for the Mountain State Health Alliance newsletter, Gail relates an episode where she and Abby were on their way to the cancer center. “A group of Abby’s fans, employees, approached her saying, ‘Oh, Abby,’ and stopped to greet her. Abby would usually bask in the glory of the moment; instead, she walked right through them and made her way to the window sill. There sat a woman. Abby stopped beside the visitor, laid her head on the woman’s knee and snuggled up. I said, ‘Excuse us’ to the employees and sat down next to the woman. This visitor was a mom taking a reflective moment in the warm sun. She shared with me that her oldest son was having surgery today, and she was a bit concerned because two years ago her youngest son, at age 28, suddenly passed. Abby instinctively knew that this person needed a little TLC.”
I noticed the same phenomenon with Buster. We were headed down a hallway towards a day room, but as we passed each hospital room in the ward, Buster’s head swiveled this way and that. Like a doctor making the rounds, it was as if Buster took the measure of the occupants to gauge their level of need.
Abby had personal experience with cancer and the power of caring. Early last year during a routine dental cleaning, the veterinary technician noted a melanoma. Abby had to have a cancerous portion of her liver removed. Everyone that Abby had helped hoped for her recovery and she became known as “our cancer survivor.” (Despite being in remission for many months, Abby passed away in mid-August. She is sadly missed not only by her handler Gail but also by the people she served at JMH. Even the hospital’s chief executive officer called Gail to express his sympathy.)
So there you have it: a simple way to do a lot of good for a helpless animal, people in need, and yourself. When you and your therapy dog walk down those hospital or nursing home corridors, the smiles you’ll get will make you feel bigger than the Incredible Hulk.
For more information about adopting from the Port Aransas Animal Shelter, call 361-749-5941 or contact the Animal Friends of Port Aransas by email at email@example.com. Or just stop by the Animal Shelter. You can also learn more at meetings of the AFPA the first Monday of the month at 5:30 p.m. at Miss K’s Bistro and Catering, 1726 Hwy 361. I’ll see you there.