By Leslie Criss
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
– Anatole France
“Happiness is a warm puppy.”
– Charles M. Schulz
When I was a feature writer at the Vicksburg Post, I was sent one morning to do a story on the animal shelter. Since I took my own pictures for most of my stories, I went alone.
From the moment I arrived and began looking into the eyes of the dogs and cats, I cried. Only a little at first, so I could easily pass it off as allergies.
But, before I finished interviewing the manager, I had put on my shades to hide my puffy eyes and was apologizing through sobs for my lack of professionalism.
I couldn’t stop my tears any more than I could have stopped caring personally about the story I was doing. My heart is not made that way.
It’s the same reason I change channels ever so quickly each time I hear Sarah McLachlan singing and know the heart-breaking pictures of abused or homeless animals will follow.
I tell myself that I’m doing my part to love and care for the three dogs who live with me, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem to be enough.
When my friend and co-worker Emily LeCoz left Tupelo recently to work in Jackson, I agreed to take on as part of my Journal duties the pet of the week feature that appears in the Sunday Living section and Lee County Neighbors each week.
Emily had done an extraordinary job on pets of the week for a long time. I knew I had large shoes to fill.
My foremost fear? My feelings. I did not want to walk into the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society each week and have to hide my tears.
Instead, I have found the outing each week to be one of joy.
If you haven’t visited the shelter, you should make it a point to do so.
What you’ll find is a place often filled beyond capacity with abandoned or stray dogs and cats of every age and every size.
You’ll also find a place that’s clean and welcoming, and employees who, though always busy, will take the time to stop what they are doing to help answer questions.
I’ve had ample opportunity to ask each shelter staffer if they love animals, but the question seems silly somehow. I can’t imagine anyone who does not adore animals wanting to work at the shelter surrounded by four-legged, furry friends on a daily basis. I would make no sense.
Tears have not been an issue for me in the weeks since I’ve been making my Thursday visits to the shelter. Nor do I leave sad with my heart breaking.
The only problem on which I’ve had to continue to work is leaving the shelter each week without taking home another animal to add to my menagerie of three.
So far, I’ve walked out of the shelter alone.
But I leave with high hopes that when I check in the following week, I’ll happily hear stories of homeless animals now having forever homes.
And that’s what it’s all about.