I recently wrote about the sacrifices I’ve made through my involvement in animal rescue, but here I’m going to share the things I’ve gained, which, of course, trump the sacrifices, or else I wouldn’t do it.
It wasn’t until my mid-30s that I got involved in animal rescue, after a dream I had about a cat, which prompted my first adoption, a kitty named Miko, from Seattle Humane Society. We later adopted a couple of companion kitties for him. Then my teenaged daughter, Zinnia, and I started to volunteer at Regional Animal Services of King County, where we became a foster family. And that led to the adoption of two dogs. And a couple of cats. We are currently fostering a white Pit Bull mix, Crystal. She has leash aggression and can be a bit of a handful when she sees other dogs out in public, which I also recently wrote about.
Today, I have a house full of animals and no longer volunteer at the shelter, but my passion for animal rescue has not subsided. Writing for Catster and Dogster is perhaps one of the greatest highlights of becoming involved in rescue — and something I would never have imagined doing a few years ago.
Now on to what I’ve gained through animal rescue:
This is the first thing that comes to mind. Inevitably, there is a kitty sitting next to me as I type on my laptop. In fact, I am never truly alone because I have many furry friends to keep me constant company.
There is something special about the time I spend with my felines — the quiet camaraderie that is not found anywhere else. I love cats and dogs equally in different ways. I cherish my early morning time with my cats, but one of my favorite things about having dogs is walking them. My dogs love to follow me around wherever I go, and I believe they love their walks as much as I do. My kids and I definitely feel more safe walking, and living, with a dog pack.
While my cats will come visit me when the circumstances are just right, my dogs always want to be right next to me. And I can’t help but enjoy their eager company. I am thankful for the companionship I feel with both my cats and dogs.
My animals inspire me to work hard to care for them. I didn’t have animals as a kid or young adult, so I’ve had a steep learning curve over the last few years. I’ve had to learn everything, from how to feed and groom them to how to crate train. I like learning, and my animals provide me with the opportunity to continuously learn and grow as a person. And trust me, there is NEVER a dull moment when you live with a pack of rescued animals!
Perhaps this is one of the quintessential aspects of having companion animals in your life — such a sense of joy! The pleasure gained from simply gazing at them, sitting with them, and observing their crazy antics! Even better is witnessing my children interact with them lovingly. One of the things that makes me happiest is the connection my children have with our animals. I feel blessed that they get to grow up with animals and learn to feel comfortable with them from an early age (in the case of my son). I was very scared of dogs for most of my life, so I am pleased that my children do not share this fear. Nothing melts my heart more than seeing my kids cuddled up together, surrounded by our animals.
Friends come and go from your life. Partners may leave. Family members get busy, or maybe they marry people who don’t like you so you don’t see them as often. But if you bring an animal into your home and provide a loving environment, you will experience no greater sense of loyalty. This is true for both cats and dogs, in my opinion. Felines demonstrate their loyalty more quietly than canines, but both will stay by your side in a way that no human ever will. I was estranged from my father for most of my life. Then he died before we ever got a chance to reconcile. He never met his grandchildren or saw me graduate from college. I’ll tell you, there is nothing quite like the pain of never having closure with someone as significant in your life as a parent.
Some people do yoga, meditate, or go to the spa to feel centered. I find my sense of inner peace when I allow myself to relax and enjoy a moment with my cats and dogs. One of my most favorite, peaceful activities is to settle down in bed with my pets around me. Usually when I come home, my dogs get really excited and run around crazily trying to get my attention. But after they get that out of their system, they settle down all around me and my kids. The cats choose to surround me early in the morning when the dogs are still asleep. But every now and then I’ll have a couple of cats and all the dogs, and it feels perfect!
When you bring a formerly abused, abandoned, or lost animal into your home, they are initially unsure of their place. But slowly, day after day, they start to learn that they are warm and safe. They learn they will be fed every day. They learn that there are people who enjoy their presence in their lives.
All of my animals are rescues, but my dog Daisy is the only one who showed obvious signs of past abuse. At first, Daisy winced whenever we tried to reach for her. She did not know how to go to the bathroom like most dogs — it would just fall out of her. Daisy carried herself as though she was constantly fearful.
A year later, Daisy is the biggest cuddle bug in the entire household. She loves nothing better than to curl up next to you while you watch TV, take a nap, or whatever. She now knows how to go potty outside and also inside on pads. And I love to see her defend herself when May Belle is trying to bully her. There is something to be said for witnessing a living creature gain the confidence she lacked.
Animal rescue requires a lot of work. But it also pays huge dividends. Becoming involved in animal rescue has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life, and for that I am grateful.
What about you? What would you add to this list? Tell us what you gained through animal rescue in the comments!
Read more by Kezia Willingham:
About the author: Kezia Willingham is a Breadwinning Laundry Queen who works as a Health Coordinator for Head Start. She is a regular contributor to Catster and Dogster. Her writing has appeared in Literary Mama, The New York Times, The Seattle Times, and multiple anthologies. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, which includes a number of rescued cats and dogs. You can follow her on Twitter.