Shelters, Puppies, and Love

We took a bit of a hiatus from blogging because it’s been cold over here. Meaning we’ve been crazy busy running emergency shelters that are 100% reliant on volunteers. We clocked over 110 hours over a week ago as volunteers and are at it again. It was a trying, rewarding, and tiring week.

Last night at the shelter a puppy was brought in. This puppy was found shivering and scared by one of the men who frequents our shelter. EJ (formally known as Dave in a previous blog) met up with this guy as they were both walking to the shelter. EJ called Karen and said they found a dog shivering to death. Karen told me this and being the sucker that I am for rescues immediately said I’d bring her home with me until we found the owner or found a home for her.

When EJ carried her in we discovered a dog that was by all means cold from the outside climate, but by no means had three paws in the grave (here I thought I’d be dealing with a feeble dog). What we soon discovered was a spunky, high energy, resilient little pup.

As she made her way around the shelter, wagging her tail and being greeted with many pats and adoration she quickly became comfortable. One man scooped her up and held her for quite some time. I was already falling for this puppy, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to keep up my hard front so I wouldn’t fall in love and start to care and be hurt when either her owner showed up or my other dogs hated her spunky, carefree attitude.

As this man was holding her she became very excited as people walked by, and he said, “Whoa, now she’s going crazy. Is this what it’s like dealing with us?” I laughed, and said, “Yeah, this about explains it.” That exchange stuck with me, and I shared it with the rest of the group.

I, by no means want to create an analogy between the people at the shelter to a puppy, but what I can tell you is that my feelings towards both are very similar.

Last week’s emergency shelter was rewarding. We played games, we sang karaoke, we connected with people that we have never connected with before. It was filled with love and adoration and praise. But it was also filled with trials and tribulations. heartache, lack of sleep, and short temperaments. Very much like having a puppy. I’m writing this while the rescue dog from the emergency shelter is gnawing at my leg to play with her when just five minutes ago she was nuzzling my leg.

Our team spent so many hours feeding, managing, providing resources, cooking, cleaning to a very large group of people that very much need our help that at times it felt daunting and scary. We experienced very many sleepless nights, hours of feeling on edge, and hours trying to manage folks that are affected by substance abuse. At times, we were a bit out of our realm. And did I mention we were tired?

But then you can’t forget the desire to want to help and please. The people at the shelter, for the most part, (and I’m not going to pretend like it’s everyone) are SO grateful. And this gratefulness leads to them wanting to help. Trash needs to go out? Joe’s got it. Floors need mopped? Austin’s got it. They want to help. They have a desire to contribute. They appreciate us. And we appreciate them.

I feel like society wants to view the homeless as a problem to be squashed. But what many don’t realize is if you give them a bit of respect they are going to show the same. And they want to help.

For me, and I can’t speak for everyone else, one of the hardest parts to deal with is actually my heart. I want so badly to see everyone I encounter succeed that at times I feel a bit shaken down and taken advantage of when things don’t work out the way I want them to. That’s on me, most things don’t go according to plan, whether you are dealing with a puppy or human beings.

However, through this all we (and when I say we I was not at all involved - I’m referring to TCI) took five people to detox (let that sink in, FIVE!). Four of which remain. Statistically speaking, that’s pretty damn good. We have a group of people dedicated to making people’s lives better. Even when they aren’t ready to admit they deserve more.

We have seen a lot of people walk through the door’s of the emergency shelters. Most are battered and scared. They have a guard up that is completely justifiable. Their lives have sucked.  Others have a past that they are not proud of, but are happy to find we do not judge. Then we have others that are just not ready to talk - they aren’t ready to let us be apart of their life. And that’s okay. We will be here for them when they are ready.

After last week’s shelter, I’m not going to lie, I was ready to throw in the towel. I felt overwhelmed, I felt a bit unsafe, and I just felt a bit unsure. And then this puppy came in. (damn this puppy. That I am currently calling Boss) Then the man (I know his name, but don’t want to use it without his permission) holding her says what he says. And I see the joy this puppy brings to everyone. And it dawns on me that we aren’t much different than a puppy - whether we have a job, are homeless, or figuring out our next steps - we all just want to be loved and feel safe. And at the end of the day, that’s what these emergency shelters are doing. They are spreading love and giving safety.


The Change Initiative WV