Glancing at my Humane Society calendar I was pleased to see that June was “Adopt a Shelter Cat Month.” The picture is of a little orange tabby kitten chewing on a blanket and looking adorable. This kitty looks ‘for all the world’ like one of those kitties who makes you laugh, gets into everything and ends the day napping on your lap. What could be better?
As we know, homeless animals are a tragic reality throughout the world as are homeless people. As a volunteer with Golden Retriever Rescue I have housed and cared for dozens of homeless dogs and have seen first-hand the kind of problems that result. Food aggression, separation anxiety and resource guarding are just a few of the problems homeless abused or neglected dogs can present. As a social worker I have seen the result of homelessness, poverty and financial insecurity with people as well as animals and its impact is devastating. Physical and emotional problems abound resulting in increased social problems like communicable disease, crime, child abuse, domestic violence and teen pregnancy to name just a few.
Fortunately most of us have never had to face being homeless but think just for a minute how it would feel not to have a home. What would that be like? There would be no place to go where you can close the door on the outside world, where you can keep your things and eat and sleep and feel safe. Just think for a moment how that would feel. Don’t go to what you would do to avoid it or how you would get out of it but just what it would feel like. Now let those feelings guide your actions in whatever way you think is right. Homelessness for people and animals is a crisis in this country with no easy social, political or financial solutions.
If you were a raccoon in the forest, a lizard in the desert or a beaver in lake you would make or find a home for yourself. Home is just that basic. Whether it’s a hole in a tree, a den. a cave. a nest or a dam it would be what you think of as home. Homeless domesticated animals don’t have those options; they don’t have that instinctive drive to hunt and nest and do all the things wild animals do to survive. To a large extent that’s because we humans bred it out of them. We domesticated them, made them depend on us for food and shelter and then we abandoned them.
Somewhere along the line, if you look at homeless people, much of the time you will see that something similar occurred. Through no fault of their own, as a result of mental illness, addiction, immigration or social misfortune, these people became unable to care for themselves, live with a family, remain gainfully employed.
Abandonment is not the answer in any case, so getting back to kitties and calendars… if there’s room in your home and your heart for a homeless animal, why not go get one?
And if we’re talking about homeless people and the broader social issues that confront us as a country, the first step would be to learn more about the problem and the second step would be to find a way to get constructively involved. The more we get involved the more likely these problems will begin to be resolved.