I used to dread the holiday season. Like many people, I allowed myself to be burdened with obligations that felt overwhelming. I’ve let go of a lot of those obligations and in recent years, I’ve begun to concentrate more on what the spiritual meaning of the season is.
To me, the meaning of the season is doing something for those in need. I can’t change the whole world, but I can change someone’s world. That makes more sense to me now than it did when I was younger. I can’t save them all, but I can focus on some and I can make their lives noticeably better.
I’m reminded of the story about the man walking on the beach and seeing thousands of starfish washed up on the shore. Then, he sees a woman picking up starfish, one by one, and throwing them back into the ocean. He walks up to her and says, “Why are you trying? You can’t possibly save them all.” The woman picks up another starfish, throws it into the surf and says, “Perhaps not, but I saved that one.”
No one individual can make all animal suffering go away. There is so much abuse, so many in pain, so much to overcome. People feel overwhelmed and depressed by this reality. But, the answer is simple, really: one starfish at a time.
There are five million animals killed each year in humane societies and animal control agencies. That’s an enormous problem, but there are things that each of us can do to help:
Remind our friends and family members to adopt from shelters rather than buying dogs and cats.
- Spay and neuter all companion animals; encourage others to do so.
- Call our local shelter and ask them what they need: blankets, towels, or volunteers to walk the dogs and/or spend time with the cats.
- Encourage our city and county to introduce low cost or free spay/neuter clinics.
- Write Letters to the Editor about the pet overpopulation tragedy and its solutions. Educate our friends and families.
Whatever it is; let’s do it. It feels so good and will make a huge difference to the animals in our communities.
Is there someone in your neighborhood who is neglecting an animal? Leaving the dog out in the backyard day and night? Not providing needed vet care to a cat?
- We can approach our neighbor and express our concern. If you fear retribution and don’t want to approach the neighbor directly, get some pamphlets from the local humane society that explain the basics of responsible pet ownership and leave them in the neighbor’s mailbox.
- Take some notes about the condition of the animal and report that to the shelter. Ask them to investigate.
As part of my job, I have visited slaughterhouses and witnessed the deaths of farmed animals first hand. I knew I couldn’t save those animals and watching their terror as they met their deaths made me terribly sad. In a society that staunchly defends meat eating, I felt helpless. But, there was one thing I could do and I do it at every meal: I abstain from eating animals and animal by-products because I don’t want to participate in bringing about their deaths. I can’t save them, but I can choose to boycott the system that causes their intensive confinement and horrible deaths. And, I can educate others about the issue. If I can make that choice, perhaps, so can you. Try it for one day a week.
This holiday season, please join me in doing something, however large or small, that will make a positive difference for animals.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday.