I think I’m a pretty nice guy. I know I work for a pretty great organization. I’m positive that Nevada Humane Society does exceptional things for a superlative community. I feel pretty good at the end of most days.
Like everyone, there are days in which I walk through my front door exhausted, angry, disgruntled or even (perhaps more than the others) bewildered. That’s just life! Often my moodiness is because I am being difficult, sometimes it’s because others are being difficult and at least once it was because my Jayhawks got clobbered by Kentucky in basketball. Usually, it’s just me being a grouch but after petting my dog and a diet root beer I’m as happy as a Kentucky fan on the aforementioned occasion. Rarely it‘s harder to shake.
Occasionally, not all that commonly, I and others at NHS receive hate mail. That may surprise you, it did me a bit, but in the fullness of time I realized that it takes all kinds of folks and all sort of opinions to make the world go round. It makes total sense. I always read the unhappy messages and see if there is something to learn from their content. Many are just people who don’t like pets. That’s okay; I like them enough for all of us. Judging by our adoption rates so do you. No worries, we can all agree or disagree to agree or disagree. The worse ones typically have titles like “Your Pets Are Lazy and Useless”, “Kevin Ryan is a Dork”, “Animals are Disposable”, “Who Cares About Cats”, and “Saving Animals is a Waste of Time”. I kid you not; those are real subject lines from emails I have received. Normally, I don’t sweat these much (frankly my sisters would agree with the dork comment), but recently one got to me a little and kept me up all night.
The specifics aren’t important; the gist was that NHS ought to just be a “disposal” location for unwanted animals, that’s it. It went on to decry our efforts and decree that all animals were meant to be food, are useless, and that animals are property and thus they can and should be treated no differently than any household object.
What vexed me most was that this person has clearly never experienced the joy I get from my dog every day and the elation we witness thousands of times a year at NHS. Pets may not be for everyone, but I can’t imagine not understanding the exponential ways they augment our lives. There’s plenty of science to support the reality that pets enrich and extend our lives, improve our moods, and reduce stress. Yet late in the night this note left me restless and I was reminded of a more profound reinforcement of the above thesis.
Early in my tenure at NHS I attended a G.I. Dogs training class at our shelter. The veterans in the program, American heroes living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury, chatted about the programs meaning to them. A gentleman stood up and said “before I had my service dog I woke up every day and thought about killing myself. Now that I have my dog, I never think about it.” That knocked the wind out of me.
Regardless of your opinion of pets or anything I ever write in this column, never doubt the power of animals in our lives. Put simply it’s unconditional love, it’s acceptance, it’s companionship, it’s adoration—its having someone in your life that is happy to see you no matter what, even when you walk through the door in a cruddy mood. Pets may not be for everyone, but they’re for me and they are part of this community. Northern Nevada saves more than almost anyone—we are the nice list. Buy yourself a present in reward—maybe a cat.