During my three weeks as a Courier Express reporter, I have naturally become an animal advocate, almost without realizing it.
Anything with fur and four legs has always been my friend — a wet nose and a wagging tail or a soft purr and big curious eyes are all signs of comfort to me, things I look forward to being greeted by when I get home every day. Any time a dog’s head is hanging out of a car or a cat is sitting in a window, there I am, telling it how adorable it is.
So, needless to say, I can’t imagine how anyone could abandon those comforts, leaving them behind like they don’t matter — stuck in a field wondering what they did wrong, with no voice to speak up and defend themselves.
I was in touch with local humane societies right away, writing my first “Adopt a Shelter Pet Day” article, even before my first day on the job.
It didn’t take long, though, for one of these stories to come along and break my heart. After hearing of a Punxsutawney woman who abandoned her animal sanctuary — leaving around 300 dogs, cats, horses and cows without a place to go — I was sick. My stomach hurt and my eyes watered, thinking of all those sweet souls who were now homeless and possibly even facing death, none of which they had any control over.
But as upset and angry as I was, I had to pull it together, because I had a platform I didn’t have before — a voice to speak for the silent. As much as the story haunted me to the core, it was something everyone needed to be informed about, and I hoped it would help save these animals’ lives.
I was on the phone immediately with Gateway Humane Society in Falls Creek, asking what I could do to help, and the next morning, I left a bag of dog food, treats and toys on their front step.
I couldn’t help but feel as if I’d lost all faith in humanity. Something I have learned in this line of work, though, is that just when one story breaks your heart, another comes along that almost sews it back together.
It wasn’t a week later that I visited the DuBois Village Personal Care Community, where three dedicated volunteers bring their therapy dogs — little Kiki, DeDe, Allison and Jerry Lee — each Wednesday evening to visit the residents, who look forward to those visits all week.
I stood there in awe for a while, watching each resident pet a dog and the puppies jump on their laps, huge smiles on their faces. They reminisced about their own pets they had to leave behind, and how much they missed them, saying “pet therapy” brought them that unconditional love and companionship again.
I found myself smiling the entire two hours I was there, so overjoyed by the company of the dogs and the residents, and the delight they brought to one another.
In one week, I had to share two different experiences, and write two very different stories. I had dealt with two completely different sides of humanity – one selfish and the other, selfless.
I couldn’t help but think of the dogs in a field 30 miles away who may never get to experience what I had at the Village that night — the loving touch and appreciation they so deserved. I was reminded that life, and people, are going to let you down, time and time again, but it also has a way of leading you to the good, too, just when you begin to think there is none left.
Many people say “animals are just animals.” I, on the other hand, only hope that humans can one day be more like animals — a little more selfless and a lot less selfish.
We, as people, need to do better, and be better, for the furry beings who count on us each and every day. After all, if the roles were reversed, they certainly would do it for us.
Brianne Fleming is a Courier Express writer. She makes her home in Falls Creek.