Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Baby, it's cold outside

Here, in our little corner of this vast, wide world, winter has been particularly bleak.

Now, I love winter, more so than high summer, however, we’ve had endlessly wet, grey days, with icy blasts from the south west that would make an Emperor Penguin feel perfectly at home.

Sadly though, the same can’t be said for so many animals that have to endure less than comfortable conditions in their short lives.
Hungry, abused and neglected, the winter extremes are miserable for them as they try to find whatever little nook they can – if they can – to avoid the bone deep chills that come up from the ground and air around them.

Man has “domesticated” once wild, yet trusting, creatures so that they formed strong bonds, and on whom they rely heavily for nourishment and comfort.
Many are very fortunate, and live well with their humans. But, too many aren’t.

Recently, I was snuggled up in bed with Jack beside me one frosty, foggy morning.

I watched him as he slept. His amber tinted paws and velvety black ears twitching in a doggy dream.

Daring not to disturb his deep slumber, I whispered, “you are one of the lucky ones, my baby”.

I mentally counted his “resting stations” throughout the house. Soft, comfy spots to ensure he has a place to ease his old bones.
There are six. Not including our bed. To a dog and a cat, this revered of all domains, is pride of place in the home.
The inner sanctum where the heads of their tribe sleep.

When hubby gets up (usually around 4:30am), Jack leaves his plump bed by my dresser and comes to the side of our bed to be picked up, where he’ll curl contentedly next to me as I snooze for a little while longer.

A little after dawn that morning, I woke and stared through the window at the trees outside as heavy fog gripped their branches with misty tendrils. I thought about how animals are faring “out there” in the cold, while we lay toasty and warm.

A luxury often taken for granted.

I believe in synchronicity. And, on that day, I saw a plea for bedding donations on the Pet’s Haven Animal Shelter facebook page.

This spurred me to search online for doonas/duvets.
Even though markets have been few and far between in the winter, I decided that the pennies I’d been squirreling away for a rainy day (I was saving for some kitchen utensils), should be used for a better purpose instead.

And this, was that rainy day.

I saw Kmart was selling cosy and washable bedding at great prices. So, my son (home on term break) and I took a trip there, and came out with an armload of S/B doonas and a snuggly pet bed.

Score another point for synchronicity…

I very rarely go to shopping malls or chain stores like Kmart.  So, what were the chances that I would bump into a friend, who I hadn’t seen since Christmas – outside that very store that I rarely go to, at that very moment on that particular day?
My friend said that she herself rarely went to this store also.

It just so happens that she “owes” me twelve dollars. I was never interested in having it paid back. I told her all those months ago, that she could “buy me a coffee”, whenever we caught up again.

As my friend pulled the money from her purse, I said I’d be ever grateful if she would go back in and pick up a dog bed instead. I told her with a smile, “then, we’re square”.

And so, with cushiony billows of warmth, my son and I headed home.

 Are these all for me, mum?

No sweetie, they go to those less fortunate than you :)

Pet's Haven Animal Shelter is a non-government funded, “pro life” organization that rescues and re-homes cats and dogs of all ages that would otherwise have no future - or a very bleak one.
Volunteers and foster carers offer their time and love freely in the hope of giving these animals a better chance to live a long, and most importantly, happy life with loving families.
Their site regularly posts updates and “happy home tails” of cats and dogs in their new, forever homes.

Seeing as Pet’s Haven is a two hour drive from home, I considered taking our donated bedding to one of their “drop off points”.  But, when I told hubby of my plans that evening, he chipped in with, “I’ll take you to the shelter on the weekend. It’ll be a nice drive and we can get coffee after”. Sweet.

We set out for the country town of Woodend on Sunday.
When we dropped off our bundle of bedding, I asked one of the volunteers if it would be alright to say hello to the cats and dogs awaiting adoption, and asked for permission to take pictures.

Walking around the cages and enclosures, our hearts grew heavy.

To think these beautiful creatures were once malnourished, abused, neglected, or awaiting time on the pound’s death row, before being taken in by this generous shelter, fed and cared for, ready for adoption.

Staring out at us, there was a glimmer in their eyes - a soul's spark, with an unending capacity to please and to love.  Even now, after all they have been through.

Fighting the rising lump in his throat, hubby could take it no longer and told me he’d wait outside until I was ready to leave.

As it was the middle of the day, quite a few were snoozing and not interested in coming forward.
They looked so peaceful.

Some of the more energetic little dogs were being prepared for a walk.

I continued on. Then, I saw this gentle young lady named, Zoe.

Instantly, she captured my heart with an endearing look of hope that I might well be her new family.
And, it nearly killed me to know that I couldn’t bring her home.

I sat with her for the longest time. She would make such a lovely companion.
She has trust in her heart, regardless of the circumstances which led her to be rescued. 

The look in her eyes haunts me still.
I was awake at 1:30 this morning, crying. Thinking of her. There was a connection.
Turning my back and leaving was so very difficult.

I walked out into the grey winter light, blinking back tears.

Hubby and I drove in silence, as we searched for a place to sit and collect ourselves.
Coffee - good coffee - helps at times like these.

It was a rather solemn drive home.

Our “doona run to Woodend”, will become a ritual journey at the beginning of every winter from now on, along with donations to help out whenever I can.

If anyone has old quilts, blankets, pillows, cushions or towels - please, please consider gifting them to your local animal shelter.
There are many ways to support them.
I know most people who read my blog already do, I’m sure, and have opened their hearts to a lucky orphan or two.  Homeless no more.

Most shelters rely on the kindness of good folk to help, in any way they can.
Every little bit helps, as the costs of food, shelter, transport, advertising and veterinary bills continue to rise at an alarming rate.

Saving one animal will not change the world.
But for that one animal, the world will change forever.

Goodnight sweet Zoe  xxx


  1. Tears here this morning.
    Both our rescue babies are safe, warm, loved and pampered. Unlike so many. Too many.
    And yes, we do give (often) to our local shelters. But I think I need to dig deeper.
    Thanks Vicki. And hugs.

    1. Jazz and Jewel are such perfectly beautiful examples of "happy home tails" too. Your home is theirs forever, and your love for them is so evident.
      Thank you, EC xx

  2. This is brilliant. Just really wonderful. Well done.

    Especially for visiting the shelter afterwards. I felt myself tense up when I knew you were posting photos because it's just a total heartbreaker. It's so hard. That beautiful Zoe dog. The tears are spilling out of my eyes now, both because of her and the lovely thing that you did.

    1. Thank you Sue.
      It is hard, very hard, to see such magnificent animals that need good, loving homes.
      Thanks to shelters like Pet's Haven, and generous, big hearted people, at least a few more have a chance at a happy life.

      And, I wish for some wonderful people to fall in love with darling Zoe and take her home - very soon.

  3. Oh, I am praying hard that Zoe gets a home. My heart nearly stopped when I saw her photo because she looks exactly like my Amanda Lou who has been in heaven for many years. If I could afford it, I'd charter a plane, fly to Australia and bring Zoe home with me. I hope so much that all shelter animals get good 'forever' homes, even though I know most won't. Still, it's better than being out on the streets. Bless you, Vicki, and everyone who helps animals.


    1. I wish you could take Zoe home too, Victoria. She is a heart melter, with the kindest disposition.
      We must keep hoping and praying for happy endings for dear orphaned animals, the world over.
      I'm so very glad this particular shelter is pro-life. They work tirelessly to re-home the animals they rescue - with very high results.

      Keep sending out good wishes to the Universe for Zoe, and her friends. I'm sure her human family will come along very soon.
      I just wish it could be me.

  4. this.
    why i love you.
    from the very first.
    and anyone who has ever saved an animal from abuse or neglect ....
    well. they are just different. they never forget that you helped them.
    they seem to spend the rest of their wonderful lives giving back love and gratitude.
    we have a sanctuary here called 'second chance.' it' s like your pet haven.
    and you know where my heart is. and where my extra money goes!
    i'm not as courageous as you. i cannot bring myself to go through the lines of them in their little cells like you did.
    i just cannot. but still. there are things that i can do. our second chance is ever in need of chew toys too as well as blankets. so easy to give.
    but how i admire YOU for that gift of love they felt from you as you walked through their world.
    it just had to have brightened their day. at least a little bit. bless you dear one.
    and hug our beloved jack even closer for me. such wonderful pictures of him here.
    ...furever. ♥

    1. Dearest Tam. Kindred spirit and Gemini soul sister.
      I know where your heart is - ever always in the right place.
      Not a selfish bone in your body, and fierce campaigner for animal injustice.
      The voiceless ones thank you also.
      Furver ♥

  5. Oh Vicki, I KNOW! It is so heartbreaking to look into those little pleading eyes.... long long ago, when my husband first started his career (age 19), he was the newspaper's stringer, meaning he got all of the tiny meaningless jobs none of the "real" photographers wanted, including Pet of the Week at the local shelter. He took that assignment and made it real, worked as hard on those pet photos as he did when he later went to Iraq, and it made a difference. He came home every week saddened by what he had seen. He ended up putting together a picture story of the shelter, including photos of a truck bed full of dogs that had been euthanized. It woke some people up!
    If I were closer we would be taking those blankets together!

    1. That's amazing, Tracey. I wish there were more guys in the world like your Gerry. Huge hearted, strong conscience and unyielding sense of injustice. Not afraid to confront people with the truth through his photos - that really brings it home to people.
      If actions speak louder than words, then, images shout undeniable truth.

  6. First. thank god for people like you. Thank you for doing what you did. The world needs more people like you.
    Second, it's none of my business and I'm sure you have excellent reasons but...I would have taken Zoe home if I were you.
    You don't need to answer that question as to why you didn't. I know you would have if you could have....but that's the reason I can not go into the shelters and even look because I would take one home with me...in fact I'm dealing with a situation right now involving two older Goldens needing homes at a kill shelter. I got the male a great home but the home for the female has fallen through....I'm very upset with the whole situation. I'm in constant contact via Facebook with her caretaker at the shelter. Several dogs have been put down for lack of space and she's been there for 6 weeks. I'm starting to cry as I type this. My house is so full...I'm praying someone will adopt her soon.

    1. Hi Cindi,
      I want to say how much I admire what you do for abandoned and neglected animals. Your big heart, endless patience and huge capacity to love them, outshine many people that I know. You are such a wonderful person.

      I knew there might be the chance that I’d fall for a dog (or two, or three) when I went to the shelter.
      I was right. And, it was so very hard to leave.
      Believe me when I say, I don’t take these things lightly.
      And, yes, I do have very good reasons why I couldn’t take Zoe home, there and then - as much as I dearly wished to.
      The least being, I couldn't just "take her home" without laying down $450 (which I don't have right now) after a very intensive interview as to why I would want to adopt.

      I could go into the rest of the reasons here, but it would be a long read. Nor, do I feel the need to defend my reasons.

      Given the fact that some local/Melbourne people read my blog, I am hoping that there is a chance that this post reaches someone who falls for Zoe, or one of the cats/dogs at Pet’s Haven.
      My wish is that I have hopefully done a good thing to help :)

      Considering that Pet’s Haven is a pro-life (no kill) shelter - more so than many of the other shelters I hear about - I am sure Zoe (and friends) will find their forever homes very soon. If you check out their facebook page, I’m sure you’ll agree they work unceasingly to re-home animals.

      I truly hope the Golden girl has a good home to go to very soon. I'll be wishing she does. And, thank you for trying so very hard xx

  7. Vicki, I stopped back to reread my comment. I was worried that you might be offended and I definitely didn't want to do that.
    I know you have reasons and you don't need to explain/defend anything. xoxo
    I'm so glad to read that it is a no-kill shelter. The shelter that I wrote about unfortunately is not. They try not to put down any healthy and adoptable pets but lately they have been overrun with animals.
    The Goldens were dropped off by their owners because they were "moving South". Truly it breaks my heart.
    I was shaking my head over the $450 fee. It's common here too, that Rescue groups and other places that care for abandoned pets charge such high adoption fees. They also seem to make people jump through hoops to adopt anyone. I realize they have a lot of expenses to cover and operate their organizations and the application process is to make sure that the pets go to ideal homes but it does get frustrating.
    The people I knew that went to look at the girl Golden brought their dog along for a meet up. But the shelter personnel took their dog away from them and held it on a slip leash. He was very worried about what was happening and kept looking at his owners. Then they brought out the Golden who has been cooped up for weeks and came bouncing out in excitement towards them. Well, this caused their dog to bark at her and give her a growl. He didn't know what was going on, he was protecting his people.
    I know this family very well. This dog is very low key and if the shelter people would have handled it differently, I know the outcome would have been entirely different. Instead they jerked the Golden away and took her back to the kennel area. They said "Well! THAT was a definite NO!" My people were broken-hearted and when I heard about it I just wanted to cry. It would have been the perfect home as they dote on their pets.
    Sometimes I feel like I need to get into another profession so that I don't constantly have these poor abandoned pets in my face.
    Truly, my heart just can't take it.

    And..for $450. people will go out and buy a bright and shiny new puppy.
    Yep. it's all too sad.

    1. Cindi, I am so very sad for the Golden. And, that she has lost her chance at being a part of that family.
      The shelter people’s reactions on the initial meeting between these dogs is possibly 'over' reactionary. Any dog owner knows that it takes time (sometimes, lots of it) to accustom some dogs with another.
      First time meetings often aren’t a good indicator of “suitability”.
      But, seeing it from a shelter’s perspective, they have possibly seen/heard too many horror stories, and have taken back dogs that didn't work out - which just mucks up the orphaned dogs' heads too much, and is so unfair for them. Bringing a new, “damaged” dog into a home with established dog/s can be difficult, and sometimes, disastrous – in the wrong hands.
      I imagine the shelter wants to ensure a smooth, happy encounter right from the start.

      Years ago, I took in a female German Shepherd who'd come from a wrecking yard. She was malnourished, defensive and snarly. Within a month, she was a different dog. She, and my own German Shepherd, Max, became inseparable.
      “Jessie” turned out to have the sweetest temperament - around small farm animals and children too. With love, time and patience, she never showed aggression ever again - once she knew she was loved forever. And, she lived a long, happy life.
      So, it is very possible, as you know. It does (or can) take time.

      I understand the cost of the adoption fee covers the sterilisation of every dog they take in, then vaccinations (kept up to date), worming etc. And, I guess it discourages (hopefully) the "wrong sorts" who might take a dog and not treat it well - if it comes "cheap".
      And, I guess the thought is that, if one can't afford the initial $450, then one can't afford to keep a dog healthy and well.
      I'm guessing that could also be a reason.

      Your relating of the Golden girl's encounter brings me to another of the reasons why I couldn’t take Zoe... When I told them I had a Blue Heeler, immediately, the wall went up. There was a "bristling" of manner. I get it. Australian Cattle Dogs' temperaments can be "difficult" when it comes to meeting strange dogs. And, often it takes a very long time for them to acquaint themselves with another dog in their own home - their territory.
      And, their very fierce loyalty to their human companion knows no bounds.
      Jack is thirteen years old. He hasn't lived with another dog in the house since he was a pup, is arthritic, partially blind and is going deaf - his dependence on me is very, very strong. Stronger than ever. He literally never leaves my side when I'm home.

      If I was to handle Zoe with Jack off to one side, naturally, his protectiveness and jealousy would kick in. Much barking to, "get away from my mum".
      I too would have been given the same reaction the people with the Golden girl got.
      And, Zoe would have been taken away too, whilst telling me a firm "no", I'm sure.

      I knew the scenario would work that way. And I didn't want to put sweet Zoe (who's been through enough), my dear old Jack (who wouldn't understand) and myself (who should've known better) through all that.

      The profession that you work in is indeed one of the very hardest for those (like you) who have so much compassion, and strive to give animals a second, better chance at life.
      I take my hat off to you, and those like you. You need a medal for the amount of times your heart breaks over and over, as you fight to save animals from the worst fate.
      They all deserve a chance at a happy life, however long they remain on this earth.
      I wish I could give you a hug in those dark hours xx

  8. what a lovely, heart-wrenching, bitter-sweet post.

    lots and lots of hugs to you and to your family. for doing all these wonderful and caring things.

    oh, and where did i pop in from? :-) from "the peanut on the table" blog. certainly a friend of her's, would be a wonderful blogger to meet.

    gentle hugs,
    (in the midst of hot, hot, hot summer, up in the usa)

    1. Dear Tessa, so lovely to see you here :)
      Thank you for your kind words - they mean a lot.

      Our lovely Tam is a dear, sweet soul. Any friend of Tam's... :)

      Warm wishes to you, from the winter side of the world.

  9. Beautiful and heart-wrenching post. I was dog sitting last week and he was a rescued dog. I had to be careful sweeping because he puts his head down so scared even after being in a most loving of family for three years. It breaks my heart to know he was so harmed as a puppy---he is so loving and so careful around the children. Now he is where he belongs giving his unconditional love. There will be new blankets sent out to the shelter who kept and cared for this lovely once-orphaned, this furry and wondrous gift... Thank you, Vicki...

    1. Thank you dear Charlene. Always kind and compassionate.
      I does me good to read how many wonderful people have opened their hearts and homes to rescue animals.
      Restores my sometimes (often) failing faith in humanity.

      Many hearts can do so much good xx

  10. I'm a little teary-eyed myself now after seeing these photos. Even more glad now that I rescued Angel. His siblings are still at their home with their mum, none are being fed enough and the kittens are semi feral now, cannot be approached or touched. And far too small for their age.

    Angel has a proper cat igloo type bed which he refuses to get into, a cardboard box with a soft blanket which he refuses to get into, a mat beside my bed which he refuses to sleep on. So where does he sleep? On my pillow during the day, at night I push him towards the end of the bed as he is too heavy now to sleep on my chest or across my throat as he used to.

    1. I thought of you and Angel when I was writing this post, and how lucky he was that you took him in.
      He is such a beautiful boy and has been able to grow to his potential.
      I also am sad for his siblings.

      Your "sacred sleeping place" is very special to him.


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