As I often say, we see the best and worst in people in our business. Take this past week, which started with this email message:
“I need to get rid of these three dogs. One of them is half boxer and something else and the other 2 is rottweiler [sic] and I just really need to get rid of them. They’re just taking up to much room for me and my family.”
Wow. I haven’t seen a message worded so bluntly, with so much detachment. As the only open-admission shelter in Monterey County, we responded as we always do, informing the owner that we should be seen as a last resort after they’ve exhausted other efforts to rehome their dogs…that we rehome all healthy animals, that we make well most animals with health and behavior challenges, but can’t make any promises. We assess animals carefully and individually.
On April 28, the Monterey Herald ran a Letter to the Editor from a Seaside resident. The writer promoted low-cost spay/neuter, made claims about animals being tortured and dumped, and criticized the SPCA and other local rescue groups for spending “virtually zero dollars” on spay/neuter. The letter made many inaccurate points, so we responded with this as yet unpublished letter.
I joke that our shelter is like the 1980’s classic sitcom Cheers. Our volunteer group is 350 strong, filled with a cast of colorful characters, and the Cheers opening theme “Everybody knows your name” applies to the regulars. Meet two from our Cat Adoption floor, Benny and Susan.
Benny has lived a few lives, much like the cats he watches over at the SPCA. He spent four years in the Navy as an air traffic controller, sold Armani and Hugo Boss suits, then found a career in the hotel, restaurant and bar business. This included a stint as assistant manager at the Phoenix at Nepenthe in Big Sur and bartender at Rocky Point Restaurant, just south of Carmel. Like the bartender from Billy Joel’s Piano Man, “quick with a joke or a light of your smoke” applies to Benny.
Benny invested well and retired early and that was good for us and the animals. He began volunteering with the SPCA four years ago just to “get out of the house” and he found much more than that. He spends four or five hours in our cat adoption wing every Monday and Wednesday. Sam “Mayday” Malone’s charm with Cliff Clavin’s gift of gab. That’s Benny.
If it should be that I grow frail and weak,
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done?
You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hands,
We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so,
When the time comes, please let me go.
Take me to where my needs they’ll tend,
Only, stay with me until the end
And hold me firm and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree,
It is a kindness you do for me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don’t grieve that it must be you,
Who has to decide this thing you do.
We’ve been so close – we two – these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears. – author unknown
I trust many of you have seen this poem. It gets me every time, especially the last line. When I think about the final days, minutes and seconds with my last dog, Cooper, I lose it. If I think about the end with Murray, our perfectly healthy 11-year-old, I well-up. We can’t bear to think about losing our recent addition JoJo and she’s just 11 months old with hopefully 12-15 years ahead of her. I think about special relationships that family, friends and co-workers have with their pets and the loss they will feel someday, and that gets me.
Eric Clower, the SPCA’s super-talented Maintenance Manager, oversees all aspects of our 200+ acre campus. Our resident MacGyver tackles complicated HVAC systems, maintains a small fleet of vehicles, and chases down water intrusions from rooftops in a single bound. He didn’t wake up last Wednesday morning thinking he’d be building a turtle platform. But, it’s what he did and it’s among the many reasons I love this organization.
The backstory: our equally talented Humane Investigations Supervisor, Marty Opseth, was out playing a round of golf. Knowing he was with the SPCA, the golf course staff brought him their animal-related dilemma: turtles in their man-made pond were having trouble sunning themselves, clinging to the pond’s steep edge. Aquatic turtles, as some of you know, need sunlight. They spend the good part of their day basking in it. Basically, they live the lives of Kardashians.