Welcome to the Animal Care League! Please come in. The people here have asked me to tell you a bit about what happens here on a typical day. They’re expecting an awful lot from a dog, because every day at the shelter is different. But I do spend a lot of time up front with the staff, as well as the time I hang out with the dogs, so I am in a position to know how everything works — I’ll give it my best shot.
The days start early, with kennel and clinic staff arriving first. We dogs and cats are always glad to see them, as we haven’t seen a person since the night before, and some of us need to get out, if you catch my drift. Kennels are cleaned, we all have breakfast, and some people come in to drop off pets who have appointments at the low-cost spay/neuter clinic here. We wistfully watch the pets come in — lucky dogs (and cats). They’ll be going home tonight, they have people. I used to be a pet, and I remember how it was.
On most days, volunteers also start coming in. That means the dogs will be going for walks and the cats will be able to play with people. Some volunteers do other things. I saw Ivana come in, and that means some of the new dogs will be getting a bath — and not a moment too soon. I also saw Laurie, which always means one of my messier pals is going to be groomed. Fair or not, I’ve learned that looks count in pet adoption. I’m a fine-looking short haired dog myself so I don’t need much grooming, but some of the animals who come here need serious attention.
I just saw the Oak Park Animal Control van pull up. Yes, here comes animal control officer Jason with a dog. Oh dear, the poor fella looks scared to death. I’ll hear his story later, when I’m catching up with the office staff. He could be a stray who was picked up on the street, or he could be somebody’s pet who got out of the yard. If he’s somebody’s pet, they’ll probably come looking for him later today. If he’s a stray, he’ll find out that it’s really very nice here, and there’s no need to be afraid. In just a few minutes he’ll go into a big clean kennel with a blanket and toys and good food. I hope he can calm down enough to get some sleep. Here, we have everything a cat or dog needs.
Would you like to know where the animals at the Animal Care League come from? Almost all of us, except the ones who came here as part of a homeless litter of newborn puppies or kittens, were once pets. Some of us, we’re embarrassed to say, are classic strays. We got out of the house or yard, couldn’t find our way back, and our people couldn’t find us. We’re lucky to be in a shelter instead of starving and dodging cars on the street. Others of us thought we were home for good, but somehow, things didn’t work out. Our people had to move and couldn’t take us, somebody developed an allergy, or there were so many problems in the house that taking care of the pet wasn’t anybody’s priority. So they brought us to the shelter. I’ve got to admit that it’s hard on a cat or dog to go from being a pet to living in an animal shelter. But in a way we’re lucky, because at least our people brought us somewhere where we’d be taken care of.
It’s late in the afternoon now, and adoption hours are winding down. Two dogs and two cats were adopted, and we’re all happy for them. Nobody looked at me today, but I don’t take it personally. Everybody is looking for something different, and I know that someday soon I’ll appeal to just the right family, and they’ll take me home. It just didn’t happen today. Maybe tomorrow.
Another day is coming to an end. More kennel staff comes in to clean up and give us our dinner. More volunteers come in to play with the cats and walk the dogs. But after a while they go home, and we animals stay here. We all have blankets in our cages, and we settle in for the night. You’ll hear a little whimper or a howl now and then, but eventually all is quiet. We get a good night’s sleep, and we wait for tomorrow. It’s going to be somebody’s lucky day.