Warm Hearts Humane Society, Montgomery County, AR

Fully accredited non-profit charity, we are in one of the poorest counties in Arkansas with our main focus getting animals spayed/neutered. Animal overpopulation, neglect, and abuse is rampant. We need homes for unwanted animals as well as foster homes for them until permanent homes can be found, as we have no shelter, animal control, or much of anything else except a group of dedicated and caring people who love animals. Won't you help us?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My First Meeting as an Official Member

Well, I went to the Warm Hearts meeting at the Mt. Ida Civic Center and, as promised, brought food. They were quite happy with that, as they said that no one had ever brought food before to a meeting. Maybe it's just because I am from Louisiana, but where I come from, you never have a get-together without food! Food is such a big part of life, you take pride in your cooking (men and women alike), and you always share, even if it is the last you have. Down there, if someone comes to your house to visit, the first thing you do is to offer them something to eat and drink. That doesn't happen up here. At least I haven't experienced it - sometimes even when the person I have come to visit is eating themselves. They will just say something like, "Sorry to eat in front of you, but..." That would never happen down where I came from. You might be offered something to drink here - might! - but rarely food. This is just such a strange concept for me, as it has been so ingrained in me to offer such hospitality to a guest. Just as it is ingrained in me that you are never rude to a guest in your home, no matter how much you may dislike them. You are polite, perhaps coldly polite, but polite. Up here, I have seen people open the door, see who is standing there, then slam it shut without a word just like I have seen people refuse to answer the door when it is obvious that they are home, and even (gasp!) tell someone to get right back in their vehicle and leave and not to return. Nobody ever drove away from my house drunk, either. Their keys just ended up mysteriously missing until the next morning, forcing them to have to sleep on the couch. Don't get me wrong - I am not putting anyone up here down or anything - every place has different ways, and I have seen some pretty fine people do some pretty nice things since I came up here, especially that first year when we came up with no jobs or the prospect of getting any right off the bat, having the responsibility of a baby and a puppy on us, knowing no one, and just pitched tents to get away from the crime and meanness of the city, determined to start over and live a better life, working hard to get a cabin built before winter (and we did - we tore down barns to do it and picked up cans off the side of the road for gas, just as we foraged for food - Mmmmm, those were good blackberries and pears). We all pitched in together and made it work. Well, all but one of us, who left back for the city, but is back now, trying all over again, but living in much better digs than a tent and not scrambling for survival quite so hard. But I remember that it was the kindness of strangers that year that gave us a nice Christmas dinner. It was quite a surprise when a local church sent us some food, and we really did appreciate it like you wouldn't believe! Now that wouldn't have happened in the city, and that's what I mean by different places having different ways. I love it here and don't ever intend to leave. And I have met some wonderful people here, too.

Virgil was surprised to see the way my family treats each other. We may be extremely angry at another member of the family, but if that same person gets in a bind, we are right there to help. Family is family, and that is that. We had a saying down there about it even - "You can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family. You just have to love them anyway, even if you don't like them much."

Totally irrelevant to the discussion at hand, but then that's another thing you will learn about me - I tend to ramble a bit, but then that's one way you get to know me and the kind of person I am. But then I am just one of those people who believes that a stranger is just a friend I haven't met yet. (Yep, I talk to people in line at stores, too, along with apparently other embarrassing things.) Oh well, I'm me, and I don't try to be anyone else. At least I am nice and friendly, peaceful, love babies, and adore animals of all kinds - even snakes. I even think that mice are cute, if a bit destructive (but then so aren't kittens and puppies?). But not bugs. I can't stand them. At least not most of them. I have been working on that, but there is only so far I can go with it.

Anyway, to get back to the subject at hand, I just brought some sandwiches cut into quarters, some organic baby carrots (I just love those things!), and then I brought a variety of different crackers along with a bag of chips (something I rarely eat, but keep on hand most of the time - mostly for guests, ya know? Never know what someone might want to eat. Ha ha!). The vegetable crisp crackers and the carrots were what were consumed the most, but there was still hardly a dent put in them.

Part of the reason, though, is that there were just so few people there. In fact, I was the only new person to show up, and I have unofficially worked with this group before just as I have worked with other rescue groups, like For the Sake of Animals over in Polk County, as well as ones in other places (In fact, I spent a whole summer volunteering at a shelter called Adopt-A Pet in Shreveport, LA when I was only 14.) So, I wasn't exactly "new" new, just "new" as a formal member and "new" as in attending my first meeting.

I was also the youngest person there (which was not encouraging - don't young people care?), and there wasn't a single man there at all. Unless there is another man who is a member who just wasn't at the meeting, I guess Virgil (my man) will be the only male member of the group. Sad. I can't believe that, in this whole county, there aren't more people who care enough about the horrible animal welfare situation here to actually step up to the plate and at least try to do something to help. In fact, I believe there were only about 6 people there. Rather disappointing, actually. Not exactly surprising from what I have seen since I have lived here the past 11 years, but very disappointing, especially as Kathleen had written her first column in the paper which practically screamed for any kind of help at all and even told people that there was a website naming this county as one of the worst in the South for animal welfare. Is there no shame felt about that? Or, do I dare to hope that there are those who feel it, but that those people just don't know what to do. If it is the latter, and I am desperately hoping so, then why didn't they show up like I did to find out how they could best help????

Even worse than the fact that there were so few people who cared enough to even attend this meeting to find out how they could help was finding out exactly how financially broke this organization truly is. There was no shortage of ideas of how to improve the organization and truly work on the problem (with a large emphasis on spaying and neutering - the very reason I have not put up a sign reading "free kittens until they are unable to reproduce and make the problem worse, even though I really cannot afford to care for this many animals), but the sad part was that even every good idea was tempered with a but...

But, how much will it cost? But, where will we get the money? Even worse, when someone actually did have an idea of how to earn a little (and I do mean a little) money, there was yet another but...

But where will we get enough people to help do this? Who will do it?

I kept finding myself saying, "I will. I can do it. I'll do it." I don't yet know how I will find the time to do all of this, finish building my house, take care of all of these animals, and still get a big new chicken yard expansion built so that they may roam more freely and engage in more natural behaviors, while taking care of the insect problem down by the garden as they fertilize it, and still yet be protected from the dogs and other predators. (Yes, we even take in rescued chickens, too.)

But you could see the doubt in most of the faces there. Obviously they don't know Virgil and me too well. Luckily, Kathleen does, she knows exactly what we are capable of and just how determined Virgil and I are when it comes to helping animals. I mean, they are helpless and totally dependent on us for food, shelter, and love, and they surely didn't ask to be born into their sad situations. It's really the luck of the draw when it comes to whether or not an animal has a good home in this county. It is totally up to the whim of the people who have them there.

It will still be a little while before Virgil can really do anything (long, involved, and personal story I may further share on our own blog at a later date more than I already have), but I can and will do everything humanly possible to help the animals of this county who need it. Just please quit dumping animals on us. We truly cannot take care of any more (well, we can take in more chickens once the expansion is built, but that will probably be next year because we have to get this house to where we won't freeze this winter, and if more animals show up, all of the ones already here will suffer because there won't be enough money no matter how much I sacrifice to take care of anyone properly because I can only stretch it so far, and we are stretched further than what we can afford right now - we are not and will not become what are known as "hoarders." So, anyone even thinking of dumping any more animals here might as well just take them and have them put to sleep. Really. I hate to say it, but it is better than everyone suffering. Besides, none of these animals I have taken in, rehabilitated, and found homes for were my responsibility. My animals are all fixed, and I care for them. You need to do the same. You assumed responsibility for them when you got them - not us. You wouldn't dump your children in the woods because things got tough, now would you? So, please stop dumping animals here. If you truly cannot care for them, you find them a home.

I just wish I had money to give and to care for more animals than I do. If I was rich, that's where it would go - not fancy clothes or cars or anything like that, but to make the world a bit better for those I could help. That's the one thing I don't have (though I did cough up the annual membership dues for our household - it's only $15/individual and $25 for a whole household, so I gave them the $25 for Virgil and me to become members, and if I can do that on my tiny little check I get and find something else to sacrifice this month to pay for it, I believe that others can too, especially those who have jobs. Neither Virgil nor I can ever work again, according to the doctors (in fact, I am a chronic pain patient who will hurt every minute of every day for the rest of my life - getting hit by an 18-wheeler will do that to you, and Virgil isn't any better off, so we will always be scraping by and barely making ends meet,and I really wish that you people would be a bit more responsible and quit pushing your problems off on others, especially those who can least afford it. (We have given our own food to the animals and gone without supper just like we have not filled a prescription when it ran out because the animals needed food - we would do the same for our children, so how can we do any less for those just as helpless and dependent as kids are?) Right now we are also bearing the burden of 6 rescued cats and a rescued dog who has to be treated for mange. So, we can't really afford it, but then, how can we not help when the situation is so very dire and they would be dead without us?

At this point, $25 is really no more than a drop in the bucket as to what Warm Hearts needs, even though it was quite a lot for us, but if more people dug down deep and gave what they could (hey, even some shallow digging would help), it would all add up. Even a little pocket change adds up when a bunch of people give it.

I can understand that not everyone can devote much time and energy to actually going out and spending the entire day sitting in a parking lot trying to find homes for animals or even being able to open their door to a homeless animal. However, $25/year is less than 7 cents/day. I mean, come on. Most people blow more than that in a month, if not in a week. The next time you buy a Coke, think about that. Do you really need that worse than an animal needs food? Is that piece of candy more important than helping to make sure that an animal gets spayed so that she doesn't produce even more unwanted babies who will, in turn, reproduce themselves if they are not spayed? That's the kind of sacrifice I am talking about. Not a big one. I'm not asking anyone to go without food or medicine like we have done, but a few Cokes? When you think of it that way, it isn't really that much of a sacrifice at all, now is it?

I may not have much money. But I do have time, lots of love, and did I mention determination?

I put this website together the day/night I met with Kathleen and she told me how badly Warm Hearts needed help - help I could easily give. I even stayed up all night last night adding features to it and setting Warm Hearts up with their own email address. And I have spent all day today writing this post because not only do I care that much when I see yet another starving animal wander up or work very hard to save a litter of kittens someone dumped in the woods, only to lose them one by one to a tick-borne disease, but I simply do not understand how an entire county full of people can and does allow this to happen. Repeatedly, no less. Now, there is also a site meter I put on here that will tell us how many of you are actually even bothering to read this and, if you don't live in this area and yet still find out about the plight of this small, but dedicated, group of caring people trying to tackle an overwhelming problem of untold horrible suffering, then it will tell us how you found out about this site so that we know better how and where to focus our time and efforts to try and gain funding from outside this area.

There is also now a new feature added that will allow you to subscribe to this blog so that you know when it has been updated so that you won't have to keep coming back to check constantly - just plug your email address into the box, and you will be notified when there is something new to tell. Hopefully that will be often, as we are going to work very hard in a variety of ways to engage a larger part of the community (and if you have any ideas, please share them!), and we will also be announcing events we will be holding to raise funds, not to mention keeping you up-to-date with the wonderful animals who are literally just dying to share their love with you if you but open your hearts and homes to them.

Finally, there will also be what resources we can find to help educate people, as I have noticed that quite a bit of abuse/neglect is simply caused by ignorance and myth, like the so-called "fact" that it is necessary to half-starve a hunting dog to train them to hunt or that physical punishment will stop unwanted behaviors - the most common being the belief that rubbing a puppy's nose in his/her own waste and then administering a whipping will stop this behavior.

Well, I am here to tell you that these are both untrue. I have potty-trained many many puppies through the years, most within a week, and all of them with positive reinforcement (and I will be more than glad to help you do this if you but write and ask). A puppy has the natural desire to please you, and if you simply take them outside just as soon as they are finished eating, they will do their business out there. Then, as opposed to whipping them and/or fussing at them, you praise them over and over again, always using the exact same wording (I tend to use good puppy! - potty outside!, whereas, if they go in the house, I simply tell them "no!" potty outside!," thus the words "potty outside" are the ones that are repeated every single time - just as with children, consistency is the key here) and this is usually accompanied by a reward of a treat of some kind. I start out with actual dog biscuits or a type of treat like that, accompanied by lots of petting, praise, and love, then eventually drop the edible treat and leave nothing but the praise as they get older and have already learned what they are supposed to do. When they learn that this behavior is what makes you happy and that they are rewarded for doing it, they will continue to do it until it is a habit. Doggie doors are especially helpful, especially if you will be gone for awhile each day, and you can just make your own like we have. This new little rescue learned in two days to go outside and now uses the doggie door without me saying a word. But I always keep treats handy for when I have to do something unpleasant, like give them a shot or some nasty-tasting medicine, bathe and/or dip them, pick a tick off their face, or something equally "torturous." It really takes so little to make them happy and well-behaved. And, for that, they give you their all and love you unconditionally with their whole heart, being there for you whenever you are down, listening to you whenever you have a problem - all without judgment. JUST LOVE.

And, as for starving a dog to get them to hunt, well, Virgil used dogs to hunt for years and rightly points out that these dogs need a good quality food to have the calories to even be able to properly and healthily engage in the added requirements put upon their bodies to run through the woods for hours on end chasing prey for you. They are also more inclined to do what you want them to and go after the species you want them to if they aren't starving and putting all of their energy into just finding something to eat. He doesn't hunt anymore, and our dogs are not required to do anything they don't want to do except get vaccinated and treated for parasites and things like that. They are just members of the family and pretty much do as they please as long as they cause no harm to others or property that isn't theirs.

I could go on and list other problems and how to deal with them, but I will save them for another post, as I believe you get the basic idea.

Positive reinforcement and love work better and win hands-down over negativity and fear every time.

It's way past time for an attitude change towards animals in this county and for the citizens who live here to catch up with other, more enlightened, parts of the country where strays are not a problem, and animals certainly are not dumped and/or shot. Let's all do our part to help wipe off the taint of shame, educate the ignorant (most of them aren't stupid - just ignorant because they have never been shown anything else or any other way in the same way that abused children often grow up to either be abusers themselves or marry them and continue to be abused themselves).

If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. Because life is not just about what you do, but also about what you don't do when you should.

Let's break the chain and stop the cycle so that we can hold our heads high when we say we are from Montgomery County, AR, where we all do our part to ensure that no animal is unwanted or unloved, much less mistreated. Most people in this county are devout Christians who take their religion seriously and truly believe that Jesus is their personal Savior. You often even see the now-common little bracelets people wear to help remind themselves to be better Christians.

Well, what would Jesus do in cases like those listed above????????

Would HE starve a dog? Hit or kick one? Rub a puppy's nose in their own waste?

Above all, would HE dump babies in the woods to fend for themselves????

I think not.

"Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission - to be of service to them whenever they require it."
--St. Francis of Assisi

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."
--Unknown

You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who
can do nothing for them, or to them."
--Malcolm Forbes, 1919-1990

"Dogs are like children, they act like the people who raise them."
--Unknown

"I have learned that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness is to be expected only from the very strong."
--Leo Rosten

1 Comments:

  • At 6:13 PM, Anonymous rift said…

    Dearest Laura,
    I love the way you (and Virgil) ramble, digress, tangent and sidenote on your blogs!! :)

    And thank goodness the two of you are in that "rough" part of the country, doing all you do, helping the animals!

    Just wanted to wish you luck and strength in your new venture for Warm Hearts...

     

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