Just Show Up

Some years ago, my friend Jane told me that one of her guiding life principles is, "Just show up." She has some amazing, heartwarming, hilarious stories about how her life has been affected by following this creed, and her words have stayed with me since she shared them.

This holiday season, I decided to follow her advice and just show up - and my family and I have been deeply changed by the experience. Around Thanksgiving, a volunteer discovered deplorable conditions at our local humane society animal shelter - animals living in filthy outdoor kennels, emaciated, some injured and with signs of illness. She alerted the appropriate people - but it took until December 7 and the threat of freezing rain to mobilize to remove the animals to a temporary shelter an abandoned feed store. That Sunday, I decided to head down to this temporary shelter to donate some items requested.

I thought I was just going to drop things off, but when I saw these dogs, I knew I needed to do more. Twenty of the 78+ animals had been moved to this indoor location and were crated, with blankets, food and water. The others remained on the site. Over the next few days, the rest of the surviving dogs at the original shelter were moved, but despite volunteers' best efforts, the animals' condition worsened. Many of the dogs were even "adopted" out without vetting or their families knowing what their new dogs might be suffering from. Finally, with the generous help of an animal hospital one town over and the vocal persistence of some volunteers, the remaining 50+ dogs were removed and received care. Ten or more dogs that were adopted out were also brought to the hospital for proper vetting. The shelter board paid a little less than half of the bill and the volunteer group formed as a response to this crises has raised money to cover much of the remaining funds needed. The animal hospital held an adoption event, some dogs have been taken by another area rescue, and as of this writing we have only 17 dogs left awaiting homes. We also have a network of folks working to help the cats abandoned on the property.

Our entire family has been involved in this rescue from a rescue. My kids helped feed, water, and walk dogs while we were participating at the temporary shelter. I scrubbed kennels and helped organize, fundraise, and get the word out. My husband helped with the transport of the dogs as well as delivering donated supplies to the animal hospital for the dogs' care. We all drastically altered our usual holiday routine, but working together on something we all care about has been so rewarding for us as a family. We've met some truly passionate, caring people and learned more about our community, too.

And as you might have expected, we also have a new dog! All of our pets are rescues, but none from a situation so dire. There are few, if any, records on most of the animals, but as best we can tell, our dog was there for a year or more. Like most of the other dogs, she was kept on a concrete slab, winter through summer. She was one of the luckier ones that occasionally participated in local "Hike with a Homeless Dog" events, but her interaction with humans and certainly her experience of life as a beloved pet was very, very limited. She has bonded to me and finds comfort sitting with me, sleeping with me, and following me wherever I go. Our existing dog and cat have accepted her and we are slowly working with some of her anxious behaviors as well as her household manners.

We also have a new nonprofit corporation working to solve ongoing animal issues in our community. Learn more here. The task is daunting. Spay/neuter is not the norm here and abandoned pregnant or nursing mother dogs and pups are not uncommon. The existing facility has no structurally sound enclosed spaces. Much of our population lacks significant disposable income, so changing these things will take a lot of work.

As the New Year begins, I'm scrambling to continue to home these dogs, to raise funds for ongoing needs, and to work with the others in the organization to figure out the best path forward. I don't know exactly what that means for Hearth & Gnome - but I'm not going away! So far, it's meant missing a couple of deadlines and less frequent posting on social media, but as things move from crisis mode to management mode with the animals here, I'm moving back toward balance.

Whatever the future holds for animal rescue here or Hearth & Gnome - or other things in 2019 - I plan to stick with Jane's advice and just show up. I'm catching up with circles - the new Sleeping Earth circle has been sent to patrons and is in the shop. I'll churn out the next Spanish circle this week. Once those sets are finished, I have plans to make them available in book form as well as another volume in the Music Garden series to follow Seedlings. I appreciate your patronage, and I sincerely hope you'll keep showing up, too.

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