Let me just get this out before I go any further: I’m not much of a pet person. If I were, I’d come down in the cat category. I much prefer being ignored by a soft fuzzy thing with a purring motor than being drooled on by a slavering fuzzy thing whose idea of unconditional love is to jump on me and sniff where I don’t want to be sniffed. (And don’t even get me started on those mud bowls known as dog parks.) I much prefer the company of sentient humans, the ones who can express themselves in words.
That said, even my stony little heart can melt when it comes to the animal kingdom. For Seattle Met’s annual Pets and Vets feature, we held a contest inviting readers to submit stories and photos of their furred, feathered, and scaly best friends. Of the hundreds of entries we received (news flash: Seattle loves animals) I was sobered—and shocked—by the numbers of dogs and cats that had come from animal shelters, humane societies, and “11th hour” sanctuaries. Their previous owners had been unable to care for them, got tired of the responsibility, left them to roam the streets, or outright abused them. According to Humane Society statistics, as many as eight million cats and dogs enter the nation’s 3,500 shelters every year, and only about half are placed in homes. Most of the others are euthanized. The promising news is that the number of homeless and unwanted animals being put to death, though still way too high, has plunged in the last 40 years. And just as I was writing this, Seattle Humane Society announced it was joining 40 other shelters around the country in a campaign called No-Kill Monday, a first step toward its goal of No-Kill America.
So when you encounter the winning entries in our contest and the runners up, you’ll meet three dogs, one cat, and a bunny who owe their lives to generous owners who give safety and love to formerly unwanted animals.
And Allison Williams’s feature about the Prison Pets Partnership shows how a service-dog training program based at the Cedar Creek Corrections Center south of Olympia enriches the lives of inmates, homeless animals, and the community—even more evidence for the value of the bond between animals and our own species, and an increased understanding of the connections we share.