“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” – Emma Lazarus
Before you get any further, realize that this is going to be a polarizing article. I’m not here to make friends, I’m not here to write about the “feels good” topics of puppies nor stories of bonding with your dog. Today I write for a completely different reason, and I truly hope you understand why.
There are an (estimated) 7.6 million cats and dogs who are homeless (approximately 3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats.). Nowhere to go, and since nobody wants them, they end up in shelters. Of that 7.6 million, 2.7 million of these animals are killed, simply because they are the criminals whose only crime was having no place to go. Most are harmless. Some are innocent puppies and kittens. All are scared. None deserve death for the crimes perpetrated against them by some humans: not providing for them, not caring for them, and abandoning them. They literally have nowhere else to go.
We’ve heard of their plight, and have offered assistance to them; not just domestically, but abroad. Russia, South Korea, among so many others.
It doesn’t matter where the dog is from; all we see is an animal in need, and animal struggling to survive. An innocent who needs our help. I love how passionate animal rescuers are about this. We go the extra mile (or thousand) to bring these animals to sanctuary here in the USA. We make generous donations to fund these rescue missions. We make room in our already-crowded shelters for them. Somehow we make it work. Dog is dog is a dog is a dog, as Gertrude Stein might have written. It doesn’t matter where that dog is from; it matters that it’s a living being in danger and in need. We open our already full hearts and let them in.
Which is why I’m so confused.
On Friday, Donald Trump issued an executive order which, as the New York Times worded it,
”…indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.”
You may be Republican or Democratic. You may be neither, preferring another party altogether. What you cannot be is untouched by the repercussions that this will have. Homelessness isn’t something that is country specific. It’s not something that only applies to pets. It’s a human issue, too. And it ends just as tragically for humans as it does for companion animals.
Are you shocked? Are you angry? Are you upset that I’d post such a picture?
Because those of us who are active in rescue need to be active in all forms of rescue. If we can’t be pro-active, we need at least not hinder those who are seeking asylum. Because innocent victims of war, famine and poverty can be human, too. And because if the thought of dogs suffering in China makes you more upset than the thought of a child huddled in a bombed-out town, I seriously question whether you are human yourself.
The argument that some immigrants and refugees may be dangerous is also moot. I’ve rescued many, many dogs. And guess what? Some of them were dangerous. But not a lot. Not even a fraction. I was more than willing to risk the (very) few dangerous ones to save so many other lives. And yes, there was always the risk of getting bit, but it was worth it. More than anything I’ve ever done.
So by now I’m sure I’ve lost a few of you. Maybe a lot of you. But this isn’t a political post. It’s a humanitarian post. We are all connected, regardless of where we came from. So many times on the Darwin Dogs’ Facebook page I’ve asked my followers what is your favorite breed of dog, and the overwhelming response is always “mutts” or “mixed breeds”. It’s the diversity in the dog that makes it so wonderfully unique, so strong, so much healthier.
We need our diversity in this wonderful United States of America. It keeps us strong and healthy. It bonds us together and is what built this great nation. Accept the unique, the strange, the *gasp* differences between us as something to be celebrated rather than vilified and feared. That quote at the top of this article, the one we all know it from the Statue of Liberty? Most of us didn’t know it was written by a woman named Emma Lazarus. How fitting the name, “Lazarus”, to come back from death. They are just words until we take action to make them a reality.
In closing, remember the compassion that drives us to rescue. Remember why we do it: to end suffering. Let’s just remember that suffering isn’t something that is limited only to animals, and let it be proven that dogs don’t have the monopoly on love. There’s the saying about trying to be the person my dog thinks you are. Even above that, try to be the person your dog would be: color blind and full of only acceptance and love, no matter what your circumstances or where you came from.
Dog Training Rescuing in Cleveland, Ohio