It's August 26th, and unbeknownst to me before I woke up this morning, it's also apparently National Dog Day.
What exactly does that mean? If my social media feed is any indication, it means a chance for everyone I know to share photos and happy stories about beloved pets. It means a chance for businesses to use our affection for pets as click bait to get more likes, comments, or shares on a post that looks like it's about pets but is really about generating profit.
So I went to the source. I had to know, what is National Dog Day anyway, and who the heck decided it was today?
According to the website, nationaldogday.com,
"National Dog Day is celebrated August 26th annually and was founded in 2004 by Pet & Family Lifestyle Expert and Animal Advocate, Colleen Paige, also the founder of National Puppy Day, National Mutt Day and National Cat Day and many more philanthropic days to bring attention to the plight of animals and encourage adoption."
There it is. The day was started to raise awareness for shelter pets and to encourage philanthropic giving.
Let me back up a minute....
My dog died. Last May. A light in my world blinked out and suddenly I was plunged into a months-long abyss of avoiding the grief that threatened to roll over me at any moment. Because in order to squash one emotion, you pretty much have to squash them all. Lately though, my defenses have begun to crumble.
I awoke this morning in a fog of saddened dreams. I dreamed of my dog and her death and in the way dreams like to distort things, of having abandoned her when she needed me most. Though that part didn't actually happen. I came to before my alarm with tears in my eyes and a heaviness in my chest.
A literal one.
Because even though I was asleep, my other dog, Sawyer, knew already that something was wrong. And there he was, lying on top of me - a completely uncharacteristic move for him. I awoke to dreams of painful loss only to find him there. "Hey mom, I know you're sad. But it's going to be okay. I'm here, I need you. Let's get through this day."
Then he helped me make the coffee, a not uncharacteristic move, and stayed by my side all morning until I left the house. And in his steady company I was reminded, again, why we do the work we do here every day.
When I got to work, the first thing I saw was a new owner surrender form on our front counter. Before I even made it in today someone had come and relinquished three dogs. Tiny, terrified things now cowering in the back of a kennel. Rather than sit and hold and try to comfort them, as comforting as a complete stranger in a terrifying place can be, we gave them shots. We held their mouths open and forced them to eat a liquid de-wormer. We weighed them and checked their teeth (they need dental help), their ears, and felt through their matted fur to the trembling bodies beneath. All necessary but uncomfortable processes for newly sheltered animals.
And as all of this was happening, in the same room, kenneled nearby were three dogs brought in from a foster home. Two who belonged to that home and the lucky guy who got a safe place, a second chance, in their care. They'd had a fight. One dog got a foot stuck in the deck in pursuit of a squirrel and dogs being dogs, the others took advantage of the vulnerability to create further havoc. Their foster mom, who is going through an extremely painful personal trial anyway, still manages to give her heart and space in her home to her beloved dogs and this lovely foster pet. They are wild-eyed and painful. Their puncture wounds need cleaning, their injuries bandaged. Fostering, like any other love, requires sacrifice. Most of the time it's time and space and maybe a little money. Today it was a bit of actual flesh, some wounded pride, and an emotional toll that shouldn't have had to be afforded. Luckily, none of the injuries were serious and the dogs are already friends again.
It is just another day at BDAR.
Then I sat at my desk to look through the details of an upcoming fundraiser. And right next to that information in my inbox is an alert about the Governor calling for more state budget cuts. I'm $13,000 shy of the fundraising goal for this event and it hasn't even happened yet. I think "Maybe I should do another Facebook post for the Constant Companion Club. Maybe one more person will sign up to donate $10 per month today. That will be a victory." But in all likelihood, they probably won't.
For 12 hours, National Dog Day has been trending on Facebook and Twitter. For part of those 12 hours, I slept a fitful sleep mourning the loss of the dog for whom we've named our organization, and in whose memory we keep our doors open and try to be a safe and lasting place for those like her who have no place else to go. For another part, we tended broken hearts, we examined broken bodies.
Then there was this hour. This hour where I thought "What is National Dog Day," anyway? We can't possibly have started an entire holiday just for posting pictures. And we didn't. We started one for the sake of bringing awareness to a crucial, painful, un-ending social problem. We started it to help others understand how important it is to spay and neuter, to adopt, to take your responsibility as a pet owner seriously - as seriously as if someone's life depended on it.
Because it does.
"National Dog Day celebrates all dogs, mixed breed and pure. Our mission is to help galvanize the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year and acknowledges family dogs and dogs that work selflessly each day to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort. Dogs put their lives on the line every day...
for personal protection, for law enforcement, for the disabled, for our freedom and safety by detecting bombs and drugs and pulling victims of tragedy from wreckage, now they're detecting cancer and seizures...things even humans cannot do. "
I posted a picture of my dog today too, before I knew about the holiday. And when I see other's posts about their pets, alongside the posts about children, life's accomplishments, humor, and politics, I'm reminded that even though it's not possible for everyone to think about the devastating issues of pet homelessness as much as I do, it is possible for them to love like I do.
And that's what BDAR is really about. It's shared love.
And when you have a day when you think maybe you can't get out of bed, that shared love is everything that keeps you going. And on that note, I've now got 11 hours left to see your pictures and I don't want to miss a single one.
PS -That cute picture in the banner is of adoptable dog Tuli, who has been waiting for months for someone to choose her. Check her out on our adoptable page, her pictures would look amazing on your Facebook page : - ).