Being the Incredibly Magnanimous Feline that I am, (was that a snicker I hear, coming from my Tweeps in the Twitterverse? Please. Pay them no mind.) I have Graciously Decided to Yield the Floor to my human on this, the 15th of January - notably the Blog Day for Blog for the Change.
I know how you'll miss my Devastating Wit, but be assured it is for a Good Cause, and - in my best Ahnold voice - I'll Be Back.
Ryker's Person Here: Sorry to say, guys, that the Rainbow Bridge doesn't seem to have blunted my little guy's Ego any...! But I do appreciate the opportunity to tell you about an organization close to my heart, and ask you to encourage your own local shelters to consider similar programs.
The organization also has two income sources, a newly-opened store where you can buy pet and pet-centric products (Ryker's sister Allie has been their spokes-model in their print ad campaign) and a very nice pet cemetery where Ryker and his older brother, Caleb, are buried. There have been times in lean years when donations were scarce that the cemetery was practically all that kept Wayside afloat, as all proceeds from the cemetery go to the care and placement of animals at Wayside.
Wayside's great strength is its volunteers. I had never thought about it before I began volunteering, but if every dog at Wayside is to be granted just 30 minutes of freedom outside its cage per day, that translates to sixty volunteer man-hours per day for the 120 dogs kept there. Same goes for the cats. I cannot stress enough the importance of volunteering at your local shelter. Giving just a few hours of your time a week is how organizations like Wayside Waifs stay open.
Wayside was not originally a no-kill shelter. Prior to becoming no-kill, they had an "open door" policy - you had a pet to surrender, they'd take it. They were overflowing with animals, too many to really care for effectively. But then several years ago, they changed their operating model, limited the number of animals to a manageable amount and changed their policy to no-kill. And in 2009, they incorporated this policy into their brand identification and began advertising themselves as no-kill.
Because of a policy shift that began years ago, you now see animals thriving who would have been given the death sentence immediately at another shelter. Thursday night, while volunteering, I saw up for adoption a 4 month old one-eyed kitten, an FIV positive cat, a cat who was prepped and ready for an unfortunately necessary leg amputation and a (rather grumpy) "Sage" who had just had her tail amputation stitches removed. Sage and the kitten are on the adoption floor now, and the FIV positive cat is waiting in the holding room in back for an enclosed "hug room" to open up on the adoption floor so he can be safely transferred there without danger of infecting any of the other adoptable cats.
(FYI: a cat tested FIV positive can live a very healthy and normal life-span if provided with good veterinary care and the only stipulation for adoption is that the family be a one-cat family - or in possession of another FIV positive cat.)
Wayside has committed to partnering with other Missouri organizations to put an end to puppy mills and animal hoarding, and it's not uncommon to hear an announcement that "another 100 dogs have been rescued from puppy mills this week." (Until Proposition B passed in Nov, 2010, Missouri had the dubious honor of being the state with the most lax rules regarding animal care, resulting in numerous documented atrocities - and also resulted in the state becoming the largest supplier of puppies to pet stores, nationwide.)
But there's another facet to Wayside that needs to be told. They help train counselors who work in battered women's shelters how to accommodate the pets of the abused women in their care. I had two such women in my own orientation class. I don't know the statistics, but I can see how anyone in an abusive situation might be more hesitant to leave that situation if they have a deep emotional attachment to a pet - and no women's shelter in their area will accommodate them. Conversely, I can see how integral to a battered woman's recovery the role a beloved pet might play. Won't you consider encouraging your own local animal shelter to partner in the same way that Wayside is?