Charity Spotlight is a new monthly feature on twenty(or)something wherein a selected charity or non-profit organization is highlighted to bring awareness to its cause. The name of the charity and a quick-link to donation information is provided via the Hello Bar at the top of the website throughout the month, with a full-profile of the organization and/or testament to the cause being featured in its own post on the first of every month.
I may not be able to be the change I wish I could be, yet…but it’s my greatest hope that I can make a difference by building awareness with the currency I have readily available right now: Words. Knowledge. Passion.
How will you create change?
I know, I know. Two similar animal charities in two months means I’m cheating a bit. But the heat is on both literally and figuratively as summer kicks into gear and I ramp up personal and professional projects while getting ready for end-of-month events. So, I’m giving myself a little leeway here…And while all of the charities here are chosen for the spotlight because I advocate for and want to bring to light their causes, so many have a personal connection, the Humane League of Lancaster County notwithstanding.
I began volunteering at HLLC in winter of 2007. I had just lost the second of my three dogs and I think, subconsciously, I was trying to find something to prepare myself, protect myself, for the inevitable loss of the third, my beloved Sammy.
I can barely write those words without the pang of heartache tearing through me. I think I wanted to ease some of that pain, to give back the love and happiness that these dogs had spent their lifetime giving me. I wasn’t looking for a dog, knowing fully well that no animal could replace the loving dogs I’d grown up with and nothing could repair the void in my heart.
Nothing except for Riley.
They say that you save an animal when you adopt from a shelter.
I will always be convinced that
Riley saved me.
Walking down the halls, offering ear scratches, pepperoni treats, and silent prayers through the chain-linking on the kennel doors, I wondered whether or not I should walk another dog or if should just call it a day, wishing I could take all of them home with me, to offer them hugs and belly rubs and a couch to sleep on, my heart breaking at the knowledge that it was impossible.
And then, he caught my eye.
A tiny black, brown, and white Beagle/Basset with sad eyes and a wagging tail. I glanced at his intake sheet: 10 months old, his name was Rocky, and he’d been given up for adoption. I almost walked past, remembering the rule of walking the older dogs first. But something stopped me. Perhaps it was intuition that this was something. Perhaps it was a guiding hand, a voice in my heart that made me listen to the love that was waiting patiently here before me.
I couldn’t walk away. Instead, I hung a sign on the cage that read we were out for a walk.
A sign that inferred, this dog was taken.
We headed out into a small holding pen usually kept for the shelter goats and pigs; only, on this day, sticks and tennis balls were our only company as traces of snow littered the ground. The door secured behind me, I let him off his leash. He bounded; he romped; he howled that infamous beagle/basset bay. I couldn’t stop giggling, my eyes lighting up with joy as I watched him run towards me, then dart away.
“You’re all riled up!” I repeatedly exclaimed as I tossed a stick and watched him chase it with as much exuberance as his little body could muster. “Look at you! You’re all riled up!”
In that instant, I knew his name would be Riley, and he was coming home with me.
Convincing my roommate and best friend to agree on the puppy when we already had two cats wasn’t as difficult as I expected it to be; I think she knew I wasn’t about to let him go. I couldn’t. Not when my heart was telling me to hold on. And when my parents questioned the responsibility of a new puppy, I remained adamant. I had found this dog…Or maybe he had found me, maybe we had found each other.
Either way, there was a bond here now, as if my heart recognized him in an instant as a special piece of it, a part of my life.
I had fallen in love with a four-legged, little brown-eyed boy.
The house. France. College. Riley. There are times when intuition guides you, when you just know something or someone is in your life for a reason. I was meant to love Riley, this much I’m sure. And though I may have “saved” him that day I signed the papers and took him home, this heartbeat at my feet is the one who has rescued me. I couldn’t know it then, but loving Riley has been my saving grace.
And while I haven’t really said these words out-loud, I’ll say them now:
When the darkness of depression threatened to overwhelm me all those months ago, he was my light, my joy, my smile.
And when I cried and was scared and wanted to let go, he was what I held onto.
Because I had to.
Because I chose to.
Because I love him.
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Love a dog and you’ll know love in one of the purest forms.
Be loved by a dog, and you’ll find your meaning.
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The Humane League of Lancaster County is the leading non-profit, animal welfare organization in Lancaster County. Dedicated to the humane treatment of all animals, HLLC offers low-cost spay and neutering clinics, community outreach events, a foster care program, and more to give each animal a chance — a chance at life, a chance of adoption, a chance of finding their forever home.
An advocate for animals rights? Find out how you can help in the fight against animal cruelty.
Want to learn more? Find out how spaying/neutering your pet can ease pet overpopulation, giving more animals a chance.
Looking to speak up? Find out how to become a volunteer at the Humane League or with your own community shelter.
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Disclaimer: I volunteer with and donate to the Humane League of Lancaster County; I am in no way affiliated with Pedigree.