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January 22, 2023

Shall we Rescue Dog Advocates Create a Culture of Caring for Texas?

It’s a frigid, seasonally-appropriate, January morning. Our rescue dog from the oil fields of Breckenridge, Texas, is splayed on the couch by the fire sighing contentedly. Smudges has been with us for over five years now, and I can’t envision a happier dog.
I want for all of her friends to enjoy the same. With every dog lover I meet, the sentiment resonates.
An inquiry has been dwelling deep within my consciousness these past several months. I suspect it’s along the same lines of inquiry residing in the minds of my fellow animal lovers, that of caring about animals.
More specifically, that of caring about homeless dogs (let’s include cats, too) in the lone star state of Texas.
I know, Texas isn’t my home state. There are facts for which I am authentically grateful. We can’t help where we are born. Admittedly, I have little regard for Texas and not a small dose of disdain. “Don’t mess with Texas,” went the old meme, to which I have a primal, angry response —
Y’all have nothing to be proud of, not for what you’re doing to your dogs.
For anyone who cares about dogs, we all sigh deeply and groan, whenever the State of Texas arises in the conversation. People from there roll their eyes, nod in agreement, that it’s a horrible state from which they are relieved to escape.
The number of Texas license plates showing up here on the Front Range is now a blur. It feels like a migration of a different nature.
Even the dogs trotting happily around on the sidewalks of Boulder, Colorado, or puttering along our trails in the Roosevelt National Forest are breathing easier and wagging tails more freely.
All because they’re out of Texas.
Ever since we adopted Smudges, canine troubles in Texas have plagued my awareness. There are people I run into daily who are thusly aware of the need of dogs in that state which we run into on any given Tuesday. Thousands of dogs are transported out of Texas annually, such to the point that services as Pilots ‘n Paws are commonly known. It’s impossible to walk into a coffee shop or down a street in Denver where a fortunate canine is trotting happily along his person, fresh out of the foster home of an animal-loving volunteer Texan.
Last night in the struggle to sleep, divine inspiration sent me an idea:
Create a Caring Campaign
I began with Smudges sporting a sign:
My frenz want to liv.
The want to connect the message with the dog to reach larger audience came directly from her. The work to connect the images and caring messages, those would come from me.
Social media campaigns, personal outreach, networks. Billboards, maybe?
Challenges arises, as they will in all advocacy work. Can I help from the decidedly liberal State of Colorado, to help create better outcomes, for homeless dogs in Texas? While I don’t live there, I, like thousands of animal lovers, am affected by what they are doing to their dogs.
Isn’t any dog lover? We can’t un-know things. Once I’ve been made aware of San Antonio Animal Control Services’ Urgent Pets List, updated every fifteen minutes showing dogs “to be euthanized” for lack of space, how can I un-know this? Once I’ve seen Dallas Animal Service’s list of 447 dogs in need of homes, how can I not feel triggered when someone defends breeding and bringing more dogs into our world?
Once we’re made aware of how a problem is being handled lethally affecting dogs, it’s next to impossible to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear. Matters of the heart affect us across geographical and political boundaries. Just look at how everyone was impacted and how many billions of dollars — inconceivably and unrelatable to Citizen Jane — went to aid Ukraine.
Solving the problem in any one area is a matter of political will. You know the old yarn:
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
It begs the question, is there any will in distant states as Texas to do things differently? Where does such will exist? Are there enough animal lovers in Texas to amass to assert a collective will in favor of better outcomes? Is there any room to insert ways to help in relevant places:
  • Amongst the Animal Control Officers (ACOs) who are interacting with the general public ritually?
  • Amongst the shelter workers, who are in taking dogs, to ask the relevant questions,
    • What do you need to keep your dog, and can we provide it? If we can’t, who can, and can I send you there? Or, how can we get it?
  • If I have a relevant skill to offer, where can I volunteer it?
  • If I have a few dollars to spare, which foster-based nonprofit rescue could really use the funds?
  • Can we create awareness campaigns to encourage people to care about that dog that was once a puppy, once again?
There are as many avenues of inquiry to improve any one situation as there are approaches to solving the daunting problem of animals dying for lack of homes. There are as many options for legislators and politicians to enact mandatory spay and neuter laws, ban sales of animals in pet stores, as there are puppies being killed before they can learn their first sit.
And, in a place as Texas, there are as many hearts being broken, with each innocent, loving, wanting-to-live babe, being walked down the hallway by the detached, beleaguered shelter worker to the kill room.
Every dog was once a joyful, playfully innocent, hopeful puppy. Likely, that puppy was once cared about, although in some places, not so much. Then, they grew up, became young dogs and as people scrambled to find ways to teach them to be good canine citizens, provide conscious means of controlling and preventing births of more, they fell through society’s cracks. And, being inundated by the demands of life, pressures of living or cultural values devoid of compassion towards animals, were thrown away in shelters for others to deal with, dumped in parks, or left to wander and stray into harm’s way.
What does it take to find out what will make a Texan care enough about his or her dog, to cease abdicating responsibility for them, and to take measures to ask for help in caring for them? Is that even a reasonable line of inquiry?
It makes me wonder, did Texans ever care about its dogs? If so, when did they stop? More relevantly, what will it take, to make them are again? And can we animal lovers outside its borders find creative ways to help their homeless dogs and cats, without taking them into our already-full living rooms, and find out why they are in such a state?
Cultural values and economics aside, people can care. Smudges barks in agreement, as does her disabled cruelty survivor brother, Willie Grommit, another rescue saved from the Rio Grande Valley. Both were saved because someone in Texas cared enough to help them live the lives to which they were born.
It invites all of us animal lovers to express:
Give a care. Caring creates a better society in which to live. Caring connects people with animals and people with people. Caring expresses a love of life and a wish for others to have the life to which they were born.
Caring saves animals. Give a care today (and let’s start a Caring Campaign for Texas dogs and raise more awareness).
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