This February, the month we think about love, I wanted to start a conversation about something a little bit different. Flowers and romance have their place. But there's a quieter kind of love that is on my mind.
This love can be found in the gentle warmth against a leg on a relaxing evening or a gentle tickle against a hand. It can be found in our own reflection in large, trusting eyes.
I'm talking about the love we find in the heart of a pet, shared within our own. More specifically, that found when giving a second chance at a life. Those that long to love as much as we long to love. In them we find a piece that makes our heart complete.
Everyone Finds A Home
Let's talk about the Animal Rescue League (ARL) of Marshalltown, Iowa which provides service to the city of Marshalltown and Marshall County. They are the facility that shelters and cares for pets that residents and authorities bring to them and facilitate care and adoptions. They are the only shelter in the county and are a critical link connecting the lost and rescued with a home. Sometimes that home is their own. Often it's a new home for the surrendered, abandoned, abused, and lost.
I recently sat down with ARL director, Shelly Deal, to learn more. Last year the ARL took in approximately 360 surrendered pets, and 500 strays, many of which were cats. All strays are held for a number of days to give owners a chance to claim their lost pets. After that hold, the animals become eligible for adoption by the public. All adoptable pets will be kept until adopted. Everyone finds a home.
It Takes A Lot of People
As you can imagine all of those animals require a lot of people hours of time for care. The ARL addresses this with a group of kind, dedicated volunteers. They work with the animals, clean (ah, the unsung heroes here), keep things nice inside and out.
Volunteers are always welcome. To help streamline the volunteer process the ARL recently created a volunteer program led by Jessica Slifer. People can contact the ARL any time to learn more about volunteering; there will be a volunteer training event on March 6th from 4 PM to 6 PM. It is a free event. Children under 15 must be accompanied by an adult. It will be held at the ARL, 1921 Taylor Avenue, Marshalltown. Call 641-753-9046 if you have any questions.
Community Makes The Difference
The shelter has many mouths to feed and addresses medical needs for those in its care. The ARL's budget is primarily reliant on donations. When they have found themselves in need, the community has responded. During the aftermath of the July 2018 tornado that devastated parts of Marshalltown, the ARL stepped up to provide temporary housing for pets for families who found themselves suddenly out of their homes, as well as dealing with an larger influx strays that resulted. It was an unexpected spike in the resource needs at the shelter. Local businesses and people stepped responded.
Good Fun For A Good Cause
In the course of the year there are a few fundraising events that support the work of the ARL. The largest event is Whiskers, Wine, and Something Divine. 2019 marks the 8th year of the event of dinner, wine and craft beer tasting, as well as live and silent auctions. This year the fun for a good cause, it will happen on April 4th at the Midnight Ballroom.
Another fundraiser that is focused on community outreach is the Bark in the Park event held locally in the late summer. There are vendors and animal related businesses to meet. It runs in conjunction with a 5K walk/ run with your dog. Check out this good fun for a good cause.
Hugs and Tears
Rescuing lives isn't glamorous work. Rescuers frequently see the ugly side of humanity. But it comes with rewards of the heart and soul when you're saving lives.
Shelly shared with me a situation she encountered on the coldest day last February. It was a middle of the night rescue of two abandoned, starving dogs. One of the dogs was territorial and standoffish. It took a half hour of coaxing with food to finally get the standoffish dog settled. He finally understood and accepted these humans were helping him. The change was heart-warming as he laid his head in her lap. Those are the moments, she related, that this calling really hits home. Dogs (and other animals) come in rough, hurt, scared, and go out happy and healthy.
It Takes You
One thing to take away from this essay about love - it takes you. That's right. From volunteering to donating and participating. If you see a pet or stray that needs help let the local authorities know so it can be brought to the ARL where it is safe and its needs met until it is reunited with its family or a new home is found. If you find feral cats or kittens find out more information on how to help them. Feral cats are not the same as stray cats and stewardship may be warranted rather than rescue.
Learn more about Iowa's animal neglect and abuse laws, stay informed. Right now Iowa is ranked 49th out of 50 states in welfare laws (that means we're almost the worst!). We have a really long way to go to get better. But you can make a difference by staying informed and making sure your legislators know you are paying attention and that this matters to you. By the way, on February 20th from 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM is the Iowa Humane Lobby Day 2019, hosted by the Humane Society of the United States. This event is at the Iowa State Capitol at 1007 E. Grand Avenue in Des Moines. Make your voice heard.
Maybe the most important things you can do is to adopt a companion, a friend, a love for life. Some life has been shattered, some body has been broken, a trust betrayed, a soul left unwanted. Kind eyes found them, and gentle hands lifted them up, and they started healing. Now that soul waits and watches for their forever home, for a new life to give all their love and devotion to.
Love is simple. Love is saving a life.