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Animal Cops

Sometimes I watch the animal cop shows on Animal Planet. I usually can’t watch a whole episode at once. They intervene in cases of abuse and neglect: a dog left in a yard with a chain embedded in her neck, kittens left under a porch without care, a horse starving in a filed, a duck with a knife wound in its backside.

Watching those shows makes me feel guilty for not wanting to be a veterinarian or animal cop or doggy social worker. And then the guilt expands from neglected and abused dogs to neglected and abused children, until I end up curled in a ball on the floor, feeling useless and awful, and still having no idea what to do.

There used to be a show on TV called Dogtown, about a well funded animal rescue facility in Utah, called Best Friends. They had areas for all kinds of animals, but the show focused on the dogs. They had trainers and groomers and veterinarians on staff, plus volunteers and adoption counselors and caretakers and on and on. It seemed like somewhere I’d want to go myself, to be rewired and retrained and adopted out anew. They also had a policy that any dog who couldn’t find a new home would always have a home with them.

Orphanages would come back into style if they were run half as well and with half as much compassion as Dogtown. And it makes me wonder why we can’t do better for children in foster care, or for dogs across the country who are being put down by well meaning people at understaffed shelters.

It was an aspirational show, but nothing I could imagine living up to myself. After each episode I’d think, maybe I could learn how to train dogs, or join a local rescue operation, or at least foster dogs while they’re waiting for their forever home. But then I’d crumple again, and feel guilty for having only the one dog and not even being able to train HER.

I guess my question is, could the people who create these shows take the next step, the one that allows people like me to step out of the guilt and have a manageable task to do that would actually help. Is there a think tank working on this? How can rescue organizations marshal the millions of pet owners and animal lovers to help, instead of overwhelming us with so much guilt that we can’t think straight or even remain upright?