Humanity and compassion are two traits that humans have in them to show and practise towards all living beings. These include animals, like cats and dogs, for which humans are capable of reaching into the recesses of their own nature to not inflict harm, but to act with kindness and empathy. This is my story about a shelter dog (and subsequently many more shelter dogs), my experiences and big affection for them…
I decided to name him Mattheus. Upon looking up its root origin, the name means the ‘gift of God’. The name popped into my mind as I was toying over it one night when sleep eluded me. With my brain working overtime, thoughts drifted back to the morning where I was volunteering at the shelter for dogs (and cats) for the first time.
In the canine’s world, Mattheus isn’t a regular or typical name. But I didn’t want him to be called by just any common name. He was the very first dog the staff had introduced for my walking duties. I did not choose him, as there was no way you could really pick one dog over another, which were all vying for your attention. I reckoned that I would leave it best to the workers to decide on which dog to assign to me. To my delight, out came a short-haired male dog. A worker had leashed and led him out from among the hundreds of other waiting dogs.
Meeting ‘Mattheus The Shelter Dog’ For The First Time
Black in coat with brown patches on his legs and lower jawline, his ears were perky and upright. He had cute brows marked in brown just above his soft, inquisitive eyes. He was just two years of age, and had a number tag across his neck as his only identity. Just like the rest of the pack, they all bore no names, due to the sheer volume of them that would prove challenging for the staff to remember. In that moment we met, I felt this instant connection and bond with him. He was gentle and mild-mannered with a playful streak that proved he was still a puppy at heart. Beyond the walls of his kennel, he explored the grass, chewed on it, and smelled the ground. Then, he would dash about the grassy area, and retreat into the shade when the heat became scorching.
Bath time was slightly trickier. He would attempt to escape the drench of water and rub of shampoo over his body. However, it didn’t take too long for him to realise that there was no point resisting a good wash-up. Soon after, the staff led him back ‘home’, albeit with a reluctance that one could sense in him to return to the walls that he had known all his life. In that short span of time, he had won me over with his endearing nature. For this alone, I wanted to call him by a special name, being the dog that will always be the ‘gift of God’. Hence Mattheus.
What Poignant Lifelong Lessons That Shelter Dogs Can Teach Us
Since that first volunteering stint with Mattheus, I have come into contact with other ‘Mattheuses’ inside the sanctuary. It might seem unfair to not spend time and walk the other dogs too. Despite their individual personalities and behaviours, all share the common trait of yearning for a reprieve beyond their kennels. If eyes are windows to the soul, a look in them will evoke stories of a past that are beyond our understanding.
Rescued dogs continue to be full of trust and love, despite suffering emotionally and even physically, enduring hardships and trauma. Some may seem like they are already tired of life. This is understandably so when the days and years pass by them so mercilessly, which eventually takes a toll on them. Yet they are forgiving, and possess the tenacity to never look back in spite of how they may have experienced an awful and depressing life. Or when life dealt with them more than they deserved. They light up with joy as soon as they sense humans wanting to make contact, either with walks or the hope that they get to be adopted and be freed from captivity.
The Unrelenting Plight Of Shelter Dogs
Amidst a finite space capacity, there are close to 250 dogs presently in the shelter at any one time. However, we take heart in seeing visitors who drop by and adopt a handful of dogs every other week. While the shelter provides what it can, there has been little solution in sight to the general ratio of homeless dogs against adoption. It remains an underlying problem that is no exception in many countries.
The management occasionally makes the difficult decision to humanely euthanise very sick or old dogs to prevent further pain and suffering. Do pay a visit to the shelter once to better understand the plight of the many lives at stake. One will realise that irresponsible dumping or neglect had caused these animals to gravely suffer, a fate they surely do not deserve.
For the dogs that I’ve served, I whispered into their ears that they will soon find a forever loving home. If you are ever planning to get a dog, please adopt, and don’t buy from pet shops. Do also consider the crucial factor that pet ownership involves responsibility and commitment. Many of these canines were brought in by their former owners, or strays rescued from the streets. Dogs and pets are for life – until we are ready for one, we should not further exacerbate this deep-rooted problem. By apathetically sending them away when we no longer need them, is the most horrendous thing to do.
Volunteering With Shelter Dogs Creates A Purposeful Living
Volunteering at a shelter has taught me to prioritise service above self. This is why I’d consider my Sunday mornings to be purposeful. It is being selfless towards another life that is so vulnerable and in need of your kindness, love and compassion. I have also come to learn a thing or two about the spirit of dogs.
If anything, I am grateful for the opportunity to try and do as much as I can for the dogs. Truth is though, they are helping me much more in alleviating my feelings of anxiety and stress. I’d highly encourage anyone to do the same – whether you choose to adopt or not – because every small act matters. Here’s hoping that from more regular walks, Mattheus will soon recognise his name the next time I call out to him…
Want To Do Something Good For A Change?
Do know that there are different ways which you can help shelter dogs. One is to sign up as a volunteer by going to PAWS. Alternatively, you can also choose to contribute donations in kind. It occasionally runs external fundraising events too. Interested volunteers can help out with the sales of merchandise, raising public awareness and collecting donations. What keeps the shelter running are these public donations or proceeds raised from charity and fundraising events.
PAWS is a non-profit animal shelter located at Pilmoor Estate along the Subang Airport Road. It has been in operation since 1987. Besides dogs, it also receives the surrender of unwanted cats. The staff will perform vaccination, de-worming, neutering and spaying, before putting the animals up for adoption. You can reach PAWS at: Pilmoor Estate, Jalan Lapangan Terbang Subang (Subang Airport Road), 47200 Subang, Selangor, Malaysia. It is open daily from 9am to 4pm (except Wednesdays and public holidays).
This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.