When Cara Sue Achterberg over at anothergooddog.wordpress.com asked me to review her book Another Good Dog, I was a little hesitant. The book is about how she became a temporary foster for a rescue group that pulls dogs out of overcrowded shelters (usually in the South) and places them in foster homes until they can be adopted. I volunteer at a large, open-admission animal shelter, and I know that sometimes people involved in this sort of rescue have nothing good to say about animal shelters. I didn’t want to write a review for a book that badmouthed the animal shelter workers and volunteers that I have come to respect and admire.
Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Another Good Dog is an interesting and well-written account of the joys and challenges of fostering rescue dogs, and Cara never once trash talked animal shelters or the people involved in them. She simply told her story and at the same time made a compelling case for the need for more foster homes.
I wish more people followed Cara’s example, not just of fostering dogs, but also of sharing her beliefs without also putting down those who do things differently. It seems to me that too many of us tend to believe that we can’t be for one thing without also being against another. Sadly, we usually talk a whole lot more about what (and who) we are against than what we are for, and not just in the animal rescue world, either. Think about it: how often do you determine someone’s political leanings by listening who they trash-talk about, rather than listening to their actual beliefs and convictions?
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can support one group, or one way of doing things, without attacking another. You can be an atheist without sneering at those who believe in God. You can be a stay-at-home Mom (or Dad) without criticizing parents who have full-time jobs. In short, you can believe that your way is right for you without feeling the need to criticize those who don’t share your views, values or lifestyle.
Life really isn’t just one big football game where we are required to cheer for one team and loudly boo the other. Sometimes, it’s enough to simply cheer for what we believe in. And when we manage to do that, the walls that separate us can begin to come down, allowing us to work together in ways that accomplish so much more than we ever could alone, or just in the company of those who are “on our side.”
I know from experience that people involved in saving homeless animals tend to be very passionate about their work, and rightly so. That passion is what keeps them going when they get discouraged, overwhelmed, or just plain tired. But it’s also a huge job that really does require multiple solutions. Good quality physical shelters where people can drop off unwanted or stray animals are still very much needed, particularly when they have the ability to do large-scale rescues of animals in dire need. Well-run small rescue groups also do an amazing job of saving animals by placing them in loving foster homes until they get adopted. Still other groups spend their days advocating for increased spaying and neutering, or stronger laws on puppy mills and other sub-standard breeders.
None of these organizations or people can solve the problem of animal overpopulation by themselves. But each of them holds a piece of the solution, and between them all, they just might get the job done. It’s amazing what can happen when we remember to work together.