By LeRae Haynes –
I think the world is a much, much better place with animals in it. (I hope they think the same of us.) Not that animal lovers really need an excuse to celebrate animals, but World Animal Day on October 4 is a truly wonderful reminder of how lucky we are to have them in our lives and on our planet—not to mention how important it is to protect their environment and the habitat, and if they’re pets, how important it is to care for them and teach our children to do the same.
I’m fortunate to know a lot of truly passionate animal lovers, and to volunteer to help with humane education on the SPCA community council. This council is a group of people dedicated to speaking for animals, protecting their rights, and helping to shape policy for their future.
One of the things you’re supposed to do if you’re helping with humane education is make kids aware of what it takes to be a responsible, loving pet owner, and teach them what their pets need and deserve from them the most.
So, because I get to play music with kids a lot, I decided to take the easy way out. I read the BCSPCA curriculum, talked to vets, vet techs, the community council, and our SPCA shelter manager, took the top 10 things they said, and wrote a song.
And of course, top of everybody’s list, the very first thing everyone said was spay and neuter. In the song I called it the ‘snip’ and the ‘clip.’ It’s the very first line, and when I teach it to kids, we always talk about what it means and how important it is. I’ve had kids as young as five know what spay and neuter means. “It’s where, um, your vet does something so nobody keeps having kittens!” one young lad told me.
This song has been taught to over 800 kids, was made into a single, and sells at the shelter as a little fundraiser. It was the reason I was invited to join a Canadian Animal Assistant Team (CAAT) group last year and travel to a remote coastal village to do shots, spays, and neuters all weekend. Well, the vets and techs did the snips and the clips and I hung out with kids, playing games, singing songs,and doing crafts. It was a life-changing, unforgettable, inspiring experience.
I am always delighted to meet people with powerful bonds with their animals—people whose lives have been changed forever because of the gift of an animal in their lives.
I chatted recently with a wonderful young woman whose life is enriched and fulfilled because of her two dogs, and who simply cannot imagine life without them. She once told me some of the best dog stories I’ve ever heard—the way she told them, I laughed so hard I fell off the park bench in a dog park.
Christina Roderus said from the moment she first saw her small dog, Dio, they were inseparable.
“Dio is so sensitive to me,” she said. “If I’m anxious he’s the one sitting by my side because he knows I’m upset. You don’t communicate with animals like you do with people. They don’t understand words: they understand body language and energy. I actually think it’s a very spiritual relationship.”
When Dio was about six years old Roderus and her husband Mur adopted a large breed puppy into their family, much to Dio’s consternation.
“When I was home with the dogs, Dio would sit on the couch refusing to look at me, quivering, shaking, and he even got tears on his face,” said Roderus. “I was miserable and cried for a week. I felt so guilty.”
She said her husband started taking videos of the dogs, showing that they played together all day and had a wonderful time when Christina wasn’t there.
“I can’t imagine only having one dog now,” she said. “When they play and Dio’s on the couch, Letti puts her front paws on the couch and Dio uses his whole body to fight with her head. He gives it 110 per cent, and she just uses her paw to shove him down the crack of the couch.”
For Williams Lake SPCA shelter manager Liz Dighton, every day is Animal Day. “The greatest satisfaction in my job is seeing an animal come from a less-than-desirable situation and placing them in fabulous family homes,” she said. “They may have come from abuse or neglect, or from people with sudden life changes who can’t care for them anymore; it’s huge for me to see the difference we can make in these animals’ lives. Their health improves and their personality starts to shine. Everything changes.”
Last year the Williams Lake shelter had almost 1,200 animals come in the door and had a total of 764 adoptions (both local and transfers to the Lower Mainland). They also reunited 117 animals with their owners. This year so far they’ve already had nearly 900 incoming animals and 583 adoptions, with 101 animals reunited with their owners.
“It’s always about the animals and how we can help them,” she said. “Humane education for kids is the biggest thing. Teach a child and you’ll change the world.”
LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.