Memoir: Ask the Animals: What Shelter Dogs Have Taught Me About Life, Love, and Trust
The title of my chronicle of my first year as a volunteer in a busy Tennessee animal shelter comes from the twelfth chapter of the book of Job, the verse that begins: “Ask the animals, and they will teach you.” Some of the greatest lessons I have learned have come from my experiences with the shelter dogs. I have been amazed and moved by their ability to leave behind the abuse and neglect they have endured, to enter into new lives, to dwell in the moment, to trust, and to love.
The book details the happy adoptions, sad relinquishments, life-and-death decisions, and demonstrations both of abundant kindness and shocking cruelty that are part of day-to-day life in an urban rescue organization like the one I call Northside Animal Shelter. It also describes my discovery, as a 60+ year old woman with my active parenting and working life ended, of a new path toward service, learning and growth in ways I never imagined myself capable of.
Above all, the book explores issues of faith. What is the significance of our fleeting lives, human and animal? Is there a benevolent force guiding the destinies of all living beings and dispensing ultimate justice? Can our fervent prayers change anything? Is there an afterlife, eternity, a blissful realm over the fabled Rainbow Bridge? Most pressingly, when you can’t make everything better or save every one, how do you achieve acceptance?
These are the things I ask the animals, in my book, in my blog, aheartforshelterdogs.com, and in my ongoing shelter work. And the examples of my dog friends have taught me how to find peace and joy amid the questions. (Click here to read the first chapter.)