“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” ~ Mark Twain
I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed the day before Thanksgiving and saw:
“*WARNING – THIS POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC PHOTOS.* Cruelty and heinous acts do not take the holidays off.”
The post was from Philadelphia-based animal rescue All 4 Paws. They had saved a dog, Winnie, from euthanasia after she was shot in the face with a shotgun.
The entry of the bullet did not suggest self-defense, and as All 4 Paws learned later, the injury occurred in conjunction with another crime.
Executive Director of the rescue, Kristen Kidwell, told me they were notified of Winnie’s condition at 2 p.m., but the holding center had given her a time stamp of 6 p.m.—the time Winnie would be euthanized if no one came to claim her.
“I just couldn’t stand the thought of her sitting there for four hours,” Kidwell said.
The rescue team members were in a meeting when they learned of Winnie’s injury and unanimously voted to intervene. Winnie was at their emergency vet hospital within an hour.
Despite her injuries, Winnie wagged her tail when the vet arrived. She never growled nor showed aggression. Her courage and spirit were, and continue to be, an inspiration.
Later that day, the rescue posted on Facebook asking for money for Winnie’s medical costs. She needed about $10,000 to fund all the surgeries and related care.
I immediately donated.
And I was not alone.
Over 10,000 people visited the rescue’s Go Fund Me page, and 840 shared the post. In less than a week, the rescue agency exceeded their target. A local TV station also covered the story and Winnie-related Facebook posts received over 33,000 views. People had come together to help Winnie. The support was overwhelming, fierce, and focused.
Brené Brown calls this “holding hands with strangers.” She says,
“We need these moments with strangers as reminders that despite how much we might dislike someone on Facebook, or even in person, we are still inextricably connected.”
In her latest book, Braving the Wilderness, Brown notes that people have become more polarized in their thinking, only interacting with those that think and believe like them.
Yet we are lonelier than ever.
In 1980, only 20 percent of people reported being lonely. Today, the percentage is twice that. And a study by Holt-Lundstat, Smith, and Layton states that being lonely increases our odds of dying by 45 percent.
Sometimes we blame this loneliness phenomenon on the internet. We sit in our houses playing games, posting on Facebook, and buying gifts on Amazon rather than interacting face to face.
But the response to Winnie’s shooting belies the notion that the internet causes only loneliness and disconnection.
When people come together for any cause—even via the internet—they receive tremendous benefits. Brown has shared research that states that collaborative experiences contribute to a life filled with “a sense of meaning, increased positivity, and a decreased sense of loneliness—all essential components of a healthy, happy life…it is an opportunity to feel connected to something bigger than oneself; it is an opportunity to feel joy, social connection, meaning, and peace.”
Social interaction on the internet can do amazing things for other beings too.
“As a rescue organization, having Facebook as a platform has been life-changing,” shared Kidwell.
Since Winnie’s incident, people have continued to support the rescue agency, and applications to adopt dogs have exceeded expectations for this time of year.
But rescue volunteers also recognize the potential problems with increased demand for adoptions, as adopters expect so much of their dogs. They want them to be perfect in a way we would never expect of humans, but all dogs have their own imperfectly perfect personalities.
It is consequently vital to get to know the breed and, ideally, the dog, before adopting. Finding a rescue agency that fosters dogs prior to adoption is ideal, as it allows adopters to talk directly with foster parents before making a commitment. This allows them to flesh out concerns regarding the dog’s temperament and behavior before adopting, leading to a more secure life for the dog afterward. Because as All 4 Paws says in its mission statement—it is about finding forever homes for these dogs.
And when will Winnie find her forever home?
It will take her about 30 days to recover from all her injuries, and then she will need to be spayed. So Winnie likely has a couple months before she will be ready to find her forever family.
Despite the wait, and all that has happened to her, Winnie remains amazingly resilient. And the blessing in her suffering is: other dogs have found forever families because her experience was shared via Facebook.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu is a Sanskrit phrase that means:
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to happiness, and freedom, for all.”
For all who are lonely and disconnected, including abandoned animals in need, let us hold hands with our stranger beings, so we all may be happy and free.
“We know that there is no help for us but from one another, that no hand will save us if we do not reach out our hand…All you have is what you are, and what you give.” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin