Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered what the life of a shelter pet is like? Our managing editor, Kristine, decided to spend a day locked up inside a dog kennel (in full-body dog costume, no less) at her local animal shelter, to raise money and awareness. Here is what she wrote, via laptop, from inside the kennel.
10:30am — Today started early; excitement didn’t allow me to sleep much, so I gathered my things and headed to the shelter.
I wasn’t able to start at 8:30 this morning because my kennel was still being cleaned. Once I was given the all-clear, I painted my face and slid my costume over my clothes.
Walking into the outdoor kennel area caused a succession of protests from the many dogs barking at me, but they quieted once they saw I was here to stay. I have a blanket, a pail with water and a power cord. After a few giggles from the staff and a few of the clinic customers walking by, I started setting up my computer for the day and took a few pictures amid the rhythm of barking and whining.
Every time someone walks by or drives into the gravel parking lot, the dogs start up again as if they are yelling, “Hey! Yes, you! Get me out of here!” It is ear-piercing at times since this occurs every few minutes, and I am thankful I remembered to bring my noise-canceling headphones just in case I might need them.
Having water is a blessing; the weather is warm here, and the costume is making me severely hot. I am starting to wonder if I’ll make it to the end of today.
12:45pm — Foot traffic has been heavy in the last 2 hours, and I am surprised at how many people don’t even glance toward the kennels on their way into the front door. I watch the dogs run back and forth while barking and whining just hoping to catch someone’s attention. They don’t notice me either, so I starting barking, “Woof!” to get their attention. Some look and laugh while others keep on walking.
One dog acts differently. The Labrador Retriever mixed breed in the next kennel stays quiet. Maddie is her name, and I soon noticed her limp. Upon further inspection, I see a shaved area on her left hind quarter indicating a surgery was performed.
She stays away from the gate and doesn’t make as much noise as the others. She seems to be one of those dogs who don’t do well in a shelter environment, and I hope she finds a home soon. You can see how the dogs react (and Maddie) in this video when they think someone is coming to let them out.
There are little fuzzies everywhere from my costume, and in this heat they are stuck to my arms and neck. I surrendered to the heat by pulling off the top of the costume down to my waist to cool off (I’m dressed underneath; this isn’t that kind of place).
I keep forgetting my face is painted, and I scratch at the wisps of costume fluff as it makes its way onto my face (and some in my nose).
I was ever so carefully trying to pull more fuzz out of my nose, and of course that would be when the reporter walked up. He came to see what my crazy stunt was all about. After I explained the cause and the shelter, he took some pictures and left.
I sat back down in my kennel, and that’s when the smell hit. I looked up and saw the dog 2 kennels over with his leg in the air, and waves of ammonia wafted in my direction.
Just as I think it can’t get worse, Maddie poops. The wind picks up, and I start breathing through my mouth to avoid the smell.
My lunch (a bowl of dog food) has just arrived, but I don’t have much of an appetite any more.
2:05pm — My hunger never arrived, so lunch sat untouched. I’m sure the stink bombs down the kennel runs are to blame. My neighbors have been pretty cool, though. Aside from the barkfest every few minutes, they are going about their normal routines and could care less that I’m sitting here.
It’s a wonder the dogs ever sleep with all this noise, but I see Maddie went inside and is sleeping. Not long after I contemplate this, my day-long headache seems to subside a bit. I lie down on my comforter — just for a second I tell myself — and then I’m asleep.
3:10pm — It’s after 3 o’clock when I wake, and there is a lot of traffic at the bake sale table. I can’t see how many cupcakes they have left, but my fingers are crossed it’s a small amount. Speaking of traffic, it has slowed down in the kennels. Almost all of the dogs have retreated inside except for a curious few determined to stay on alert.
A couple walks by with someone from the adoption department, and I listen as they discuss more specifics about the dogs they are interested in adopting. Each one sounds as great as the next; good with kids, good with other dogs and so on.
I know that 2 dogs were already adopted today, and I’m hoping this couple decides to give one of these dogs a second chance at family. And, of course, I hope they stop by the bake sale and buy some sweets or a raffle ticket.
3:45pm — It’s almost time for me to go. I’ll finally get to clean my face and scratch and itch! No longer will poop fumes pass through my nose. I’m looking forward to food later, especially because I have had only water since I’ve been in my kennel all day.
To get an idea of the noisy scene I was in all day, this video shows the dogs in the kennels:
This experience will stay with me, and it gave me a greater appreciation for what the animals endure — and still bounce back when adopted. Such resiliency is to be admired, and I will remember that although I survived one day in the shelter, they are here every day. Their tails still wag when people walk up, a sign of hope that one day they will no longer need a kennel.
Thank you to Petful, St. Tammany Humane Society, our sponsors and those that supported me and the shelter for this event. I am so glad I was given the chance to pull this off and continue to spread our animal welfare mission, be it through donations or my crazy ideas.
- Although I was offered all sorts of amenities such as pillows, my kennel was set up just as the other dogs: a blanket, a water pail and an interior/exterior area (I stayed in the exterior portion so I could be visible to visitors). The technology and electricity was only so I could record the events.
- People offered me food all day long, but I wasn’t going to accept anything the dogs didn’t get. I couldn’t bring myself to eat the dog food, so I didn’t eat while I was confined.
- My large bottle of water was empty quickly because of how hot I was, and I didn’t want to get dehydrated and pass out. Instead of asking someone to refill it for me, I dunked it in the pail of water left for me just as the other dogs had in their kennels. Yep — I drank it.
- Once I was put in my kennel, I didn’t leave until the end of the day. Luckily I didn’t have to go to the bathroom, because I doubt anyone wanted to watch me do that.
How You Can Help Me
I’ve done the grunt work of being locked up all day, but you can help me from your own computer!
Please consider making a donation — even $5 — today. You can donate here and designate the funds to go to the Second Chance Fund from the drop-down menu (under “Donation Designation”). Thank you so much for your support!