The book, One at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter, is a project of No Voice Unheard. This non-profit organization’s mission is to promote compassion and respect for all living beings and the planet we share.
The authors of this book and founders of No Voice Unheard, Diane Leigh and Marilee Geyer, are former shelter workers and are committed to giving homeless animals a voice.
One at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter is a true account of seven days at a typical American animal shelter in Northern California. This book is about those abandoned dogs and cats that come into the shelter during that time.
Here are some general statistics from the book:
- 6 to 8 million lost and unwanted animals entered animal shelters nationwide last year. 3 to 4 million animals were euthanized in animal shelters last year. This means one animal is put down every nine seconds.
- Euthanasia in shelters is the leading cause of death of healthy dogs and cats.
- 1 in 3 animals will have a home that lasts their entire lifetime.
- 20% of animals currently in homes are adopted from shelters.
- 25% of dogs in shelters are purebred.
- A companion animal is lost every 30 seconds.
- Only 2% of lost cats who enter shelters are ever reunited with their families. Only 16% of dogs are reunited with their families.
- The length of time that most surrendered animals have been in the home before being surrendered is less than one year.
The book documents 75 stories of individual dogs and cats that come to the animal shelter during the week. All of these cats and dogs are here to find a home. Some will be reunited with their family, some will move to a new and hopefully permanent and loving home, and some will be euthanized.
All of the stories are touching, emotional and heart felt. At times, I had to put the book down because I was overcome with sadness for these innocent pets that simply wanted to be loved.
Mocha was the only stray cat, out of nearly 150, who was wearing identification that ended up in the shelter during that week. Unfortunately, Mocha’s identification was not the sturdiest. The hollow, two piece id “barrel” that screwed together to hold the piece of paper that had Mocha’s contact information on it had fallen apart. The bottom half of Mocha’s barrel was missing along with her vital identification information inside. Luckily, Mocha’s owners knew to look for her at the shelter. Mocha was one of only a handful of pets who were reunited with their families.
There is Charlie’s story. He was a young Doberman who was graceful and beautiful. He had a sweet personality, was active and happy, and wanted to please those around him. Even though his shelter records said he was “friendly and outgoing”, no one wanted to adopt this Doberman. After three weeks in the shelter, Charlie started to feel kennel stress. He started to growl and lunge at dogs in the kennels near him. He began to bark incessantly and even a citronella collar didn’t stop him from barking.
Charlie had a ten-day stay at a foster home to relieve some of his stress, and then he returned to the shelter. The shelter contacted the local Doberman Pinscher rescue group, but the group only rescued purebred Dobermans, which Charlie was not. He was not enough Doberman to be rescued, but he was too much Doberman to be adopted. Three weeks after his foster home visit, he started to show signs of kennel stress again. His records read: “This poor guy cannot handle the stress of being kenneled. If we sent him out to foster again, he’d come back to the same thing. We tried. Disposition for euthanasia.”
Amidst the tragedy of so many dogs and cats being euthanized, there are those stories of hope and second chances. Bogie was a dog with a huge heart in a pit bull body. He was a stray dog and was wearing a leather collar and a flea collar. Bogie was sweet and kind, but was unclaimed by his owner.
In past years, almost all shelters did not adopt out pit bulls. If one was brought into the shelter, it was directly brought into the euthanasia room. But now, shelters are changing their policies regarding pit bulls and are doing canine temperament testing, so they can see what a dog’s personality is. Bogie was tested and found to have a tolerant, responsive and stable temperament. His energetic personality attracted several adopters, and finally, the right adopter came by. Before adopting Bogie, the shelter required that he be neutered and micro-chipped. Also, the new owner and Bogie would have to attend training classes together. Despite the negative stereotypes of his breed, Bogie got a second chance which he truly deserved. Someone saw him for his loving spirit, and as Bogie, instead of just a pit bull.
One at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter is available at Borders, Barnes and Noble, and independent bookstores everywhere. It also is available at the No Voice Unheard website. All of the proceeds from the sale of this book go to supporting educational programs focused on homeless animals, creating positive change for companion animals, and honoring homeless animals everywhere.
Photo: Barnes and Noble