Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bless the Beasts and The Children

My neighbor recently got a new dog: a scrappy little doxen-and-something mix.

The other day as I rang my neighbor’s doorbell the dog started yapping away and barking up a storm. “Let me put her in the kennel.” My neighbor called to me through her screen. “He’s a little wild right now.”

She explained that she and her husband had recently adopted the dog, Skittles, from an animal shelter and that he was having a hard transition as this was the third home he had lived at in a couple of months.

“I guess Skittle’s original owner was an older woman who had too many dogs in her home- more than the county’s acceptable limit- so someone intervened.”  I smiled as an image of a crazy old "cat lady" popped into my mind.

She continued, “She’s been doing well except for when I try to discipline her and then she gets kind of scared. I feel bad because I’m not trying to be mean, but I need to reprimand her when she pees on the carpet instead of outside, you know what I mean? She does alright with me, but when my husband gets home from work it’s a different story- this dog kind of freaks out- not just with my husband but when any males come to the door or in the house. I think the last house she was at (before the shelter) there must have been a man that abused him- because men really seem to set him off and give him lots of . . .

“Triggers?” I finished her sentence. She nodded in affirmation. “Sounds like a foster child” I said, half-chuckling to myself.

And when I use the term “chuckle” I don’t mean laughing in a “ha ha, that’s so funny!” way- but more of a “That’s so sad- insert nervous laughter because life can be so unfair sometimes” way.

Mind you, I’m not trying to be insensitive to or demean foster children by comparing them to animals, but JUST HEAR ME OUT as I try to process my thoughts: The parallels between my neighbor’s shelter dog and foster children were impossible to ignore: both are victims, through no fault of their own, of neglect, abuse, or abandonment. Each has to make the transition of being removed from their environment to a new foreign environment where they often must deal with issues of confusion, trust, and fear. Is it no wonder they "act out"?

My neighbor’s words and the similarities between abused and abandoned children and animals in need of homes were in the back of my mind when two days later- I kid you not- I saw this commercial on TV. I didn’t catch all of it, but the line that stood out for me was:

"Shelter dogs aren't broken-

They've simply experienced more life"

The voice-over on the Pedigree commercial continued as pictures of puppies and dogs came across the screen with a somber music playing in the background and a final admonition to adopt a shelter dog.

Maybe I’m too idealistic, but I think that most people are touched with compassion when they hear of others who are suffering or in need of help. And I think that the desire to help is even more pronounced when children or animals are in need because unlike most people, children and animals are not capable of standing up for themselves.

The words of the song “Bless the Beasts and the Children” come to mind. (To get the full affect, imagine Karen Carpenter’s angelic voice singing.)

Bless the beasts and the children
For in this world they have no voice
They have no choice

Bless the beasts and the children
For the world can never be
The world they see

Light their way
When the darkness surrounds them
Give them love
Let it shine all around them

Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from a storm
Keep them safe
Keep them warm

So although I’m NOT writing this post in an effort to put everyone on a guilt trip if you don't go out and become a foster parent or adopt a child from foster care (or even an animal from a shelter for that matter) right this minute, I DO have one request: Perhaps we could re-frame the way we may view children who come into foster care and separate their unfortunate circumstances from the children themselves, because nobody likes to be called "broken" and to paraphrase the Pedigree commercial:

"Foster Children are not broken- they’ve simply experienced more life than other children."

May is National Foster Care Month; hence my obligatory Foster Care Advocacy post.

For a list of ways to help support children in foster care, other than fostering and adopting click here.

Also check out the last couple of paragraphs of this post written by a teenager whose family has fostered over 14 children.  I like that Kylee's post encouraged others to get involved, but it didn't necessarily use guilt as a motive for those who don't choose to foster or adopt.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Hey, just stopped by from MMB. This is a beautiful post. I've always wondered about other ways to help support children in foster care.