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A Shelter Animal’s Perspective | Community Spirit

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A Shelter Animal’s Perspective

The following information was sent to us by Katherine Zenzano:

I wanted to share with you a one-day “volunteer recruitment” project that was so personally profound and striking, it brought tears to my eyes and to the eyes of many of our staff.  It gave me deep insight into the experience of our shelter animals from their perspective.  Images from these videos cross my mind often. Even daily.  

In the first video you see the dark silhouette of a cat as she sits in her cage.  She takes a moment to eat from her bowl, then surveys the outside of her cage, and then as if she suspects she is being watched she glances back towards her litter box.  She stands to reveal a stub of a tail and looks around as seconds go by…slowly. She hears the faint sound of simulated birds chirping in the background along with the occasional faint tease of human chatter and movement.

Click here for the video.

Is it possible that seconds turn into minutes when you’re a cat in a cage?

I wasn’t precisely sure what I would find when I played the video back for myself on that day in September 2011, nor did I realize the impact it would ultimately have on me.  I expected monotony when I hit the “Play” button but the boredom and anxiety I experienced in watching it (as you may have) gave me a clear yet raw perspective from one of our shelter’s smaller residents. What initially began as a small project to recruit volunteers to help with the training and enrichment of animals at our shelters would become my quiet inspiration to continue with the essential need to provide stress reduction, enrichment, training and the monitoring of the emotional requirements of our shelter animals.

On that same day in September, I was determined to capture the perspective of both a cat and a dog, so I went to the dog kennels and randomly selected a kennel in which I would place my camera phone; “Rodeo” would be our film subject. 

Click here to see approximately three minutes from her perspective.

“Uh oh! What’d you do to my phone, silly girl?” That’s what I thought when I first walked into her kennel and found my phone laying on the ground, as she jumped on me in a chaotic frenzy, stressed, panting – eyes red and bulging.  I would play back her video on my computer watching as I sighed and admittedly, became teary-eyed.  Watching Rodeo’s frustration escalate to a point where she retrieves the camera-phone, and then, as if in a moment of cinematographic happenstance, drops the camera right side up directly underneath and next to the kennel door where she proceeds to pummel it in a moment of frenzy.  A filmed and edited Pedigree commercial couldn’t have more perfectly depicted the building frustration of a dog in her kennel as people walk by.

My intent was not to depict the suffering and sadness behind sheltering, however, there is a stark reality of shelter life that I think should be shared – along with the great promotions and adoption photos that show the more positive side of animal sheltering. And that is why there was a hesitation to share these raw perspective pieces. Would the public appreciate what three minutes in a cat’s cage or what three minutes in a dog’s kennel looks like? We understand that many people do not come to shelters to adopt or volunteer to avoid this perceived sorrow (which is respectable), however, we also know there is much goodness to be seen here at the Washington Humane Society.

Dogs, cats, bunnies and other small animals go home with loving families on a regular basis and it’s a beautiful sight!  We have volunteer programs like S.T.E.P.s where volunteer trainers can come to do training and enrichment with the animals; teaching a timid dog to “come” or “touch” a hand on request, then handing out handmade toys to all the cats to lessen their sense of monotony and lack of stimulation.  Or the People and Animal Club Klub, better known as the P.A.C.K., where you can go running on the weekends in Rock Creek Park with a selected shelter pup! How fun is that?!

There are many ways to support the animals of the Washington Humane Society and volunteering is just one. Financial support also allows caregivers to provide animals with the daily essentials to enrich their lives such as toys, treats, soothing sights, sounds, bedding and more – all critical to their emotional well-being.

Days after they were filmed, our kitty friend was moved to the adoption floor where she charmed her way into a new home. Rodeo was also adopted into a forever home.  I imagine that their current perspectives are much brighter and cozier.