Time Well Spent (got jacked up on rage)

They knew us as the ones who checked the day’s euth list for the names of the dogs scheduled to be killed the next morning, who came to take the death-row dogs…for a last long walk, brought them good dinners, cleaned out their kennels, and made their beds with beach towels and bath mats and Scooby-Doo fleece blankets still warm from industrial dryers…They knew us as the ones who worked for free, who felt that an hour stroking a blanket-wrapped dog whose head never left your lap and who was killed the next morning was time well spent…The knew me as one who love in them…the patent need, the clinging, the appetite. They knew me as one who saw their souls in their faces, who had never seen eyes more expressive than theirs in colors of clover honey, root beer, riverbed… We would do anything for them – their heads and bodies crossed with scars like unlucky life lines in a human hand, yet whose tails still wagged when we reached to pet them…They knew me as one who got jacked up on rage and didn’t know what to do with it, until a dog dug a ball from the corner of his kennel and brought it to my side, as though to ask, “Have you thought of this.” …They knew me as one who saw through the windowed panel…a dog lift first one front paw and then the other, offering a paw to shake though there was no one there, doing a trick he had once been taught and praised for…They knew me as one who decoded the civic boast of a “full-service” shelter, that it means the place kills animals, that the “full service” offered is death…They knew me as one who asked another volunteer if she would mind holding Creamsicle, a young vanilla and orange pup, while I cleaned his soiled kennel and made his bed at the end of the night…We were both tired, and took turns holding the pup against our hearts. They saw this; they knew this. The ward went quiet. We took our time.

~ Amy Hempel, from “A Full-Service Shelter” in “Sing to It: New Stories” (Scribner, March 26, 2019)


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  1. This absolutely gutted me….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. devastating.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kevin Byrnes says:

    they knew us, and so they did

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sad and look how evil we all have become, killing innocent animals and innocent beings. Pity them such beautiful creatures where our God is in all of us.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. So well written. This did me in, David.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. No words, no words…but tears 😭? You betcha

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Tears rolling down my cheeks as I contemplate their love and realize that there must be a ivery special place in heaven for people like that.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Break my heart : so many need forever homes : full service just became a synonym for hell

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    This is so sad … ‘We were both tired, and took turns holding the pup against our hearts. They saw this; they knew this. The ward went quiet. We took our time.’ … Amy Hempel, from “A Full-Service Shelter” in “Sing to It: New Stories” …

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So so sad. 😢 Thank goodness for people like her who truly live their love of animals and give so much.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. So… I am sitting here with tears running down my face. I don’t know what to do with this sadness that pervaded my entire being when I read this.

    I want to go out and rage at humankind to focus on the kind part of who we are. Not just to one another, but all on this planet.

    I want to march. To write to my political representatives. To send letters to the Editor of hte local newspaper. To picket killing zones.

    I do all of this but I do not know if I could do what Amy Hempel writes. I do not know if anyone will know me that way.

    I do not think I can.

    Thank you for the morning wake-up call David.

    I stand in awe and sadness.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Louise. I feel what you feel. And there’s another part of me that unfortunately feels this:

      “Marianne wanted her life to mean something then, she wanted to stop all violence committed by the strong against the weak, and she remembered a time several years ago when she had felt so intelligent and young and powerful that she almost could have achieved such a thing, and now she knew she wasn’t at all powerful, and she would live and die in a world of extreme violence against the innocent, and at most she could help only a few people. It was so much harder to reconcile herself to the idea of helping a few, like she would rather help no one than do something so small and feeble, but that wasn’t it either.”

      ~ Sally Rooney, Normal People (Hogarth, April 16, 2019)

      Liked by 3 people

      • Powerful and so true. Working in the homeless-serving sector, I know my job is not to ‘save’ people, but rather, to create space for them to find their own way home. When and if they so choose. In the meantime, life is the better option.

        animals hit me differently. They are so defenseless and so dependent upon we humans to treat them kindly. And then we don’t.

        I appreciate your sharing it all.

        Liked by 3 people

  12. Anonymous says:

    ditto. heart break. humans so inhuman.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. You are killing me this morning, David. This was beautifully written but beyond sad. Oh man.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Oh, David…I don’t know how anyone can read the words of this post and not cry. What have we done to this world? It just breaks my heart to think of the cruelty and unfairness we have created for the precious beings of this earth. It makes me want to go someplace where I can surround myself with all the poor dogs and animals who have been treated with hate and abuse…and just give them all every bit of the love that I can find in my heart. They deserve so much more in this life.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I couldn’t comment before – my heart was beating too hard and too fast, my eyes crying over this horrendous ‘full service’, my brain was shouting in a loop ‘But this cannot possibly be true’ – IS IT TRUE? rEALLY?
    What kind of a world are we living in? Why do I have to sigh so many times with a heavy heart about things I will never understand that they are possible? How have we, as a human race, become such ‘less than animals’ creatures?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. This made me tear up

    Liked by 1 person

  17. So-o loving and so painful! I’m “in love” with whoever does this work. Think of how many saints of love and mercy we have–all those who work with creatures who need our intervention to survive (and not always, survive), and those who make the lives of others better in some way.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Very moving piece. The only way I find this justifiable is if the dog in question was rabid and had already hurt a lot of people. I look to Tom Hanks’ movie–The Green Mile—for death row perspective. I wonder what SPCA–PETA have to do about these now homeless dogs .It is too bad that these dogs have to die because their homelessness cannot be solved.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. This post broke my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

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