Recently, I was driving down the street listening to Mariah Carey singing her very peppy version of “All I Want for Christmas.” It caused me to think about what I would want for Christmas if I could have anything but just one single thing. I have reached a point in life where I no longer have a great desire for material things. That is not to say that I don’t enjoy cool gadgets and pretty clothes like we all do but they really no longer top my list. I was not sure of what that one thing would be that would be my top choice.
The very next day, I actually got the gift that topped my list, but the funny thing was I did not realize it until it happened. What happened was that Elvis, a dog that I, like all of our staff and volunteers, have loved and cheered for as he has dealt courageously with his paralysis, got adopted to a wonderful couple. They somehow walked through our doors looking to adopt him and had all the right attributes of both personal devotion and commitment as well as understanding and skill to care for him and make his life a good one.
To be honest, this amazing event happened after I had had a long series of events and outcomes that felt very discouraging, disillusioning and/or anger producing. I found myself at the holiday season in a sour mood because it all seemed to be so very futile and frustrating. I must admit that many of these experiences had been illustrations of the irresponsibility, cruelty and selfishness that humans can display with regard to animals and some were examples of the disparagement of the importance of our mission by people and companies. It all caused me to feel very pessimistic about the prospects for moving the needle in the direction of better treatment for animals.
Then, just like a true miracle, this remarkable thing came along to give me the gift I really needed without knowing I did – something to recharge my hope, commitment and positive outlook. The perfect adopters came looking for our precious Elvis into whom this organization and its staff and volunteers had poured so much heart, love, time, money and sustained effort. You could never list all the people associated with the Richmond SPCA who had loved and been devoted to that adorable guy. From our medical team to our kennel staff to our green team volunteers to our other staff members – they had given him love, walks, playtime, a personalized wheelchair, training to move well in the wheelchair, a home at Thanksgiving - well, I could just go on and on. As a result of all this loving care and attention, Elvis had even started to walk again which really no one would ever have thought possible when he first came into our care last spring after being deserted by his prior owner who would not deal with his physical challenges of paralysis from the mid-section down.
Then, this wonderful lady materialized in our adoption center on December 17. She said that she and her husband had recently lost their beloved elderly dog and they wanted to adopt a dog who truly needed them. Her husband had some physical challenges and mobility issues too and they had read about Elvis's own similar problems. It seemed like a perfect fit and a really rewarding thing for them to do together.
What a gift it was – both to Elvis and to his adopters and to me. As I watched this woman learn patiently from our staff members about all that she would need to do for Elvis, and as I saw that she paid careful attention to what she was being told but never once balked or seemed to rethink the commitment to him, I realized that the world does actually have people in it who truly recognize and feel grateful for all the remarkable things that animals bring to our lives and do for our spirits. These people are willing to give of themselves unselfishly and love unqualifiedly to return those favors to animals in need. I realized that the world is not just composed of hard-hearted and self-centered people. While there are undoubtedly a fair number of people who do not care about animals or do not value our mission or see it as a priority, there are enough people who recognize the importance of animals and our responsibilities to them to make our work possible, our mission achievable and our future bright. The existence and great accomplishments of the Richmond SPCA, in fact, are a testament to the fact that, for generations, there have been many people in our community who care deeply about animals and who have been willing to give generously to help us save them.
And, so I hope that you too will derive a great gift from Elvis’ story like I did. Animals bring to us a little bit of heaven on earth. They make each day we have with them a little Christmas by giving us the experience of unconditional love in our lives. I don’t think the real miracle was that Elvis is walking again or that he was brought to one of the few humane organizations that would have put the time, money and love into saving his life or that the right adopters finally came along for him. The miracle was the way he restored my hope and belief in my fellow man. Thank you, Elvis, you gave me the best gift possible for the holidays. Have a wonderful life.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires both your first and last name to be used as your screen name.