Just about a week ago, I attended the first (and hopefully not the last) graduation ceremony for the people and dog participants of WOOF, the new program out of the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control. The ceremony, like the program itself, received a good amount of attention from the media and I am not writing this to rehash what's already been said. Not there for the purpose of posting a blog, in fact not there for any purpose other than witnessing and supporting the good work of another animal organization, I decided to simply experience the rush of emotions I felt at the event and let them percolate. This post, then, is a result of allowing myself that bit of self-indulgent wallowing in couple of very moving hours.
On the very small chance that someone who bothers to read my post somehow missed this altogether, here's a quick summary of the program. WOOF placed four homeless dogs from the city's shelter into the foster care of eight once homeless people residing in transitional housing. The eight people each received a small stipend for their hands-on work with the dogs, not only providing TLC but also working under the guidance of professional animal behaviorists to help bring their four little dogs out from various degrees of shyness and not-so-great behaviors all the result of their prior neglect.
The program had some obvious "magic" to it: The parallels between people and animals who each had been, for various reasons, rejected by and/or rejecting of more mainstream communities, and allowing them the chance to help each other find a way to some better place. The thinking was that the dogs would have the chance to blossom outside the animal shelter and in a home environment with far more one-on-one attention, while the people would have the chance to blossom by offering and receiving back love while working with trainers to see measurable results as the dogs improved.
I thought the idea was great. Anyone who reads my blog would expect that of me. Others, including others with job titles and responsibilities similar to my own, thought it was a truly horrible idea and visions were floated of drugged-out panhandlers abusing shelter dogs.
We were all right to express those views, both the positives and the negatives. Those who thought the idea was fatally flawed were expressing their concerns about animals who had been victims before now again being placed, potentially, once more into harm's way. Those who thought the idea was a good one were resonating with the possibility of possibility, recognizing that dogs are almost always willing to give people a second chance and that the dog's foster people were all formerly homeless but currently in a supportive environment under the guidance of skilled social service professionals.
In this case, the optimists proved correct. The ceremony was beautiful. The results were beautiful. Life, sometimes awful, once again proved itself capable of being beautiful. It was a pleasure to be there to witness a little bit of that.