A Lesson in Empathy

By: | August 20, 2018

When all of the pets didn’t go home on ‘Clear the Shelters’ day, we didn’t go home either.

While 66 pets found new, loving homes on this day, our team of passionate, dedicated staff simply couldn’t stomach the thought of leaving those who did remain all alone. So, we thought by staying the night we could bring a little ‘home’ to the APA.

We piled in with overnight duffles, sleeping bags and inflatable air mattresses. Some of us came armed with multiple pillows, eye masks, and all of the other things we thought might make our stay more pleasant and comfortable. We were excited about being here because we love this work and couldn’t wait to let the animals cuddle up to us for the night.

The pets loved the change of pace (and space!) and really soaked in the extra snuggles and attention. We could tell it did wonders for their souls, and as you might imagine, it touched our souls, as well, but in a slightly different, unintended way.

For those who spent the night, it was an opportunity to see things from the perspectives of the animals who reside with us at the APA. I’m not sure any of us really thought about this in advance of staying the night, but merely thought of it as something fun and different. I know I didn’t.

It was definitely fun, but also a lesson in empathy. Many of us didn’t sleep well (or in my case, at all!). The sounds were different, it wasn’t as comfortable as the warm beds we are used to, and some rooms are pretty bright, even at night. While we knew we were safe and had the option to drift off to sleep, it wasn’t easy. Simply put, it wasn’t home.

For those who didn’t spend the night, we invited them to think about why. Of course, they wanted to be with family, in the comfort of their own home, or simply had other things they wanted to do. All very fair and understandable.

Then we thought about the animals and how their first night must be at the APA. For some it is the first time they’ve been comfortable, eaten a reliable meal and experienced warmth and kindness. For others, especially those whose families have had to give them up due to unforseeable or tragic circumstances, it is definitely not home, no matter how hard we try. I can imagine, especially for the latter, their first night is very similar to what we experienced.

Of course, our staff all knew we would return to our normal lives the next morning, but for our animals, they have no idea when that will happen. While we do our very best to show them love, care and compassion while they are staying with us, there truly is no place like home.