Barring a few episodes of looting, thuggery and outright negligence, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma inspired sterling acts of humanity.
More often than not, first responders were regular folk from across the tracks or across the county. Volunteers poured in through every accessible travel artery to pluck strangers from rooftops, distribute water and other bare necessities and to offer warmth and empathy to folks who lost everything.
The welcoming of companion animals by rescue crews and makeshift shelters was a far cry from the separated families and broken hearts left in Hurricane Katrina’s wake because the law back in 2005 did not recognize pets as family.
Okay, many of us do well when the sky is (literally) falling. But how many of us do well on ordinary days when we don’t need a rowboat to cross the street?
I’ve asked myself this question many times during my 60-plus years. The last time was when my wife, Susan, and I attended a local Best Friends adoption event more than five years ago. Though we were a childless couple by choice, both of us recognized that we had ample love to give to a living, breathing being.
Well, Susan actually recognized it more than me. When my wife first breached the air between us with talk of pet adoption, I initially froze in fear. At the time, I believed it was because I was guarding my most precious resources: spare time and freedom. Upon much reflection, I realized that my real fear was that I was not “good enough” to be a pet parent. And, that my only ticket to “freedom” was to commit to caring for another. For only then is the magic and majesty of unconditional love released.
Since then, Susan and I became pet parents - twice over. During these best years of my life, I witnessed the death of yet another myth about myself: the not-good-enough-to-be-a-pet-parent myth joined the I-hate-math-and-science-and-sports-and-playing-a-musical-instrument myths in my compost heap of history.
No one has to wait for an extraordinary moment to do an extraordinary thing. Wherever you live, shelters and adoption groups and foster families are a stone’s throw away. Each animal resident has its own glamorous (or unglamorous) story. But you’re not in it for that. You’re in it because there are hearts out there with holes in them that can only be filled by your special love.
You don’t have to be a flawless pet parent. Believe me, you will make mistakes. We did - in spades! What matters is whether you choose to learn from them. It’s the people who don’t that are to blame for pet homelessness and misery.
Some people decide not to adopt a pet right now - or even ever - because their lives are too unsettled and they question their resources. This is just as wise and compassionate a choice as the person who consciously welcomes an adopted pet into their forever home. However we appraise our external circumstances, we should never let fear of not being a good-enough pet parent inform our decision.
It’s been said that we are at our best when things are worst. If we dig a little deeper, we may find we can be our best without it coming to that.
And - if we really show up - that “best” is plenty good.