If someone were to ever follow Soft Side around for a week, they’d probably be surprised at how we spend our days. Because contrary to what you might think, the bulk of our time is not spent at photo shoots with two-legged celebrities and adorable cats and dogs, but instead attached to a phone and a laptop connecting dots that, with any luck, might help an animal, shelter or rescue in need.
Dots, you ask? What does that mean?
It means supporting the efforts of outraged citizens by launching a Twitter campaign when the Mayor of Montreal tries to wipe all “pit bull breeds” from the face of the city. (And yes, the latest ruling means we’ll be back at it again soon.) It means recruiting help from Softies and sponsors when a community’s kitty caretakers are down to their last cent. It means alerting law enforcement when we receive a tip about animal abuse and then following up on the results. It means paving the way for a paralyzed puppy to get free pool access to exercise his broken little legs. It means recruiting Softies to speak to a Congressional delegation. It means finding someone to take on the wish list at BARCS. It means introducing a small, but passionate rescue to a national organization that’s looking to partner. It means recruiting Softies to speak to kids who live in areas rife with animal abuse. It means vetting new Softies and supporting the efforts of our long-standing ones. In other words, it means being available 24/7 to use our relationships and connections in any way that can benefit an individual dog or cat – or a shelter or city full of them.
It also means a lot of time spent alone.
Alone answering emails and messages, searching, posting and connecting those dots. And in spite of frequent chin-rub breaks with our own four-legged crews, there are days when you ask yourself, “Does anything we do really matter?”
It was one of those days that the email from heaven arrived.
To put this in perspective, it’s not unusual for us to receive emails. They’re usually one of three varieties a) either asking for help promoting an animal, event or initiative b) alerting us to a story or situation or c) railing against pit bulls and admonishing us for having the gall to ever share them. Lately, it’s been a lot more of the latter so when we hear that “ding” we automatically tense up. (In the early days, we tried responding, but have since realized you can’t rationalize with a brick wall.)
This email seemed different from the start. A very simple request to please call because this person would like to make a year-end donation and didn’t want to do it online. I should also fess up here – of the three of us, I’m the one who suffers from…phone phobia. I’d rather do almost anything than talk on the phone and making phone calls? Well, that requires a half-hour “pep talk” with myself to achieve.
This one, however, was so intriguing, I just picked up the phone and dialed.
A gentleman answered and within about 30 seconds, it felt like an old friend was on the other end of the line. He told me about the reason behind the gift, and how he and his partner had found us. (Believe it or not, Facebook.) He told me about their rescue pup and how much she’s meant to their lives. I told him about our failings on the fundraising front and I confessed there was a part of me that wondered, could this be some kind of Chinese scam? He laughed and said he wondered the same thing when he sent it. There was one point in the conversation when I was actually speechless – partly in response to their generosity, but also for something even more precious. Here were two people we had never met who truly cared and believed in what we’re doing. That is a gift that’s beyond priceless.
None of us, not the three of us who run Soft Side on a volunteer basis, not our photographer who donates hundreds of hours of time, and not our friends and volunteers who are always front and center when we need them – ever set out to be in animal welfare. We stumbled into it out of anger and in the hopes that by providing compassionate role models, we might be able to change the tide and stop animal abuse before it even starts. We have a long way to go, but we’re proud to have an army of Softies who are willing to donate their names and their time toward achieving that goal. And we’re humbled by the support of all those we now call friends, as well as those we’ve yet to meet.
There are two names at the top of that list. You know who you are. Thank you from the bottom of our Big Softie hearts for believing in us and, even more importantly, for reminding us that we’re never really alone.