My love of animals appeared at an early age. While I was not allowed to have any pets, I made a point to learn all the neighborhood dogs’ names. My parents would take me at least once a week to the Cincinnati Zoo, and we were there so often that I knew all the elephants’ names. At the library, I checked out just about every book about animals there was at the time. Since my mom allowed me to have my first dog, the number of pets in the house has continued to increase. In total, I have had five dogs, three hedgehogs, a chinchilla, and three cats.
Approximately 2.4 million dogs and cats are put down each year in shelters due to either health, personality, or inability to find a home. Other animal populations such as deer and coyotes are also experiencing large rises in numbers that have become concerning. One solution to the rising wildlife population is to kill the animals, which is ethically questionable. Out of the nine pets, three of them came from animal shelters and one of them was given to me by someone who could no longer take care of her. To me, one of the bigger problems in America is the unnecessary death of animals due to overpopulation, so the problem I would like to become involved with is the animal overpopulation in the U.S.
The opportunities I would be involved with while contributing to the animal overpopulation problem would fall under the thematic area of community engagement. One way I would like to become involved with the problem is to foster. In the past, I have volunteered at animal shelters, and this semester I am volunteering with the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Cincinnati’s pet program. While shelters do their best to make the lives of dogs and cats as comfortable as possible, nothing can replace an actual home rather than a relatively small kennel. Fostering not only allows pets to live more comfortably while finding a family, but it also allows shelters to take in more animals. By fostering, I would be able to gain experience caring for dogs and cats on my own rather than relying on my mom and sister to help shoulder some of the responsibility, and I would have the opportunity of learning how to let go. I have the bad habit of getting emotionally attached to animals rather quickly, so when it is time for them to return to their owners or to be adopted, I have a hard time letting go. I think fostering pets would help me work on not becoming too attached to animals I meet so I do not end up with twenty cats and dogs like my mom think I will.
In terms of fostering, one goal I would like to set for myself is to foster a mother cat and her kittens. The number of stray cats is much greater than the number of stray dogs. If I were to have the opportunity to foster a mother cat and her kittens, I would want to also be personally involved with finding homes for them. Helping to find homes for the cats and kittens would push me to interact with people more, which I think is one of my weaknesses. Helping to find homes for kittens that I have had a hand in raising would also be the ultimate test of whether I am able to let go of animals. The process should be made easier in that having a hand in finding homes for them would allow me to be reassured that they are going to a good home.
Another way I would like to become involved with animal overpopulation is to become involved with Clifton Deer in Cincinnati. The deer population in Cincinnati has exploded, and the large number of deer harms the ecosystem. Clifton Deer has partnered with Cincinnati’s parks to form the Cincinnati’s first non-lethal fertility control program. The two main opportunities I am interested in with Clifton Deer are the educational aspect and the setting up of the field surgery facility.
The educational aspect would play to my strength of learning. I enjoy learning about new topics, and the idea of applying the idea of spaying and neuter to reduce overpopulation like shelters have with cats and dogs to deer is fascinating to me. My learning and understanding about the deer problem and the program can then be tested if I am asked to help with educating Cincinnati residents. I believe there is a distinct difference between learning and understanding a concept for self-education versus for education of the general population. While information just for one’s self only has to make sense to one person, information meant to inform many people must be thought of in different ways because not everyone thinks the same. I think that one way to know if a concept is fully understood is if one can put the topic in the simplest terms and is prepared for any questions. I have had some experience with educating others about topics through tutoring, but I know that I am not the best. Becoming part of the education team with Clifton Deer would allow me to further develop my learning skills by making me learn how to comprehend topics well-enough that I can pick out the most important parts and simplify it to present to the general population.
Helping with setting up the field surgery facility is interesting to me because I think it would combine two of my greatest interests: the medical field and animals. Helping set up the field surgery facility would allow me to learn about how surgery rooms are set up and what equipment is the most important in the case of sterilizing the deer. The cost of each surgery must be brought down as much as possible to be able to operate on as many deer as Clifton Deer would need to do it on to see a difference in the deer population, so the amount of equipment will most likely be limited to only the necessary. I am interested in learning about which pieces are deemed most necessary and I am also interested in the procedure itself. Helping with the field surgery facility would allow me to develop my learner strength in a different way than with educating others in that rather than learning from textbooks and other reading sources, I will have to learn strictly from experience and observations.
During Gateway to Honors, two topics that were discussed were finding organizations to become involved with that can make a difference and are meaningful to us and allowing our values to guide our actions. There are countess animal organizations, but the mission of each one is not necessarily the same. I think that as I continue to look for ways to become involved with addressing animal overpopulation, I must make sure that I am aware of what the mission and actions of the organizations are before I join and/or while I help. I do not want to join an organization that while has a more renown reputation than another, does not uphold my values. I do not want to be part of an organization simply because it would good on a resume if my values are compromised or if the actions that are asked of me push me too far out of my comfort zone. I will able to put the most effort into an organization whose mission are the most like mine, so I want to make sure that I am constantly aware of whether I agree with what is being asked of me to do as I continue to move forward to help with animal overpopulation.
Below are some photos of my pets: