Connecting at the Crossroads in Life

Helping Four-Legged and Fine-Feathered Friends

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During recent travels to my old hometown of Nashville, in addition to seeing dear friends, I crossed paths with a bunch of shelter dogs at a charity event and a baby bird in the middle of a busy road.

I returned to Music City for the second annual “Woofstock”, a music festival hosted by Emmylou Harris, benefitting shelter dogs, kids at risk, and disadvantaged adults. Bonaparte’s Retreat, the dog rescue founded by Emmy, and Crossroads Campus, bring together shelter dogs and people in order to provide homes and support to dogs and people in need.

While living in Nashville, I encountered thousands of shelter dogs through volunteering with the city shelter. I worked with an animal control officer on a newspaper column called, Take Us Home. Each week in The Tennessean, we featured five animals, (3 dogs and 2 cats), who needed homes.

Over a three-year period, I helped over 400 dogs, cats, rabbits, and a goat find loving homes. Many amazing adoptable animals were not so lucky. Anyone who has worked in animal rescue and welfare knows not every animal can be saved.

However, we can help them when they are at a crossroads of life.

A crossroads is a significant and synergistic place where a crucial choice must be made. I believe when we arrive at a crossroads and are navigating from our hearts, profound acts of courage and kindness can change the course of the lives of those we meet.

I experienced such an encounter during my visit to Nashville.

I was driving down 14th Street in East Nashville to meet a friend at a coffee shop. At the corner of Lillian Street, water was streaming into the road, so I slowed down. I saw a little bird in the middle of the street. I swerved, missing him by a feather tip.

Looking in the rearview mirror, I expected to see the bird flying over to the grass. Alas, he was still in the road! By a miracle he avoided another passing car.

Though I was running late, I turned around and backtracked to the baby bird. I parked my car, put on the flashers, and just like Johnny Gage from the 1970’s show “Emergency”, headed over to the little fellow.

He didn’t flinch or hop away as I approached him. He was soaked from beak to tail feathers from the passing cars splashing water on him. All alone and vulnerable, he was a pitiful sight.

I scooped him up in my hands and smiled at the delicate angel fledgling. He opened his mouth, but not a peep came out. Perhaps he expected me to drop a juicy bug in his mouth, because he did not try to escape. His little bird legs clung to me and I was surprised at the strength of his tiny claws. It felt like we were holding hands.

Walking over to the nearby lawn, I looked for his parents, but did not see or hear them. I set him on the top rail of a cyclone fence. It was the safest spot I could find.

I couldn’t stay with him, nor could I take him with me. I had to entrust him to Mother Nature. Making sure he had a good grip on the rail, I said, “good luck little buddy” and returned to my car. I drove away, worried about him hopping back into the street or getting eaten by a cat.

When I showed up at the coffee house, I shared the story with my friend, Tisha. I expressed my concern about such a defenseless creature and wondered if he was still safe. She listened and tenderly said, “He’s on his own path.”

Too big for his nest and too little to perch atop a high tree limb, I found the baby bird at a crossroads. His path and my path intersected and our hearts connected.

I don’t know what happened to the baby bird after I helped him. We both had to continue on our own path. My brief encounter was about helping him, not necessarily saving him. At a crucial crossroads, I gave him safety from the street and found him temporary shelter.

The baby bird reminded me of dogs that end up at shelters. Dogs whose lives depend on the courage and kindness of humans. Amazing dogs that all deserve amazing homes. The ideal situation is for every dog to receive a permanent home. However a home can also be a temporary home, a place that offers safety and love, like an animal rescue or a foster home.

Can we save every dog in a shelter? Probably not. Is there a way to help every dog in a shelter? Definitely yes.

How?

Volunteer at your local shelter. If seeing all those amazing dogs (and cats and bunnies) is too much, then donate funds, food, biscuits, toys, beds, or kennel supplies. Contact your local shelter and ask about their “wish list”. Consider fostering a dog. Another way to help is to write your local legislature and ask they pass spay and neuter laws.

The music at Woofstock made my heart sing. The dogs, volunteers, event supporters, and animal welfare advocates made my heart smile. Thanks to the generosity of the Nashville community and two amazing couples from Orange County, significant funds were raised to help deserving dogs and people receive help when they are at a crossroads.

The fine folks at Bonaparte’s Retreat and Crossroads Campus are helping to change the course of many deserving dogs and people in Nashville. To support and learn more go to www.bonapartesretreat.org  andwww.crossroadscampus.org.

Be kind to your four-legged and fine-feathered friends. Be aware of crossroads and always look both ways to see how you can help an animal or a person in need.