Spencer is our tiny, scrappy dog, who was picked up on the streets and brought to Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC). We found him as a result of the incredible networking and support that numerous shelters and rescue groups in the animal welfare community offer on a daily basis.
Volunteers from Foster Pet Outreach, a group that regularly transfers animals out of CACC and places them in temporary homes, took Spencer into their care and brought him to an amazing woman in Peoria. There, he was able to rest, receive personal attention, and interact with humans and other animals in a positive and loving environment.
One recent morning, savoring my time in bed before the alarm went off, I heard the familiar beeping noises of the garbage truck in the alley. Then, I waited for the next predictable sound: Spencer jumping off the bed in a panic and scampering to the front of the house so quickly he resembles a cartoon—his paws moving faster than the rest of his body.
But this morning was different. He was curled up next to me, touching a part of my body (his cardinal rule when near any human), and he barely noticed the sound of the truck. I waited a minute for him to realize it was his arch enemy on wheels, but still nothing. He poked his head up, ears straight up on alert, but he stayed right where he was… a major accomplishment for him.
Spencer came to us with a phobia of loud trucks, busy streets, and especially noisy garbage collectors, probably because he spent much of his time running and hiding from them to survive life as a stray. He has been a part of our family for more than a year now, and it’s been amazing to watch him grow and gain confidence—feeling safer and more comfortable in his surroundings. He was a love from the beginning, but it’s clear that he absolutely knows that he belongs with us now, and understands that we are here to protect him and do everything we can to keep him healthy and happy.
The fact that Spencer was connected with a rescue group to help him get out of CACC so quickly made a huge impact on his life (and ours.) The behind-the-scenes emails, texts, photos, and social media posts that it can take to transfer out just one dog or cat is a testament to the fierce commitment and spirit of Chicago’s animal welfare warriors.
From the moment Spencer stepped “paw” into his foster home, his journey to true peace and joy began. Dominique, his foster mom, offered him the space and security he needed to relax. And since the day we took him home, this generous foster mom has done the same thing multiple times for other animals in need.
In late June, Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired the best director of CACC that I have seen since I got involved in the animal welfare community in Chicago in 2000. Susan Russell was let go without warning (and without due cause, as far as the community is concerned). The situation reeks of politics, with decisions being made by people who are clearly not hands-on in the animal community. You can learn more about the details on our social media, and watch our live video recorded at a rally held in early July at CACC, flooded with Chicago’s animal lovers, dedicated volunteers, and animal rescue workers.
This heavily attended event speaks volumes not only about the support for Susan Russell and the work she has done, but highlights where Chicago stands on animal welfare. It is clear that we are at a point where constituents are connected and organized, ready to stand up, speak out, and get involved. Chicago is OUR town, and CACC houses OUR animals. We will not allow them to be used as pawns in a political game on OUR watch. The message has been sent loud and clear that we are not going away. We are watching the city shelter closely, and we will keep showing up until we all do right by our animals.
I am so proud of the community at this moment, especially since during all of this it seems people have come through in an even bigger way and are stepping up to transfer as many dogs, cats, and rabbits out of CACC as they can.
As is the theme of many social justice issues at the moment, the most important thing we can do is to use our power to vote for what’s right. This is what democracy looks like.
Together, we can make a difference—