He walks through the door, uncertain of what awaits; eyes wide and heavy of breath. I am there to greet him, like so many times before – like so many others before.
He doesn’t know. But I do.
His friend hesitates but tries desperately not to meet his gaze. This moment has been a long time coming, but neither of them are prepared. Others are watching now and I try to move them away. Too many people, too many questions. As the small crowd disperses, I return to him knowing there is nothing I can say. I stand patiently in silence in the corner of the small room; my eyes refusing to betray me despite the weight barreling down on me. The final words have been said; the final papers signed. His friend finally looks down upon him and in a sudden moment an expression of happy innocence hits his face. He believes it will be ok.
He doesn’t see. But I do.
A final awkward hug is exchanged as a tear rolls down his friend’s face. He gives his friend a kiss on the cheek as they embrace and then suddenly in a flash his friend is gone. He is alone. As he looks around, panic begins to set in and I am there to catch him as cries echo through the hallway. I bring him to his bed; a room where all the others that came before him have stayed. I close the door behind me and turn around to meet his bewildered glare. As our eyes meet for the first time, he calms briefly and I extend my hand in greeting. He pauses and stares at it for a while, before wagging his tail and licking the open face of the palm of my hand. I say goodnight and turn off the lights and he lets out a bark. There is a short silence before he lets out another. Slowly, he is joined by the sound of his brothers and sisters; all the others that currently are. The cries of the lost, the forgotten, the abandoned, the hopeless, the hurt, and the homeless.
They don’t understand. But I do.
I go home, leaving the day behind me; a good day, but a hard one all the same. I get to eat, and sleep, and play, and hold the ones I love. And when the sun goes down and the day is finally done, I crawl into bed, close my eyes, and I see each of their faces staring back at me through the darkness.
I do not sleep. But they do.
Dedicated to all those who work tirelessly at animal shelters and rescues around the world, and to those who care enough to give animals the best life possible. Thank you.