Who knew a squirrel could be cuddly?

During Vacation Bible School at my church recently, to inspire everyone to dig deep into their piggy banks and support our designated mission project, I invited a local animal rescue organization to bring some of their critters and talk about their work.

To say that the ladies who came made an impression would be an understatement. The children were mesmerized by the chance to see and touch a sugar glider, raccoon, and squirrel up close, and we adults turned into big puddles of mush--begging to hold and cuddle these wild things that fate has domesticated. (Okay, calling Buddha the Raccoon "domesticated" would be a stretch, but he was amiable and accommodating, if not docile!) Hazel the Squirrel, brain damaged at an early age due to a fall from her nest, was an angel, happily nibbling nuts from our palms and snoozing contentedly on our shoulders. Splenda the Sugar Glider was cordial and curious but, being nocturnal, fell asleep and pretty much missed the party.

While we ogled and petted and cuddled these animals that were fortunate enough to be rescued from their sundry disasters, the rescue reps shared staggering statistics and sobering stories: the fifteen volunteers of their organization took in 11,500 injured, abandoned, abused, or endangered animals from nine different counties last year. (Do the math: that's almost 770 animals A PIECE--2 a day, every day for a year!) So where do these animals come from? Sometimes they're exotic pets that people get bored with or tired of. Sometimes they wander into dangerous or inappropriate places and someone calls for help. Sometimes a neighbor reports another neighbor who's tried to turn a wild thing into a pet. Sometimes someone sees an animal being abused and asks the rescue team to intervene. Sometimes a park ranger calls to say "the mama's dead and we have no way to take care of the babies." So off goes the rescue team, superhero saviors of the furry and the four-footed. Of course, these volunteers don't just show up, save the day, and drive away; many times they take these animals into their homes and nurse them back to health, give them a home until one can be found, or care for the animal until it can be released back into the wild.

Did I mention that these are volunteers? As in, they offer up their time, gas, resources, and homes for FREE, with no compensation whatsoever, purely because they have hearts made of solid gold? We were happy to bestow a week's worth of Bible school donations on them, but what we gave doesn't even begin to make a dent in what they need. So if you'd like your hard-earned money to go to something besides the gas pump for a change, toward something that is human kindness of the purest kind, consider sending a few dollars to support your local animal rescue effort. (And, yes, even a few dollars really helps!) If you can't spare cash, consider giving some time or supplies; these organizations are always in need of runners, clerical help, vet services, food, etc.

It's getting harder and harder to make a difference in today's world; here's an opportunity that's guaranteed. Buddha and Hazel thank you!

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