I'm on the plane on my way home from the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Conference in Las Vegas. It was another great year with over 1100 attendees from all 50 states and 9 countries. My brain is on overload and I have tons of notes to organize, business cards to file and people to follow up with.
It is inspiring to sit in lecture rooms filled with people that believe in and are committed to a no kill philosophy. It is now time to get back to work and focus on the problem areas, which in Wisconsin are pit bulls and community (feral) cats. We need to get to the root of these problems - changing policies and reducing shelter intake. The best way to successfully tackle this is to get more people on the bus. We need to educate and inform more people about what needs to be done to reduce shelter deaths so we can make sure that the shelters become what they need to be - a safety net for the community's animals when they have no owners willing or able to advocate for them.
We need to take the message mainstream. I categorize people into three groups. The first group includes the people who are deeply involved and educated in these issues already. No use spending a lot of time here - that's like preaching to the choir. These are what I call green dots (more on my dot theory at a later date).
The second group includes the people that I think of as those "that don't know, what they don't know." They happily go about their lives oblivious to the existence of any problems in animal welfare. They may even volunteer or work at a local shelter - doing laundry or cleaning kennels, but they really have no interest or desire to know what goes on or how they can help become part of the solution. There is also a small portion here that are unreachable. They've already made up their minds, dug in their heels and will not listen to reason or logic. (red dots and dinosaurs)
The third group is the chunk of the population in the middle. They're my "yellow dots". They want to know more than they know, but don't know where to turn and they may not even be sure what questions to ask. It's not easy for them to find the answers in the confusing array of websites and organizations. But these are the people that are looking for information and can be brought onboard our bus.
Believe me - I remember being there myself. Back before the days of blogs and high speed internet I would wait anxiously every month for my issue of Best Friends magazine to arrive in the mail. I would read it cover to cover, mark the pages of many articles, and try to commit to memory the amazing stuff I was reading. It was news that at that time was not being printed anywhere else. It was full of encouragement and hope. It was the first place that I read about the No Kill movement and how it WAS possible to end the killing of homeless pets in America. I'd take my earmarked copy to the corner gas station to use their 10 cent photocopier and make copies of the articles to share and save. Plus, I'd always make sure I'd leave my issue somewhere to hopefully be picked up by someone else who would be inspired - a doctor's or dentist's office, or the seat pocket of an airplane.
Nowadays, animal welfare advocates can educate by simply hitting the share key - amazing, but also a little scary. We risk overloading the newbies with too much information and becoming "white noise". We also risk turning them off by sharing negativity and sarcasm. Instead, I try to spend a big portion of my day writing, calling and emailing yellow dots. It can be exhausting. Lots of questions (albeit good ones), lots of research and lots of time. But it is ultimately the most rewarding. It causes the ripple effect in the pond. These are the people who will carry the message farther and farther out into society - so that we will become a deafening roar that can no longer be ignored by the policymakers, old school shelter directors, boards of directors and politicians.
One of my favorite ideas from the conference (and now I can't even remember who said it) was in reference to the Winnie the Pooh stories. We want Tiggers in our movement - not Eeyores. Tiggers that are full of enthusiasm and optimism. Not Eeyores that are negative and dismal.
So with that - I'm off to tackle my yellow dots today. I'll leave you with one of my favorite Pooh quotes:
"If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear." - Winnie The Pooh