Sunday, July 15, 2012

Here for a Reason

I found out earlier this week that an essay I wrote, one that appeared in two of the magazines produced by my organization, won gold for best essay in this year's Magnum Opus awards. I had forgotten -- or maybe even never known -- we'd entered it. My first thought was extreme excitement, because, given the name of the awards, I imagined the prize might be Tom Selleck showing up on my doorstep with Berkeley Breathed's melancholy penguin.

Even when I realized that wouldn't be happening, I was still happy -- this was a subject I thought about a long time before writing the essay. Over the years I've been covering the animal sheltering field, I've often worried about the way that people tend to elevate the animals who've been made victims in some terrible way. It's not that I don't think we should tell these stories -- people need to hear them, and in some cases, telling them saves animals' lives. But there's something troubling about such attention getting paid to the worst cases. It seems to indicate a human attraction toward victimization in some way, an addiction to an exciting narrative that may work for some animals but leaves others homeless.

This essay -- the story of the puppy pictured above, who survived euthanasia and went from being unknown and unwanted to having adopters in France apply to take him in -- was an attempt to explore that issue, and I'm really gratified that others read and enjoyed it.

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