My mom was a creative. She played multiple instruments, sang in an oratorio and made wonderful things with her hands ranging from handmade gift cards to photo albums to countless items which were sewn, knitted and crocheted. As is the case with many things from my childhood, I did not appreciate how creative mom was when I was a kid. It was only many years later when I marveled at not just her humor and compassion, but her creative vision that I learned just how gifted she was. From making hats for homeless people to making "rescue paws" blankets for newly adopted animals, mom was always working on something.
When I learned recently about a nonprofit organization called Crafters and Artisans for Rescue Animals, the first person I thought about was mom. She would have loved the concept of helping animals in need using her talents.
I first heard about CARA a couple months back when our local shelter was looking for someone to make what is sometimes called "kennel canvas" for traumatized dogs. Most shelters are set up in rows of concrete kennels in which dogs live right next to each other and across from other rows of dogs. The energy level in these shelters can be incredibly high as dogs smell, hear and often see other dogs they do not know in an environment which is completely foreign to the life they lived before entering the shelter and which causes them tremendous stress. Many of these dogs display what is called "barrier aggression" which is not aggression at all - think about how your dog behaves upon seeing someone out a window of your house or when someone rings a doorbell or knocks on the door. The difference is that when dogs show this type of behavior in an animal shelter, it can be both off-putting to adopters and scary for volunteers and staff. More often than not, the dog behaves completely differently once they are outside the building. It is the concrete kennel which creates the behavior.
It was suggested to me that perhaps someone from CARA could make some kennel canvas for the shelter to create a visual barrier between the dogs in the kennel and the rest of the kennel row. This type of visual barrier does not work for all dogs, but it does work for many. They can still hear and smell the other dogs, but it helps if they cannot see them. CARA volunteers responded to the request for help and within just over a week, more than a dozen kennel canvas panels had been made and shipped, helping dogs have reduced stress levels while in the shelter.
I learned from the website for CARA that the scope of the help they provide is vast. The people who volunteer their time and talents help animals in shelters, animals being helped by rescue groups and animals at wildlife rehabilitation centers. Crafters are asked to use approved patterns and materials for the projects they create (to ensure consistency and to create items which do the most good). CARA receives donations of fabric and yarn which is shared with crafters and crafters can ask for help to cover the costs of supplies or shipping costs. If there is a special project that does not use typical materials (like the kennel covers that needed heavy duty canvas) CARA typically purchases that specialized material and sends it to the crafter for that project. People who do not sew, crochet or knit (like me) can also help by making items for fundraising projects and events. I donated some of my stretch bead and cord animal themed bracelets to CARA this year and the proceeds were used to help fund other projects.
People often ask me how they can help shelter animals, rescue animals or wildlife if they cannot afford to donate money or they cannot volunteer in person. CARA provides a wonderful outlet to do just that. People can use talents they already have to make items for animals in need and make a real difference in their well-being. What a wonderful way to help - by using your time and your hands.
If you are with an animal shelter, rescue group or wildlife rehabilitation organization and you are looking for crafted items, you can sign up on the CARA website on the page for rescues. If you would like to donate your time and talents to help animals, you can learn more on the website page for crafters. If you are not a crafter, you can still support CARA by purchasing items from the store.
Like so many things in life, I wish I had known about CARA earlier. I can picture my mom taking great joy in spending time creating kitten aprons, snuggle sacks, hanging nests, wildlife pouches and cuddle cups. Perhaps helping in this way can bring some much needed joy to your life.
I am an animal welfare advocate. My goal is to help people understand some basic issues related to companion animals in America. Awareness leads to education leads to action leads to change.
image courtesy of Terrah Johnson