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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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(Maybe Don’t) Gimme Shelter

(It’s time for Oorts and crafts! Only, that’s not a thing. But what is a thing is the Oort cloud, and that’s the subject of the latest science yakking over at Secondhand SCIENCE. Craft yourself a click and check it out.)

My wife volunteers for a local animal shelter. It’s actually the shelter where we adopted our dog fifteen years ago, and the same one (attached to a large veterinary hospital) where we had to put her to sleep the November before last. My wife goes every Saturday morning she’s able, and helps take care of the cats up for adoption.

Why the cats? I can’t imagine. Feline research is quite clear on the fact that cats’ chief purpose in life is to enslave all humans who can be bent to their will, and to eliminate the rest. Some cats are more overt about their intentions, of course. But it’s always there, that meow-derous glint in their eyes.

Anyway, I’m glad my wife volunteers there. Various staff members over the years were really great to our pooch, and I’m also a big fan of being kind to animals. Even the ones bent on world domination. Personally, though, I hadn’t been back to the shelter since our final trip with our dog two years ago.

I’ve had occasions to visit — mostly for fundraising events my wife gets involved with — but before this week, I hadn’t gone. Part of that was sentimental, what with the memories of worry and sicknesses and barfy trips in the car. But mostly, it’s because shelter events are just damned confusing.

That’s because there are people involved, and there are animals involved — but it’s often not so clear which is being served directly. Oh, the money or whatever always goes to the animals, clearly. But the events themselves are all over the map. Like bake sales. This shelter has bake sale fundraisers all the time. And I’ve never gone, because I can’t figure out:

Who’s being baked for here — the animals or the humans? If I buy a bag of snickerdoodles, are those people snickerdoodles, made from sugar and eggs and such? Or, like, poodle snickerdoodles, full of corn meal and horse meat and whatever makes dog breath smell like wet gorilla ass?

They’ve had races, too. Or “races”, like a 5K charity walk, I think. But it’s still not clear. Are people raising money, and then walking? Are we giving money, so the shelter dogs get a nice walk outside for once? Are we forcing the dogs in the hospital to limp around for spare change? Or if I go, do I have to hoof it all over? Which is the worst? Can we just write a check and put some cats on a treadmill? I could get behind that.

I finally attended an event this week with my wife, because the intent finally seemed clear. It was a wine tasting, which I took to mean a people wine tasting, since there’s no such thing as wine for dogs. And because cats would be snobby enough to only drink wine the shelter couldn’t afford. So it was clearly a people thing. Or so I thought.

And I guess I was right, mostly. The wine was for people only, which I think is good. Most mutts I know are loopy enough without getting a couple of glasses of chardonnay into them. But that doesn’t mean the whole experience was straightforward. Since we were a captive — and not entirely sober — audience, they also put out tables of stuff to buy, to generate more cash. Which was fine. But it wasn’t all so people-centric.

“But one kind had chocolate and other stuff bad for pets. And the other had catnip and, I don’t know, deworming medicine, probably. Or anise. Same difference.”

There were two tables of cookies, for instance. They all looked delicious. But one kind had chocolate and other stuff bad for pets. And the other had catnip and, I don’t know, deworming medicine, probably. Or anise. Same difference.

Most of the trinkets were similarly ambiguous. A few things had writing on them, like fridge magnets, so you figure those were for humans. I mean, I assume some dogs can read, and others probably own refrigerators, but I doubt the same animals do both. Where would they find the time, for one thing? The fridge owners would be too busy playing with the ice makers, and the readers would probably hang around libraries, waiting for the day-old books to be thrown out in the bin out back.

Otherwise, it was a crapshoot. Is this plushy knitted thing a dog toy? A kid’s toy? A novelty keychain? What is it? If I surprise my wife with a bracelet, will everyone wonder why I bought her a flea collar? And how the hell do I find matching earrings?

All in all, I’m glad I went. (Because wine. Duh.) But it proved my fears correct, and then some — when you party at the animal shelter, you’d better be extra careful about what you buy, try on or put in your mouth.

So basically, pretty much like every all-human party I’ve ever been to. Why do these things have to be so hard?

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