Art of Awareness Blog Hop

Art of Awareness logo

The official Art of Awareness Hop badge.

When Lori Anderson announced she was hostessing an Art of Awareness blog hop, I knew I had to sign up. It sounded like a great way to promote a cause near and dear to my heart.

The idea is to choose a cause, get an Awareness Bean bead specially made by Heather Millican of Swoondimples, and create jewelry or something with it. The beads are called “beans” because, well, just look at them.

I chose homeless animals as the cause about which to bring awareness through this hop.  The bean bead I got from Heather says “Kind Heart.”  That’s what people who choose to adopt, foster, and care for stray and homeless animals have:  kind hearts.

awareness bead

This is the Awareness Bean bead I got from Swoondimples.

You have probably seen awareness ribbons in a rainbow of colors. There’s an official color ribbon for just about any cause you can think of.  The list of awareness campaigns is quite long, and the same color may be used by more than one cause. It can get rather confusing.

The awareness color for “humane treatment of animals” is orange, and the color for “animal abuse” awareness is purple. Both of those colors are also associated with a handful of other causes having nothing to do with animals. There’s also a purple-black-brindle awareness ribbon for “no kill” awareness, which is about supporting No Kill animal shelters.

My Awareness Bean is not any of those colors. It is a lovely spring green, because I saw the color in Heather’s shop and liked it. Heather could have made my Awareness Bean in any color I chose. I decided not to choose an “official” color because it isn’t the color that matters. It’s the message.

The Message is in the Numbers

There’s no good way to ease into this.  So I’m just going to get right to it.  Each year, a staggering 7.6 million companion animals (mostly dogs and cats) enter shelters in the U.S. alone. (Statistics from the ASPCA.)

Some are adopted. Some are returned to their owners. And more than 30% (more than 6,000 per day) are euthanized. Not because they were terminally ill and it was the humane thing to do, although that is occasionally the case. Not because they were a threat to humans and not rehabilitatable, which is rarely the case.  But simply, and sadly, because there are far more homeless cats and dogs than there are spaces in shelters.

In addition to the nearly 8 million animals coming into U.S. shelters each year, it is estimated that there are another 70 million cats alone living on the streets.  And these numbers don’t take into account rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, birds, and other animals surrendered to shelters or simply abandoned. And again, these U.S. numbers are just a fraction of the global total.

Kind Heart bracelet

The Swoondimples Awareness Bean bead is paired with black cat dog beads custom-made by Jetta Bug Jewelry.

I decided to pair my Awareness Bean with a black cat and black dog, custom made for me by Rejetta Sellers of Jetta Bug Jewelry. Did you know more black cats and dogs are turned into shelters, and euthanized, than any other colors?  (According to this study of the statistics.) The statistics don’t tell us why that is.  What they do tell us is that animals of every color and breed can end up homeless or euthanized.

Kind Heart bracelet back view

This is what the back of the Awareness Bean beads look like. Heather had the awareness ribbon with a tiny heart stamp made for these beads.

I know many kind-hearted people who have adopted cats and dogs (and ferrets, rabbits, etc.) from shelters and rescue organizations. Not to mention those of us who simply opened our doors to the strays on or under the porch. I also know people who work in shelters or for rescue organizations or trap-neuter-return programs, all doing what they can to reduce the magnitude of the problem.

What can you do to help?

Don’t shop – Adopt

Don’t support puppy mills or other commercial breeders of any type of animal.  When you’re looking for a companion animal, visit a shelter or rescue organization.  Did you know that even “pure breed” dogs and cats end up in shelters? Or that there are breed-specific rescue organizations?

So if there’s a particular type of dog, cat, rabbit, etc. you have your heart set on, you can probably find a homeless one in need of adoption and save a life. Just do an internet search for “breed specific rescue organization” and you will find dozens of sites. This list has links to pretty much any breed of dog or cat you’ve ever heard of.

Close up of cat and dog beads

Here is a closer view of the black cat and dog beads I commissioned from Jetta Bug Jewelry. I forgot to take photos of them before adding them to the bracelet. These photos don’t capture all the attention to detail the artist put into them.

Support animal shelters and rescue organizations

No-kill animal shelters that are dedicated to finding forever homes for the animals in their care don’t euthanize animals simply because they’ve been in the shelter for a designated number of days, or because they’re past a certain age, or because they have special needs. But they have limited space and resources, so they can’t take in every animal brought to them.

Shelters that do euthanize healthy animals are not inherently evil, and also need support.  It’s not a simple issue. They are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of animals in need of homes. They have limited resources and have to make judgement calls about who lives or dies, based on who they think is most likely to get adopted. It’s a choice they should not have to make.

Your support doesn’t have to be financial. Many shelters will also gladly accept donations of food, cat litter, bedding, and other items. Just contact them or visit their websites to find out what’s on their wish list. Some will also welcome volunteers to help feed, groom, walk, socialize, and care for the animals.

Rescue organizations also welcome this kind of support, and many are in desperate need of more volunteers who can provide foster homes for animals until they get adopted.  Many rescue organizations take animals from shelters (not the no-kill ones, the other kind), effectively saving them from death row, or giving another animal a little more time because it frees up space and resources.

Kind Heart bracelet top view

I made the purple and blue hearts with paw prints from polymer clay. There are also silver plated filigree hearts, a lobster clasp with a heart, and silver plated paw print charm.

Support Trap-Neuter-Return programs

Feral cats, the ones born on the streets (or in the woods, etc.) and not raised and socialized by people, are generally not considered adoptable by shelters. If you bring a feral cat to a shelter, chances are it will be euthanized almost immediately.

Trap-Neuter-Return programs, or TNR, aim to reduce the size of feral cat populations humanely by capturing cats, getting them neutered (or spayed) and returning them to their colony, where they will live out their life without adding more cats to the population.

Studies in multiple countries have demonstrated these programs are more effective than euthanizing the cats. This is because there are so many feral cats (thanks to people abandoning their un-neutered cats, or letting their intact cats roam freely) that when one is removed from a colony, another moves in to take its place.

The ultimate success of these programs is dependent on their expansion. Their goal is basically to put themselves out of business by making sure every feral cat is neutered. You can support these organizations with financial donations, and some will accept volunteers to help trap and return cats or monitor colonies.

Kind Heart bracelet side view

I’ve read that black cats and dogs are difficult to photograph, or don’t show well in photos. That seems to be true for these beads. My photos really don’t do them justice.

Oppose breed-specific legislation

Legislation that prohibits ownership of dogs of specific breeds is another reason animals end up homeless or euthanized. People are forced to surrender their dogs, or dogs may be seized outright by local officials. And the reality is, there’s no such thing as a “vicious” breed.  Are there aggressive dogs? Certainly. Are some breeds larger or more powerful than others. To be sure. We made them that way through selective breeding.

Does that mean you can tell which dogs are likely to attack people or other animals based on their pedigree? Absolutely not. I was bit and severely injured by a neighbor’s Saint Bernard. You know, the big fluffy goofy drooling dogs from the Disney Beethoven and Peter Pan movies. Yep. One of those took a bite out of the side of my face when I was a toddler.

There is zero evidence that breed-specific legislation is effective at making communities safer for people or their companion animals. Neither the Centers for Disease Control nor the American Veterinary Medical Association support breed-specific legislation.

Breed-specific legislation, in addition to having flaws too numerous to list here, shifts resources away from effective enforcement of laws that have the best chance of making communities safer, like leash laws, animal fighting laws, and laws that require guardians of all dog breeds to control their pets.  Encourage lawmakers to emphasize these types of laws, and vote “no” on proposals to enact breed-specific laws.

Be a Responsible Pet Guardian

If you are the proud guardian or pet-parent of any kind of animal, let your furry (or finned, scaled or feathered) companions and your actions be good-will ambassadors.  Show landlords, neighbors, legislators, and others that responsible pet guardians equal cats, dogs, bunnies, etc. that don’t destroy property, disturb the peace, or otherwise become nuisances.

Lead by example. Keep your critters indoors, in a carrier, on a leash, or otherwise contained. Domestic animals should never be allowed to roam free. The ASPCA reports that many strays are lost pets who were not kept properly indoors or provided with identification.

Spay and neuter.  Seriously.  There is no valid reason not to. Not one. Intact animals will go to extreme measures to escape and roam the neighborhood in search of mates.  And if you are successful at keeping them indoors, they are likely to be driven by their hormones to engage in destructive behaviors like marking. They truly can’t help it. But you can. There are low and no-cost spay/neuter programs and some local veterinarians will charge on a sliding scale based on what you can pay. So, no excuses. Get it done.

Remember being a guardian (or pet parent, if you prefer) is supposed to be for better or worse, in sickness and in health, ’til death do you part.  Don’t adopt if you don’t have the time or are not able or prepared to give an animal a forever home. (And please don’t give animals as gifts to anyone without making sure it’s a responsibility they want.) There are still ways to get your furbaby fix without adopting. You can volunteer at a shelter, be a foster parent, or be a dog walker or pet sitter.

My two cats napping by a window

These are my two current rescues, shortly after they came to live with me four years ago. I adopted them from Pet Connect Rescue. Cloud, the white cat, is deaf. Mango, the orange tabby, helps clue him in to mealtimes and other things he should know about. And fearless Cloud helps Mango, who was found on the side of a country road, be less afraid of things that make loud noises.

And now, the hop

Thank you so much for stopping by. While the statistics on this issue are depressing, there are lots of simple ways we can help make things better.  Many thanks to our hostess, Lori, for coming up with this idea, and to Heather for making the very special beads. Be sure to visit Lori’s post, which will have links to the rest of the hop participants.  And remember to hug your furbabies. Or not, if they’re not the furry or cuddly kind of critter.

By the way, the bracelet is for sale in my Etsy shop. I plan to donate the purchase price to PetConnect Rescue, from where I adopted my two resident felines, Cloud and Mango.

Please use the social media buttons below to share this post with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc., or share the link anywhere else you think people might like to know more about how they can help homeless cats, dogs, and other animals.

36 thoughts on “Art of Awareness Blog Hop

  1. Shaiha

    What a great post! I have been involved in animal rescue for years and foster when I can. I say when I can because I tend to take the problem kids that sometimes can’t be rehomed like my wild child Pooka.

    I just love the bracelet. It is just shines with love for our furred friends

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank so much, Shaiha. I was a “foster fail” with a ferret once. It’s hard to give them up once you’ve had them in your home. Only takes seconds to get attached.

  2. Ann Schroeder

    Beautiful bracelet and great post. (I love the green you chose for your bean bead!) You gave a lot of wonderful information. I think so many people who buy pets do so because they don’t know better. Years ago I had a co-worker who clued me in to puppy mills and rescue organizations. Prior to that I had no idea. What a sweet picture of your cats! I love your description of how they help each other out.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Ann. I think you’re right that people just don’t know. And if they did, they’d make different choices. I take every opportunity to promote adoption and fostering, and educate people about puppy mills, backyard breeders, etc.

  3. Lee

    Tammy, this is a great post! So many people don’t know about rescue programs or the trap and release. Our neighborhood is filled with stray and feral cats. Almost all of my dogs are rescue dogs. There are so many great rescue programs out there. I have friends who “foster” rescues until the can find a forever home. It does take a kind and giving heart to give importance to creatures that seem lesser than we do in many folks eyes. To me, these lesser beings can teach us many lessons and bring us many joys. I love your playful bracelet Tammy.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Lee. I have a collection of quotes on the topic. One of my favorites: Why should man expect his prayer for mercy to be heard by What is above him when he shows no mercy to what is under him? ~Pierre Troubetzkoy

  4. Laurie

    Great post! I have several rescued black cats. Folks they make wonderful pets. They are not bad luck! For some reason they have the softest meow.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Laurie. I love black cats. I read that in Japan, black cats are considered good luck.

  5. B.R.Kuhlman

    This is a wonderful cause! I actually want to become a foster mom for animals, because I love them so much. I am especially concerned for aged animals (I have a 14.5 year old dog and a 17 year old bird), because I know how hard it is for them to get adopted. Your design is a wonderful tribute to this cause, and I love all the information you shared. I really hope everyone takes the time to read over all of this and become more educated on pet ownership, adoption, and how important spaying and neutering really is.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you so much, B.R. I hope you’re able to become a foster home. Older animals need homes just as much as young ones. And they make excellent companions.

  6. Kim

    Beautiful bracelet, I love it. This is a cause that is close to my heart as well. There was a lot of good information in your post I hope it reaches many people. I have a 13 year old Basset Hound that we adopted last year, he was surrendered to a rescue that I work with and we foster failed. He is amazing.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Kim. I hope this post gets lots of shares too. The key to solving the problem is educating people. Congrats on your foster fail. When it happens, it’s because it was meant to be. 🙂

  7. Jenn

    This cause is so worthy of awareness! All of the pets my family had growing up were rescues lol. We had cats and dogs that just showed up and well, when no one claimed them… we took responsibility. Which is especially funny since my dad and I are both quite allergic. So outdoor pets they were, but well taken care of and spayed/neutered of course! (we lived way out in the country with them anyway). My husband and I keep saying as soon as we can get a place fit for a dog, we’d love to adopt one. Thank you so much for sharing your story (your cats are beautiful!) and your beautiful bracelet! Big hugs!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Jenn. We used to joke about the sign over our door that only the strays could see. It said “Come on in, the food’s great here.” I am allergic to dogs, cats, horses, etc. I was able to desensitize over time and am happy to be able to share my home with furry four-leggeds.

  8. Mona Arnott

    Thank you for your thoughtful and educational post about abandoned animals and the shelters that are overwhelmed. You bracelet is lovely and will raise much deserved funds. Our family has always had rescue pets, and we are firm believers in not supporting pet mills.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Mona. Every cat and dog my family had as I was growing up was a stray or rescue. I never knew people raised animals for profit until I was older and saw them in “pet stores” in the city. And then I couldn’t understand, why would people make more when there were already so many in need of homes.

  9. Janine Lucas (Esfera Jewelry)

    What a wonderful and educational post. It is terrible that in first world countries still a lot of animals are abandoned. It is not only in the USA, it’s in Europe as well. The shelters in the Netherlands are so full that we had very much difficulty to place two little kittens we found and saved in one of them. We couldn’t keep the kittens and finally we found a lovely lady who adopted them. In Greece were we are currently staying it is even worse. It’s heartbreaking. So thank you for creating awareness for this.
    And your bracelet is wonderful

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Janine. I know, this is a problem everywhere. I don’t think there are reliable statistics for global numbers, but it’s pretty easy to imagine what a minimum might be, just based on the US numbers. So glad you were able to find a home for those little kittens.

  10. Beth

    Fantastic bracelet – I love the color of the bean bead and the words. I also love the dog/cat beads – this piece is purrrfect (from our rescue kitties)!!!!!
    Thank you for sharing all the information.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks very much, Beth. And thanks to your rescue kitties as well. 🙂

  11. Beth Petricoin

    Such a great hop idea, I hope I can get to more of the blogs to check out the other causes. Your cause of choice is one that is also dear to my heart. I’m the mom of a rescue too and we can’t imagine life without him, nor do we understand how in the world such a great dog ended up in a high-kill shelter. I wish more people would seek out rescue shelters instead of going to breeders, there are truly great animals to be found at the shelters. Kudos to you for highlighting this cause with such clarity and thoroughness.

    Now, about your bracelet, it’s wonderful! I love your choice of colors and the Jetta Bug dog and cat are perfect. I love that you had the forethought to customize the dog and cat in black… I did know about the statistics of black animals that are turned in and euthanized compared to other colors and have always been dumbfounded over this fact. As always your ideas and intentions in planning your piece are so well conceived and carried out. Your polymer paw print hearts are the icing on the cake of this piece for me… our fur babies do leave paw prints on our hearts! 😉

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you so much, Beth. Your comments about my designs always make me blush. I hope you find time to visit some of the other posts for this hop. But be warned, you may need a box of tissue. I cried my way through quite a few of the very poignant personal stories people shared. I hope our hostess will do this again next year.

  12. Lupe Meter

    What a great post!! I am an animal lover too and this is a great cause too! Thanks for sharing all the information so others would be aware and try to help. Love your bracelet!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Lupe. I know there are lots of kind hearted people out there and hope this post helps a few find ways to help that they might not have known about.

  13. Audrey Belanger

    This is so important. No animal should ever have to go unloved and homeless. In a perfect wotld… But alas. It is also so important to highlight spaying and neutering your pets – this results in less homeless, unwanted pets as well as improving your pet’s quiality of life and shielding them from diseases. Thank you so much for beinging awareness to this !

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Yes, Audrey, there are so many good reasons to spay and neuter. It’s a critical step in solving the homeless animal problem.

  14. Alice

    A beautiful post and a beautiful bracelet. We adopted two dogs, one from the shelter and the other from a friend who was moving and could not take the dog.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Alice. I’m sure those dogs know how lucky there are to have found you.

  15. Lori Anderson

    EXACTLY! It’s the message. I usually use purple when I make jewelry for the shelter but really, it’s about the message. RESCUED. LOVED. etc. I have two rescue kitties and I love them with all my heart.

    Thank you so much for participatiing.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Lori, for this wonderful hop. Designing jewelry for a cause is a great idea. And Heather’s beads were the perfect focal.

  16. Gail

    Well done! I love your message and your choice of color makes it very personal! My daughter just rescued a pure black lab mix and named her Callie. She is the most kind and loving dog! That makes our 4th dog in the family….and counting……can’t wait for more! Thank you for sharing and make us more aware of this cause! Your piece is adorable!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you so much, Gail. And congrats on adding a black lab to the family. Rescued dogs are wonderful.

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