Our songs of comfort

By Julie Castle

Resilience. It’s the single most important characteristic to the survival of any animal — human or non-human. It’s our ability to overcome, to adapt. It’s what amazes me every time I see an animal in our care bounce back, often from the most horrific circumstances, to begin anew and thrive.

So, where does that resilience in all of us come from? How do we access it when we need it most?

The musician Yo-Yo Ma has been posting on social media over the last couple of weeks, playing “songs of comfort” to help us through this difficult and unprecedented time. The songs are beautiful and powerful. They’re comforting because they speak to us in a way that traditional language simply can’t.

Yo-Yo Ma talks about the many ways that “culture makes our society more resilient” and speaks of “music’s power to bring us together even when we are geographically isolated.” That got me thinking about our songs of comfort in the animal sheltering world — those rhythms of being and melodies of doing that are unique to this space. The ones we’ve had to turn to for decades because this field, in a sense, has always been in crisis. We’re always working to overcome and to adapt in order to save animals’ lives. And we’re always finding ways to change the narrative for pets in this country despite the staying power of the same old story.

I’m not going to pretend that the answers to our current problems are obvious or that any of us can possibly know what will happen from one day to the next as we all navigate our new reality. But I do know this: Everywhere I turn, I continue to find songs of comfort unique to the space in which I work.

Those songs are people lining up in their cars outside their local shelters to take foster pets home to help ease the burden on essential animal services. Those songs are shelter directors and other inspiring animal welfare leaders around the country who are collaborating, coordinating and counseling one another in online forums as they work to best serve the pets and people in their respective communities.

Those songs come in the form of innovative responses — such as virtual pet adoptions and tele-medicine for veterinary care — to the need to maintain social distancing while still saving lives.

Those songs are hundreds of shelters across the country proudly posting photos of their empty kennels online to show how quickly and effectively their communities are rallying around them to ensure that every pet has a safe place to be as the pandemic continues to take its toll.

Those songs of comfort are the faces and stories of incredible individuals caring for the animals in some of our most overcrowded shelters.

Those songs of comfort are heartwarming and ridiculous videos of fat puppy bellies on National Puppy Day and kittens just being kittens.

I have the privilege of working in a field with a long, rich history of being resilient and creating songs of comfort to help connect us and keep us moving forward with our lifesaving work, despite relentless challenges.

Now is the time to listen for your own songs of comfort, to look for that resilience and to rekindle it for ourselves and for one another. It’s time to realize that our ability to adapt and overcome is what connects us all — humans and animals alike.


Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society