As though it never happened.
During the evening hours in early March of 2016, I stood upon a stage to receive a piece of paper that was intended to credit my own self-worth from the opinion of others. After being voted as the Toledo City Papers, “Best of Toledo Art Photographer” for taking photos with an iphone 5 (unbeknownst to most), I was both on cloud nine and utterly empty inside. I never once asked, promoted or encouraged my name to be entered in any ballot and to be declared the best of something, in a life I was told would never amount to much of anything, was a very rewarding accomplishment that I’d never discredit.
I discovered that taking a photos and using my words to express my appreciation for them, simply made me feel as though there were absolutely no long term, lasting benefits to others that surround me within my community. Thus, my inspiration to continue quickly dissipated. So, after walking off the stage, I knew this was both the ceiling and the fall from a very passionate hobby that left me wanting more. Not for myself, but for others.
At the very least, I was under the assumption that this award may quite possibly be able to slightly crack open a few doors that were previously closed. Those doors quickly became just one, as I emailed and pleaded to the Toledo Area Humane Society, my desire to use what made me the best at something, to make the best of something for someone else. That email went unanswered and unnoticed. One of the most difficult things to do in this world is to convey to another what you are capable of, prior to being able to show them. Thus, that door quickly closed on me. My dream of combining a hobby with a passion to help others was over before it even started.
Almost a year after my failed attempt, I was finally given the chance of my lifetime thanks to a friend with an inside connection to someone within TAHS. I walked in pleading my case and I walked out with an opportunity to prove my ability to help animals find a home. Although I’m sure there was a bit of uncertainty on their end, I knew what was missing and exactly how to deliver it. With compassion and honesty, my words and images would speak loudly for those who lacked a voice, and this wasn’t a promise to myself, it was my promise to them; the animals.
I sat in my car within the parking lot and thought about the night in early March of 2016. I thought about how moments of happiness and pride appear different in varying stages within a life, and that in this moment, I may have made the one person who meant the most to me, the happiest of all. Like myself, this was a dream opportunity to my mom. I knew that she would have loved to experience this in her own right, but felt as though her life never allowed this moment for herself. She, was the first person I called. She, was why I have such compassion. To hear her joy and happiness, was better than any paper I’d ever receive.
My experiences within TAHS was slow in the very beginning. In fact, it was almost over within a few weeks. I have to tell you, people that are compassionate about animals, are very strongly (individually) opinionated, and this may be an understatement. After almost two full years of regularly volunteering (700 hours in one calendar year), many donation events, fundraising, and 400 photos and descriptions, my time had ended.
Within this period, TAHS had adopted over 8,500 animals. The most in history. Nevertheless, I was never here to take any credit (even if there was some to take credit for). A part of the reason I loved to volunteer, was that I could simply go unnoticed. Being an introvert and not necessarily having to speak, made me extremely happy. I never would have even been in a photo if I didn’t think that the words visually placed upon a shirt would increase the interest for a hard to adopt animal. It’s neither here nor there, but after I dropped off the jackets we donated to TAHS staff for Christmas (via my full time job), I knew it was my last gesture to them.
What I did for TAHS went beyond what occurred within the shelter. Although 8 hour days, turned into 10, I would have never traded one single moment I had with any animal. Many words, thoughts and planning occurred within my own home, long after their doors closed. Proudly, my mom contributed my messages on Twitter, and at the very least, I’d like to think her dream came true as well. To walk away from something I love, is one of the most difficult decisions of my life. As much as I wanted to say goodbye to those that supported me, it was never about me. I thought it was best to leave it that way and walk away with my heart heavy, and my head high. I am not here to stir the pot. I still strongly support adopting and adopting at TAHS. 100%. However I simply did not feel welcomed anymore. Could this have been my own opinion, possibly, but it was strongly felt within my heart.
I did not want to write this, but I felt it was almost necessary. A few people have reached out and I thought they deserved an explanation. What crushed me the most, is that TAHS will hide any comment with my name in it to avoid what once was. You’ll be able to see it but no one else will. To an extent, I was erased and that saddens and disappoints me more than anything else has in my entire life. After first discovering this, I couldn’t even sleep. I’m now no better than a cuss word and I can’t explain why this was the ending that was meant to be. Compassion for the past and people have always taken a backseat to the animals. Perhaps, rightfully so.
As crushed as I am, I am extremely thankful to them. Forever. Please always think about adopting and know that your home and love can truly make a world of a difference. Not just for animals, but for everyone. And although your ceiling may be the beginning of a new direction, know that it can literally save a life with its comfort and warmth. Knowing you made a difference and always have the ability to do so, for another, is life’s greatest reward. That is something no one can ever take away from me.
If you have read this far, know that my desire to help others still lies in my soul. If there is ever another door that may open, I’d love nothing more than to be a part of it.
Thank you and with love always, Eric.