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Pets Large & Small

You’re never quite sure how far the ripples will go

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(1/2013) Well, here we are at the end of yet another year, getting ready to usher in 2013. Can you believe it? When I was a kid, the year 2000 was just a movie, you know?

Oh, yeah, I'm that old. Stop chuckling, mother -- you know what that means about your age. Heh.

With said age comes the rather alarming passage of time. Where do the years go anymore? It's shocking to me, I'm sad to say, how quickly it feels like I flip months on a calendar.

Despite how quickly life can pass us by, I think the beginning of a new year is a good time to reflect on how much we actually do have to be grateful for -- and at CVAS, the list is long.

Our adopters. The folks who wanted to add a furry friend to their family and thought to save a life. The people who looked into the eyes of one of our babies and found their best friend. They send us photos and updates and stop by for our fundraisers and generally give us a wonderful feeling that keeps us all going.

Our supporters. Those who gave, either supplies or monetary donations, to make sure this shelter could continue to house, care for and adopt homeless animals. School classes, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, church organizations and community members all stepped up this year to help.

Our supporters also include all the businesses that gave time, media space, supplies and general backing to help the animals in this shelter. I’m always amazed at how generous this community continues to be for us and that philanthropy will be what carries us into 2013 and beyond.

Our staff. It fills me with pride that these folks continue to come in here, day after day, to make sure the basic needs of these animals are met. We’ve got an unbelievably dedicated group who, while they may add to my bouts of insanity from time to time, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without them.

Our board. This is a group who works tirelessly to create policy and adapt regulations that makes sure the welfare of homeless animals will continue to be top notch.

Our thrift stores. The incredible staff at our thrift stores in Chambersburg and Shippensburg work energetically to keep the stores running efficiently and effectively. The ultimate goal of our stores is to help support this animal shelter – and without them, we wouldn’t be able to continue to meet the needs of homeless pets. Ladies, you are all wonderful!!

Our volunteers. And there are many: everyone who comes to the shelter and walks dogs regularly, everyone who cleans cats at Petmsart, everyone who helps out at our various fundraisers from the spaghetti dinner to the dog walk to the open house, everyone who has ever picked up a mop or scooper to clean kennels, everyone who fosters animals until they can be adopted. You folks are sincerely inspiring to all of us and we know your hearts are as big as your smiles and the love you have for our furry friends.

This shelter isn’t about one person. This shelter is here and continues to be here because of the many groups of people who step up to help us every year.

Really, it's about ripples. Bear with me for a minute on this one. I actually have a point.

Years ago, back in middle school, I believe, when we were first learning how to write term papers (oh, how I do not miss those!) I reported on the women's suffrage movement.

I remember using a quote that, believe it or not, still resonates with me today. I can't get the exact verbiage, but it talked about a stone in a pond and the ripples it creates. When you first toss the stone in, there's a rather large splash, but the ripples can often go all the way to the shore of the body of water.

The point is we're never quite sure how far the ripples will go. We can't always tell what our actions will cause.

It was a powerful statement for a middle schooler who thought in pictures and the idea is still quite vivid in my head.

The ripples that everyone makes by helping the shelter go a lot farther than any of us would likely suspect.

Think about it.

When an animal comes to us, that's the stone being tossed in the pond. We get the animal healthy, spay or neuter him or her and find the pup or cat a loving home. That one animal can affect the lives of literally hundreds of people. He certainly affects the lives of those of us at the shelter. He will definitely have an impact on the family who adopts him.

What about the neighbors? The extended family? The people he meets at a dog park? Or even those who might see him on a Christmas card?

Even co-workers and fellow school children who hear stories about the family's adopted pet could feel the effects of those ripples.

I think you see my point about how one little stone can have an amazing resonance and the ripples can often extend well beyond what we obviously know.

We can all make those ripples -- it's not just shelter workers. Every action we make has an effect. I think the start of the new year is a perfect time to ask yourself every day what kind of ripples you're making. Are you helping someone? Making their day with a smile or sincere compliment? Or are you upsetting people? Using your ripples to put bad thoughts or feelings out into the universe?

I truly think we often have no idea how powerful a simple gesture of kindness can be.

Everything we say and do can be a stone in someone else's pond. Every animal we save and adopt at CVAS is a stone in someone else's pond.

The animals have no voice but ours, so we must speak for them. This is our motto and will continue to be the ethics and beliefs of this animal shelter well into the future.

So from all of those four-legged, brown-eyed, blue-eyed, green-eyed, furry souls who have been helped by the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter and those who will be helped in the years to come: thank you for your ripples and may you have a safe and prosperous 2013.

Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website

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