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Pets Large & Small


Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(3/2016) For the most part, I like to think Iím pretty practical, pragmatic and all the other "p" words that mean level-headed. Sure, I can get as nutty as the next person from time to time, but I like to try to maintain a certain amount of reason and logic.

There are so many people laughing as they read this right now, I know it, but try to hold back the guffaws. Calm down, mom and dad, Iím going somewhere with this.

Every once in a while, my down-to-earth side take a bit of a back seat and I wonder about something a bit more theoretical, and I find myself seriously considering the concept of fate and predestination.

One of my favorite movies is Kung Fu Panda. There are so many lessons to be learned from it and I canít wait to see the third installment of the franchise. As we read in Renee Lehmanís Complementary Corner article a few months back about lessons from Master Oogway, one of the famous saying from the movie is "there are no accidents."

Master Shifu would continue to insist that events that played out around the group were nothing more than accidents. In his calm, rational manner, Master Oogway would counter with a simple, "There are no accidents."

Things, therefore, happen for a reason. Some great, cosmic plan, while we may not be aware of it, is, indeed, unfolding around us.

On the other hand, my dad, a retired chemistry teacher, tells me that life is pretty much just luck and chemistry. Being in the right place at the right time (or wrong, as is often my case) and your DNA and cell structure of your body pretty much determines what will happen to you. Everything, therefore, really is random.

I imagine our existence falls somewhere in the middle of the two theories.

But there are moments, especially working at animal shelter, where I have to think maybe thereís more going on than meets the eye.

I think of all Iíve learned from the animals who have crossed my path over the years. Forgiveness. Resilience. No judgments. Joy. A devil-may-care attitude.

Sometimes I learned these lessons at the exact moment I needed them. Coincidence?

Then there are the people Iíve met in my travels. The conversations Iíve had. The gamut of emotions Iíve experienced.

Just the other day, one of our amazing supporters who has helped us for years came to pick up the remains of her beloved dog and when she saw me, I just opened my arms. We held onto each other and she cried and I told her I know the pain and how hard it is.

Shared experience. A common bond over a painful goodbye.

Itís powerful stuff.

I think of the people who donate to us every, single month, without fail, and actually ask that we donít send an acknowledgment to them. They want us to spend the money on the animals, not mailing notes to them.

They usually pop up with a donation just at the second Iím believing there is no good left in the world Ė and I smile because right in front of me is proof that thereís good all around us.

We have adopters who come by to visit with the animals they have saved and some days, itís at exactly the right time and we remember why we do this job.

I think of the animals Iíve known and had to let go and how different my life would have been had they not been in it. I have to wonder, were they meant to cross my path? Pooh and Toonie, Pinky and Fluffy, Grinch and Trudy and Max and Blaine and Eli and Lupi and Honey Bear and Lacey.

All those names have a memory attached. I can still see them and hear them in my mindís eye and it gives me a bittersweet feeling of peace to know that theyíve touched who I am.

Weíve had people whoíve come to adopt at the shelter, but havenít been able to get the pup or cat they wanted because someone else had an approved application before them. Iíve often suggested that itís possible they were meant to adopt someone else. That this wasnít the animal they were supposed to save. The one for them will arrive somewhere in the future.

There really could be something to that.

I think of all the people Iíve worked with in the last 14 years and all the lessons Iíve learned in that time and I wonder, would I have learned the same thing if these people hadnít been in my life? Would I be the same person?

I can honestly say, I donít know.

Was everything that has happened in my life to this day supposed to happen because I needed to see something, learn something, know something, realize something about myself or others or the world around me?

Heavy stuff to ponder, but it does tend to make the day to day irritations and mishaps and bothers a bit easier to handle. The big picture can do that for you.

If everything really does happen for a reason, then you have to wonder Ė even during times we would label as "bad" Ė were you meant to experience it and how it is supposed to change your beliefs or understanding or life?

Does fate play a hand in our lives? Are we more than just blobs of energy traversing through the cosmos?

I do believe itís possible.

So the next time youíre frustrated or angry or ready to pull your hair out or laughing or crying or having the best time of your life, look at the people and animals around you and consider, just for a moment, what you are learning and the concept of meant to be.


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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