A few days ago somebody asked me what qualifies me to be the President of the Bahamas Humane Society. At first I was a bit taken aback. It seamed, on face value, a very forward question that bordered on being rude. After stammering for a few seconds, I gathered my wits, and then went into a lengthy, in fact, far too lengthy when I look back on the incident, dissertation of my “qualifications”.
I returned home from Rome in 1980 and ran the BHS office in the afternoons, I reinstated the Bahamas Humane Society ball “Evening of Elegance”, I was principal fund raiser for ARK, I have been on the BHS board for several years….I love animals, I own tons of pets, I have homed hundreds of animals, and so I babbled uncomfortably on, justifying myself to this alarmingly simple question, posed to me by somebody who was probably wearing diapers when I first came home and worked the office of the Bahamas Humane Society. I was reasonably pleased with myself, how I answered this dis-arming question (which incidentally, only a young person would think to ask), the questioner, appeared satisfied with my answer and our conversation continued on the lines of spays, neuters, ECT….
The really funny thing is that since I have been asked that question, I have been haunted by it. It was such a simple question. What makes any of us “qualified”?
At first I wondered if I had felt challenged and that this was why my mind kept returning to it. However after a long time thinking about it, (driving to town is so very useful for peaceful contemplation), I realized that “being qualified” to be President of an animal organization, or employed, or a volunteer, is a whole lot more than book learning. Most of us can go to school, and get a degree in business administration, or office management, or even specialized courses on shelter management or animal care, but the real qualification, the one that really matters, cannot be learnt, you cannot go away to school for four years and come home “ready”. No, I am afraid not, what makes an animal person ready comes directly from the heart…. You either are or you are not. It is rather like falling in love, you cannot dictate or prepare for that day when you meet somebody and your knees turn to jelly, your brain takes a holiday, and your whole being just knows that something very important has just happened….so it goes with “animal people”…
I am a drop-out. Not something that I am terrible proud of, but medical reasons precipitated a situation that probably would have occurred along the line anyway. I wanted to be an architect…. Looking back, and looking forward, I do not believe that was my calling…I believe that I am where I was meant to be, NOW….. Sometimes it takes a while to find your spot….50 years, you say!!! Yea, well, maybe I am a slow learner.
To be an animal advocate, lover, do –gooder, person….whatever name you wish to give us,
invariably means laying our soles open to deep and often cruel criticism and ridicule… It means being prepared to stand up to those who make public fun of you for being soft and stupid…. It means knowing what is right, knowing so very much what is right, that you are prepared to stand there and take the insults and the ridicule and forge on to the goal of kindness and compassion to animals because you know without a doubt that you are doing the correct thing…
Over the years I have had the privilege of meeting and working with so many people who have this calling of love and compassion for our fellow creatures who inhabit the earth besides us. They come in all shapes and sizes, all political, social, and economic backgrounds, all race, religion and nationality!!! There is no cookie cutter animal lover, no stereo-type animal advocate, no standard animal do –gooder no Barbie doll cruelty officer.
There is a space in our hearts that is filled with love and compassion. I believe that the space is just a little larger that the average person’s. We have learnt to hold back the tears when we see the atrocious acts of cruelty because we know that strength is what it takes to help the battered and beaten animals who cannot speak for themselves, but the tears still flow in private, perhaps when we are home stroking our own pet who was maybe rescued from similar circumstances. We have to learn to “swallow” anger, and try to understand how a fellow human being can possibly inflict such injury on an animal knowingly and not understand that the animal feels pain…we have to hold the puppy down who will have to have his ears amputated because somebody tried to “dock” them with fishing line…If we don’t do it, who will?
I, sometimes, perhaps, incorrectly, get tired of those who repeatedly tell me that they don’t want to see the “nasty” pictures or hear the horror stories because it upsets them…
I get impatient with those that only want the happy fluffy endings, but those of us who do this daily, have to face up to the horrors and atrocities daily, if we back away and turn our faces who will be these to help these poor animals who have no voice?
I know that I speak for many of my colleagues when I say that, in the dead of night, images of pain and helplessness come to haunt us. I personally try and replace them with the “happy ending” stories that I have been involved with , though never forgetting the sad endings that inspire me to fight even harder the next day to educate the general population and stamp out the needless suffering of animals around the world and predominantly in our own little island nation.
And this brings me back to the initial question: What makes me qualified to be the President of the Bahamas Humane Society, apart from the fact that my human counterparts believe in me and have pledged their support?
I believe that it is my love, respect and compassion for God’s creatures that qualifies me and all those who fight for justice for animals, to be in positions of authority.
I believe that it is a respect for life on earth and an acceptance that life is a “picture” that can not be complete without all the pieces that God created. All animal life is entitled to a life without intentional and mindful cruelty.
Somehow, I feel that fate has given me the task to try and make things better out there and that is what makes a person really qualified to work for animals and their rights.
About the author:
Kim Aranha grew up in the Berry Islands with her first dog, a beloved potcake named “Friendly” (who was anything but!). First educated at home, and then in boarding school in Switzerland, Kim moved to Rome, Italy in 1974 to pursue a career in the dramatic arts and ended up working as an interpreter. She moved back to The Bahamas in 1980, and now lives in Nassau with her husband Paul, and their two teenaged sons. Kim has 4 dogs, 5 fish (1 Beta, 4 Goldfish), 10 turtles (6 babies, 4 adolescents), 1 Asian box turtle and 4 Budgerigars. Her idea of relaxing is being home to take care of all her pets. Kim is President of the board of the Bahamas Humane Society. Kim can be contacted at