I know, I know…two days ago I promised another installment of the ugly photo collage, and then I totally let you guys down by catching the death flu, staying home from work and filling my Friday with a marathon of Swedish Idol and the Simpsons, and now you’re mad. I know. I failed. But here’s a pretty picture of Prague for now, and you’ll get your collage in a minute.

First though, I wanted to write about my latest project. This one has nothing to do with foreign rights, or translating Swedish manuscripts, or really anything to do with Sweden at all. This project is the result of unexpected inspiration – the kind that sneaks up on you when you least expect it, while surfing the web, eating a free banana from the break room, minding your own business.

Yesterday, through a series of random clicks (and really, who knows how we find half the stuff we do online), I stumbled on a Facebook photo album of some of the cutest little puppies and kittens you’ve ever seen…

Wait, come back. Your eyes have glossed over and you stopped reading this because I said cute puppies and kittens – I get it. But let me just interject here that, despite that last sentence, this is not a sparkling rainbows and magical unicorn glitter post. It’s a little bit gritty, ok?

So, back to it. The album actually contained photos of 53 animals currently living in an animal control center in North Carolina, all of whom were scheduled to be put down today unless people came forward to adopt them. And yes, earlier I did say “puppies and kittens”…they were pretty much all little babies. This particular shelter is so overcrowded that it euthanizes every Friday, and this was the latest group of lives on the line – on a Thursday afternoon. Break my heart.

For the last seven weeks, a handful of volunteers has been putting together these albums in their spare time, all in an attempt to put real faces to the problem of overcrowded shelters like the one in North Carolina. And let me just say that OMG, it works. Who hasn’t heard the whole “spay and neuter! control the pet population! blah blah blah!” thing? – but seeing the real faces of the little ones who ultimately pay the price is an entirely different (bad pun) beast.

Now if you know me at all, then you already know of my proclivity to adopt animals without thinking twice. It’s why, even on a bit of a budget now, I have three kick-ass dogs and a wonderfully flamboyant cat, Sparklemonkey, and why at one point my old roommate and I (looking at you, Ashley) were fostering two ducks and 10 cats until we systematically badgered our friends and coworkers into adopting them. We also had a foster goat in middle school, but who doesn’t?

But despite what you’re thinking, I didn’t adopt another pet yesterday. This post is about inspiration, not madness. Instead, for the first time I actually recognized the ongoing problem…that this album of adorable little babies-in-need was from just ONE kill-shelter, in one county of one state, for that one week of the year. And so I asked myself: What can I, sitting thousands of miles away, actually do to help?

This is not a save-the-world blog, because the problem is way bigger than the slight efforts of a travel editor working abroad. But I realized that these volunteers were on to something: Posting real photos of the animals, with a real (and urgent) deadline, and sharing it worldwide via the powerful, free and potentially viral social media at everyone’s fingertips – well, you can see some pretty incredible results that way. But at the same time, these volunteers aren’t really social media mavens – just people with enormous hearts. And so, rather naturally, I found my place in the big picture, my small way of helping.

I contacted one of the volunteers and offered some ideas and suggestions – ways to enhance their social media pages, streamline their photo albums and improve their contact system – and now I’m already at work (and happy to be) on planning a new blog and some content for them. Adopting made a difference to my four pets at home, but I realized I could make a bigger impact just by doing what I do for a living, and offering my multi-media skills to something I believe in.

And btw, this story has a happy ending: All 53 little schmoopie woopies were pulled from the shelter this week, and they’re on their way to new homes and rescues as I write this. Score another one for social media!

(Send me a note if you’d like more info on this particular shelter or any of the rescues that help. And when I inevitably find myself with a dozen new foster pets and need to find them homes, dear coworkers and friends, just be warned.)

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