NORMAN — The cinderblock gray walls and seemingly endless rows of cages are accompanied by the foulest of smells, impossible to ignore.
At the first sign of a human presence, the cages come alive. Anxious, fear-ridden and agitated barks erupt from inside a place supporting the abandoned, abused and lost of Norman.
Marley Dablo walks down the line of cages, plastic bag in hand. She counts how many of the dogs have used the bathroom in their crates and then tactically steps in to clean up the mess. With some of the dogs, she tries to divert their attention elsewhere, afraid they might try to escape when she opens the cage. Others cower in the back of the cage, stricken with fear, as Dablo carefully scoops up the litter.
She coos softly, the dogs replying with whimpers and whines.
“You can see it in their eyes,” Dablo said. “Some just simply need a loving human touch to calm them down, make them happy.”
Dablo, a senior at the University of Oklahoma, has been an active volunteer at the Norman Animal Welfare Shelter since August, realizing she wanted to do something positive for Norman in some way before she left for good in May. Dablo attended a training session with a representative from a new organization, Friends of the Animals in Norman, also known as FAN, to learn the ins and outs of volunteering at the public pound.
It is hard to see at first, the sadness of such a sight distracting from the heroic efforts made by the staff and volunteers at the shelter, but the cages of lonely faces are being given a second chance. These efforts to save and find homes for the dogs and cats of Norman go at many times unrewarded, since every time one animal has found a home, it seems another is being put down. The volunteers call this “death row.”