The final stamps depicted close-up photographs of a former shelter puppy and kitten. But the stamps were meant to be practical as well as inspirational. Included on each stamp sheet was the website and toll-free English/Spanish telephone hotline linked to a national directory of low- and no-cost spay/neuter resources.
With approval won, our focus shifted to promotion. In response to a call I made to game show host, Bob Barker's talent manager, "Neuter/Spay" was unveiled before a live studio audience on his nationally televised "The Price is Right." The First Day of Issue Ceremony (literally the day a commemorative stamp goes on sale nationwide) took place in September 2002 in Denver at the American Humane Association's national conference, the program emceed by motion picture director and writer, Joe Camp and his most recent "Benji" canine protégée. (Yes, that Benji was a "girl."). All the hard work and follow-through paid off. "Neuter/Spay" became a postal bestseller, selling out its entire 250,000 print run, sales that were, at the time, second only to the Elvis Stamp among postal commemoratives.
The stamps' issuance might not have single-handedly put an end to unwanted litters, but it was an important victory for those of us struggling to bring animal welfare into the public eye as a mainstream national issue. Its spectacular sales laid the foundation for approval of later commemoratives with humane educational themes, notably the "Adopt a Shelter Pet" Stamps championed by celebrity talk show host and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, released April 2010.
In my STAMP OUT days, I was fond of saying that human beings have three choices. We can choose to do good; we can do choose to do ill -- or we can choose to do nothing.
Most of us all fall into the latter camp. A crazy economy, family and career responsibilities, health issues -- all can keep our proverbial plates so full they seem to be in ever present danger of spilling over.
Not long ago I was admiring the rescue cats and kittens for adoption at my local Petco when a volunteer from the rescue group walked up to me. In his forties, he had a broad, dare I say dazzling smile -- so dazzling I soon stopped noticing his broken and missing front teeth. "I understand what they're going though," he said, jerking his chin toward the queue of cages from which several hopeful little faces peered out. "Until a few years ago, I was homeless, too."
This man had been helping animals all his life. Homeless, he nonetheless took it upon himself to alert local police to a mother cat and kittens trapped in a boarded up building in a Manhattan neighborhood where he was sleeping on the streets. Without access to food and water, the little feline family wouldn't last much longer. But because of one man's compassionate persistence, those animals didn't starve or thirst to death. Instead they were rescued, vetted, and found foster homes with the very rescue group for which this gentleman, no longer homeless, now volunteers.
No, we can't save them all, but if we can work to make the world a brighter place one person -- and one animal -- at a time, we haven't only altered our corner of it. We've created a brighter Universe and future for us all.
Hope Tarr is the co-author of the forthcoming novel, "Honey," which addresses the issue of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) through the heroine, Honey Gladwell, and her adopted rescue kitten. The book concludes with an informational Author's Note of online resources where IPV victims can go for help, including national directories of shelters and rescue groups that will accept pets in a domestic crisis situation.