Best Friends Blog

Life is Short, Make Your Time Count

Several weeks ago, at Best Friends’ No More Homeless Pets Conference, I spoke about the impact of one’s life and the time that we’ve been given…and our choices about how to best spend that time.

Over the course of the last year, my life has taken a dramatic, threatening turn.

I’ve had plenty of occasions for reflection. The simple fact that I’ve got one shot at this thing called life was delivered to me hard and fast, but it was easy for me to split that delivery into two categories:  I can spend it focused on tearing other people down and stewing in a pile of negativity, or I can spend it on raising the world up.  It was time for me to pull a big dumpster up to my life and empty everything into it that didn’t matter and everything that was a source of negativity and hatred.

Translating this message into our work for the animals…life is too short to waste on negativity and the kind of infighting that has too often characterized our movement.  We must set aside discord and conflict within the animal welfare movement.   It only does a disservice to our greater cause and keeps us marginalized in the mainstream public agenda.  This means leaving behind the bash and trash language that generates plenty of heat but not much light.

There is another slice to this, which is, of course, Best Friends’ belief that kindness is the most powerful and transformative arrow in our quiver. Kindness is and always has been our centerline.  We are under no illusions that there were and still are people in animal welfare, animal rights and animal shelters who could care less about saving lives, but anger and negativity only creates entrenched opposition.   There are many more clever ways to create change than a full frontal, negative public assault.  Make no mistake, kindness is not weakness or compromise, it is powerful and transformative while negativity is an addictive black hole of wasted energy.

As our movement grows and new advocates  join in the cause, it’s our duty to reiterate the message of kindness. The easiest and most normal response to the injustice and pain that animals suffer everyday is anger, aggression and in-your-face messages about dead animals. What is missing from that calculation is the understanding that for years, prior to the success demonstrated by the Best Friends’ message and approach of kindness, activists and organizations routinely featured barrels of dead animals in their public appeals and railed against the entrenched power of the establishment. It went nowhere. The primary effect was to turn off the public and push our movement to fringes,

If we are to effect real change, we need to mainstream our message and the cause of No More Homeless Pets. To do that, we must understand the very simple lesson that I’ve learned over the past year. It takes strength to be gentle and kind to each other…life is short, make it count. (Click on the images below to watch Part One and Part Two of the closing speech.)

Julie Castle

Director, Community Programs and Services

Save the date! 1,100 participants from 50 states and 9 countries packed the house in Las Vegas for an unforgettable time at this year’s No More Homeless Pets Conference. Join Best Friends Animal Society next October 21-23 in Las Vegas at the Rio Hotel for the most relevant, groundbreaking and informative conference anywhere on the issues that matter most to help you bring about a time of No More Homeless Pets in your community. Spend three action packed days with experts and like minded people that have achieved No More Homeless Pets…learning about the latest innovative ideas and proven practices to help save animals in your community. You’ll come away from the conference re-energized and inspired to make No More Homeless Pets’ a reality in our lifetime!

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  • Sltepe

    Julie, I just hope you are doing well and continuing your efforts to fight your cancer. Despite your health issues, you persevere to carry on the mission of No More Homeless Pets. I am proud to say I was at the BF conference (talked to you with my friend after your speech) and accosted you at the wonderful restaurant in downtown Kanab back in June of 10 when I came to volunteer. I am so moved by all that BF is, does and stands for.

    You inspired me and so many others. It is about cleaning house, figuring out what really is important and working for the common goal. It is hard to know dogs die daily and we can only save a few (especially here in Maricopa County lately) It feels like it will never end, especially when we know there are folks working in our shelter systems that believe killing is the only answer. But I have to say, your speech moved so many and inspired us to forge forward. We must fight the fight as you are doing and do it with dignity and respect……I applaud you and all you do. You are a shining star for all of us and I thank you for all you do

  • Drdoolittle2800

    Julie, Tom again. I’d like to keep this discussion open for another few moments. Over the last two years I have had to reevaluate my approach and methods because I was what I think you could call the stereotypical “flamethrower” advocate.

    While I still occasionally show the old charm, I have softened my style considerably and now prefer to work behind the scenes. The hardest part of this is that people in positions of influence do not EVER want to acknowledge that there are problems. Want me to list the names for all to see? I’ve written polite letters to all the big names and only gotten one response. Nice guys sure do finish last.

    More to the point:
    Two nights ago an ABC secret investigation was aired on NYC TV. It’s an insider’s view of what goes on in the New York City animal care and control facilities. To be clear for those who don’t know, ACC is a private charity that is under contract to provide animal control service to all 5 buroughs of New York City.

    Link =

    The pictures are truly disgusting and revolting. The report, although incredibly superficial, clearly points at massive problems.

    Best Friends, as an organization, fully supports The Mayor’s Alliance. Right down the street from the ACC is the gigantic ASPCA with all its riches falling out of its many pockets. Surrounded by all this powerful national humane effort is the impoverished ACC without enough food to feed its cats and dogs, trying desperately to pretend everything is fine.

    Here’s the question for you, Julie: How do we caring animal lovers (okay, advocates) get through to people like Gregory Castle, Richard Avanzino, Ed Sayres and Jane Hoffman that things are not all cheery on the home front as their websites and statements all suggest?

    I’m finding it harder and harder just to be polite to these leaders who spend so much time and effort deffending that hideous operation. I have personally written to every possible person I can think of who could help change this situation. Nothing!

    There are several of us who are very busy behind the scenes while there are hundreds now getting involved in angry protests and the like. We back-channel people keep trying, but to no avail.

    When do we stop smiling and cross the line you define and begin to work from that side? Your message seems empty and hollow in the face of such strong and active opposition. What do you suggest? Our small group is open to suggestions and i speak for them.

    If you want to see the leader of “the other side” of NYC animal advocacy, here’s his latest remarks posted today =

    He’s angry, but he’s correct. And his portrayal is very accurate. Is he wrong? Help me out here, please?

    • Julie Castle


      My apologies for missing your earlier post—Thank you very much for keeping the conversation open and asking for my thoughts.

      It sounds like you are in the New York area. Obviously you have a lot of passion around the same issues as us. If you’d like, give me a call and I’ll answer your questions as best as I can (435-644-2001 x 4578).

      In the meantime I want to clarify a few things. Your statement…“To be clear for those who don’t know, ACC is a private charity that is under contract to provide animal control service to all 5 boroughs of New York City.”…this is true, but not the whole picture.

      The ACC operates under the control of the New York City Department of Health and their operating expenses come via the city. They are a 501 c 3 that was created by Mayor Giuliani for the purpose of running animal control in the city. It was not set up as an animal welfare organization by a group of animal lovers.

      The following website does a pretty good job of laying out the shelter situation in New York:

      The ACC board has seven positions – three are mandated to be held by representatives of 1. The NY Police Dept, 2. The New York Parks Dept, 3. The NY Health Dept. The other four seats are appointed by the Mayor. The ACC is under contract with the Health Department of the City of New York, which controls and has cut its budget.

      Effecting major change within that system runs through the mayor’s office and the Department of Health. It’s a problem. They are currently allocating .85 cents per resident when the national recommendation is $4 – $7. With regard to animal care practices and volunteer policies at the ACC, I, like you am an outsider looking in and it doesn’t look good. Such in house practices are the responsibility of the executive director and the board of directors. I make no excuse or apology for ACC or their current practices. Likewise, I can’t speak for the ASPCA. Best Friends is calling on the Mayor, at the very least, to restore funding, and elevate the importance of homeless animals in NYC.

      On a different note, despite 8 executive directors over 8 years at the ACC, the Mayor’s Alliance, supported by Maddie’s Fund has pulled together the rescue community of NYC and has been steadily reducing the number of animal deaths from the ACC—31,908 in 2003 to 13,620 in 2009 (57% reduction).

      The Mayor’s Alliance & Maddie’s Fund facilitate the rescue of 20,000 of the 28,000 animals every single year that make it out of the ACC alive and facilitates the spay/neuter of 55,000 NYC animals every single year at no or low cost. Imagine the ACC with 20,000 more animals per year and 55,000 less spay/neuters. Remember, this is every single year.

      Best Friends is in New York City to help the city succeed in its no kill goal. It is a landmark city—as New York goes, so does the rest of the country—and the mainstreaming of No More Homeless Pets in major metro areas will be affected for years by the results of the effort in New York. We are introducing proven collaborative programs and events aimed at increasing adoptions, strengthening local rescues groups and helping low income families keep their pets.

      If you are in NYC and you’re interested in volunteering, we’d love your help.

      Thanks Tom-


  • Blackhatwitch

    Life IS short……Kindness counts!

  • roxy

    You had me cracking up with your comments regarding losing toenails! I totally related to that story! The one thing that helped me post op & after rad treatments were our dogs & this spring we did a tnr in the neighborhood! What a rewarding experience!
    Wishing you the very best on your incredible journey!

  • Julie,
    Keep shining your bright light. Folks still mucking around in the darkness will yell, scream, point fingers or just plain not get it! That’s ok. What you put out matters. To all of us in the animal welfare fields- why are you here? What are you learning about yourself by doing this work? If you are last on the list for self-care or nurturing, it serves NO ONE; including the animals. To be in balance in your life will serve you, the animals and everyone around you. Think about why you are here. Addicted to drama and trauma? Or to serve, in balance with kindness and peace in your heart. The “war” is inside. Start there as Julie recommends. The rest will follow.

    Thank you to all who do this work on the planet. Now let’s care for ourselves as well, with kindness.

  • Mollyjordan

    I for one (among many, I’m sure) felt the arrow and truth of your speech right in the center of my heart, Julie. I’m grateful because I needed that message today, just like I will tomorrow and the day after. But for now, I have every intention of making today count. Thank you….and oh yes, love too. Molly J-K

  • Tom

    Thank you for reminding me of lessons I have learned and forgotten. One of them is that there are only two emotions, that all others stem from…Love and Hate. Which will I choose to live in today? Life IS short, what emotional state do I want to spend those precious, finite moments in?

  • Katherine Meals

    Thank-you for the inspiration! I would add a word of my own. I volunteer for the Humane Society of Utah, and as you possibly know, we are adding more space for cats and other small animals. I believe the small dogs will be included in this new area, if I am right. This is our way of trying to combat euthanasia, giving more opportunities for adoption. We also are trying to expand our foster program. Last year it was announced just before Christmas that we had adopted out all adoptable dogs that year, and that we had adopted out 91% of cats. I can’t remember about the other small animals, I will try and find out. There was still room for improvement. Luckily we were able to get money for the new addition. I believe there will also be a new foster department. I am only a volunteer, but I am speaking about what I have heard. For all the animals who have gone before, Heavenly Father and Jesus love you so much that you are living with them in eternal felicity as glorified beings, gaining knowledge of your own, and I am sure that a lot of children (and adults) are loving you! For those of us on earth, we are still learning how to make sure that you have the best and most joyful life possible here. I want to leave you with one thought…it goes something like this: The deeper sorrow is carved into our being, the more joy we can hold. I believe this is true for the animals, as well as for us. I have experienced this, and I know for a fact that it is a true statement. Thank-you for letting me express my comments.

  • MLindaaggieschair

    I have a family member working with others to get a shelter built and there is insignificant arguments that go on because of control freaks. I am fordwarding this to her and hopefully she can share this video with the group. You have great courage and I admire you as I am so far, a breast cancer survivor.

  • Julie Castle

    Dear Dr Doolittle,
    Thank you for your post. Kindness is not passing out bouquets or being unrealistic about the challenges such as you describe. It is however, a deliberate discipline of not indulging in the weakness and self satisfaction of simply getting your ya-ya’s out by screaming and yelling (actually and figuratively), pointing fingers and getting in fights that produce collateral damage that takes time and energy to clean up…if it can be cleaned up at all. Kindness is not even about liking people or approving of what they do. It is, in fact, entirely independent of ones personal feelings and often times can be quite ruthless. Someone I respect once advised me to treat difficult people like frightened animals. Yelling at them only makes things worse. To answer your question, the only unkind thing in your post was calling Gregory my father. He’s actually my husband:)
    Julie Castle

  • Jmuhjacat

    My folks were some pretty amazing people and they raised me with this philosophy, which has always been my guidestar as well. May your eloquence move many to personal affirmation and making this live in their lives, particularly those like Dr. Doolittle below, who are understandably frustrated and sad and angry at what they know to be true, but need to realize we are not your enemies and that we are working toward the same goal. Let’s stop quarrelling and SAVE PRECIOUS LIVES.

  • Drdoolittle2800

    Julie, this is really a pretty concept. Let’s all hold hands off in Angel Canyon and sing Kumbaya. Love it.

    But, help me see where this kindness will work in places like New York City where the mayor runs the private shelter that provides animal services and the board is filled with city officials and mayor’s friends who couldn’t possibly care less about the plight of animals. 8 shelter directors in 8 years!

    Your father stood with the ASPCA and the Mayors Alliance and helped to vote down the one new law – Oreo’s Law – that would have truly helped provide life to animals being killed by the thousands at ACC.

    In the face of that, please explain to me how your “kindness message” will have any impact at all? Tens of thousands of animals die every single year in NYC while we’re, what? supposed to smile at them and offer suggestions?

    6 formal complaints and 2 lawsuits can’t change the system. Please, we need more than hugging and hand holding. I’m open to suggestions, but don’t kid yourself, Julie, this is ugly brutal war in some places outside Kanab, Utah. And I can’t help but reiterate how devastating Best Friends’ stance was when you guys helped to bury oreo’s Law for another year…

    Is this an unfriendly message? Is this what you mean by divisive and mean attacks?

    • Julie Castle

      Dear Dr Doolittle,
      Thank you for your post. Kindness is not passing out bouquets or being unrealistic about the challenges such as you describe. It is however, a deliberate discipline of not indulging in the weakness and self satisfaction of simply getting your ya-ya’s out by screaming and yelling (actually and figuratively), pointing fingers and getting in fights that produce collateral damage that takes time and energy to clean up…if it can be cleaned up at all. Kindness is not even about liking people or approving of what they do. It is, in fact, entirely independent of ones personal feelings and can be quite ruthless. Someone I respect once advised me to treat difficult people like frightened animals. Yelling at them only makes things worse. To answer your question, the only unkind thing in your post was calling Gregory my father. He’s actually my husband:)
      Julie Castle

      • Marleneberkowitz

        Dear Julie;
        You go girl! As a New Yorker, there is way too much ugliness, fighting and greed with people’s pockets being of more importance than their hearts. But it is so true that by responding in kind , with the negativity and cynicism,gets you nowhere.

        I, first of all, want to send you my well wishes for your healing re: your own physical health-many healing thoughts and prayers. Secondly, by listening to your speech re: the No More Homeless Pets campaign-it definitely opened my eyes, esp. in respect to some of my own posting on the PHS forum on Best Friends. I’m afraid that I came off as defensive in response to others responding to my request for prayers for the NYCACC and what good(?) I thought I was doing.I turned it into a negative. I owe these people an apology. I want to thank you for this.
        You are am amazing example of courage, compassion, and kind-heartedness- traits that we all two legged beings need much more of.with all of these said traits being without question and limit in abundance with our furry four legged ones (and feathered, gills, etc.) Again, I thank you and wish you all the best, in every respect. I somehow have faith that you will beat this demon cancer-this disease doesn’t know who its up against.

      • Drdoolittle2800

        My apologies for my calling Gregory your father. You looked so young in your previous pics with blonde hair! 🙂

        The hardest part of dealing with indifferent people who are in power and will not listen to reason is in not resorting to anger. I can deal with emotionalism of all sorts- it’s the indifference of “leaders” that is so frustrating.

        I encourage you all to get involved in New York City’s terrible situation between the ACC and the city officials. Advocates could use the help of Best Friends.

    • Gunndogs

      Tom, did you know we finally passed a Felony animal cruelty law in Arkansas? Thought you might want to know……Missy shines on.

      • Drdoolittle2800

        I did and wrote to your partner to congratulate you guys right after it passed.

  • Browntk56

    Wow! Even if your goal is not No More Homeless Pets, this is a life lesson to live by!

  • Cscurnow

    Wow…Julie Castle is such an inspiration….I’m chocked up!

  • Ann

    Do you know anyone or organization who could rescue puppies, pregnant Moms and dogs from Porterville, Calif and Tulari County Calif? They only have 6 days after being put in shelter to LIVE.

    A wonderful Porterville shelter volunteer sent an email to Oregon asking if anyone could adopt even 1.

    She and her Mother drive dogs through their state to meet up with the new adopters in other states.

    She told me the shelter was closed for one whole day last week due to so many dogs being euthanized.

    50-80 dogs come in daily. The citizens are ignorant re: how valuable their pets are.
    No laws protect them from really bad abusers.

    Chiquaqua’s and other puppies are killed because their isn’t enough staff to spend extra time with puppies. Pregnant Mother dogs are killed first.

    I spoke with that volunteer, Amanda, today on phone. Her Phone is 1-559-784-0961. It was heartbreaking and hard for an Oregon dog lover to believe. Dogs have much more value in this state.

    My Cell is 503-320-8357 “Olympia” in Portland, Oregon. Ok to leave msg if I don’t answer.

    Thank you so much!!! Please share this with anyone in public or private who could help in anyway. Thank you for all your education for the pets!

  • Jennifer

    Thank you so much for this inspirational speech Julie. We should all strive to be as kind, strong and courageous as you!

  • Sara

    Totally agree. The only way we’ll ever succeed at no more homeless pets is through collaboration, partnership and teamwork. No one is no kill til everyone is no kill so spending precious resources defending our territory and the perceived things that come with it – donors, volunteers, media attention – is counterproductive.

  • Ted

    What matters is what works. If this works, I’m all for it. If it makes me feel better about myself but is ultimately ineffective, it offers nothing. Let’s try it and see.

  • barbara morrow

    well said, julie – in terms of the message itself, and your excellent, direct and professional way of saying it.

  • Anne Trinkle

    what an extraordinary human being! as a fellow breast cancer survivor who has suffered through the rigors of chemotherapy and surgery, I know firsthand how difficult her journey has been. the fact that she ran a marathon in the midst of it is a miracle! Julie, you are an amazing and accomplished leader in animal welfare. I was uplifted and inspired by every word you said. Rock on Sister!!

  • Roberta Gottlieb

    I was there to hear Julie Castle’s speech. It was an overwhelming and moving talk. She is the most courageous person I have ever had the honor of meeting. Julie is challenging her cancer head on AND focusing her energy on what her priorities are- quality of life and CONTINUING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. It’s a message we all need to be reminded of- That each of us can CHOOSE to make our own lives count for something.
    I shouted out to Julie at the end of her talk,
    “See you same time, same place, next year !”. And I have no doubt she’s gonna do her damnedest to be at NMHP 2011.
    Thank you, Julie, for bravely sharing your journey. Each of us that heard your words are living our lives differently, thanks to you. Just think of the ripple effect that will have on not only the animal welfare movement but the world.

  • Bark

    Amen. Inspires me to do more and do it better!
    John, founder
    Gabe’s Gang Pet Soup Kitchen