It's been a year since we moved, but we still have much left to unpack. I spent most of the past few weekends sorting through boxes in our garage, dividing the contents into cartons marked Keep, Sell, Donate and Trash. The collars were in the last box I opened.
The raggedy blue collar with a bell was worn by Gypsy, our first shelter cat, when we brought her home four years ago. She's long since outgrown it.
The thick red collar had belonged to Jade, the most gorgeous (and only slow-witted) German shepherd I've ever known. She's been gone 15 years.
There was the expensive training collar meant to help when walking bull-headed dogs, the collar with flashing lights for walking dogs in the dark, and a leash that says, "Which one of us is a bitch?" (Both my dogs are males.)
Each triggered memories of the animal that once wore it, and I remember how some of our dogs would seem upset when their collar was off, then proud when it was put back on. Perhaps to them, it was the equivalent of a wedding ring, of knowing they belonged to someone.
Still, I wasn't sure what to do with my collection of collars, so I slid them onto a shelf in my undecided zone.
And then I got an e-mail from Nicky Walters, news reporter for WOWK-TV.
Walters, a board member of the Charleston/Kanawha Humane Association, is in charge of the shelter's observance of National Homeless Animals Day on Aug. 16. To raise public awareness of how many of the animals at the shelter end up not getting homes, she's attempting to collect one collar for every animal euthanized at the Kanawha shelter when it wasn't adopted.
In other words, she needs to collect 6,553 collars.
Walters plans to make a chain of those collars, hoping the visual impact will help open the public's eyes to the large number of animals put down every year.