Thursday, October 20, 2011

Shelter workers

I was at the shelter the other day volunteering, and thinking about the people who work there every day and are evidently--from the way they talk to the animals and interact with them--as in love with them as I am. As a volunteer, I get to walk the dogs, play with the cats, give them treats, and each week see the happy lists of who got adopted. I get to walk away in blissful ignorance of who won't be there tomorrow, who just failed an evaluation, who got returned by an adopter again and isn't going to be given another chance. The people who work there have no such luxury. 

I realized today that whatever my strengths as a rescuer and animal advocate, this is not one of them. I'd go to bed every night an emotional wreck, my house would fill up with animals, I'd be in tears on the job, I'd avoid the parts of the shelter where the doomed animals wait.

I'm amazed by the people I see working at the shelter. Most of them are young, hip-looking women, who look like the protest-goers who peer-pressured me to go vegetarian in high school. They don't look like they're made of steel, but maybe they are. How else could they do it?

Or maybe the shelter is really living up to its goal of being a city-run, open-admission shelter that achieves 100% adoption of adoptable animals. Or maybe somewhere in between. 


I do agree with Nathan Winograd--although I don't agree with him on everything--that not all shelter workers are doing everything they should be doing to save lives. But those who are, who work in shelters because they really do love animals and commit their every day to making their lives better, are possessed of a superhuman strength and are deserving of thanks and admiration.

22 comments:

  1. I agree, look at that photo. I interviewed for a position managing volunteers in a shelter once and after I walked out of the interview, I realized I wouldn't be able to work there every day. Those folks are something special!

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  2. I volunteered in a shelter (NOT a no kill) for a few months many years ago and just could not take it. I am in awe of and appreciate everyone who gives of their time and themselves to do shelter work, both volunteers and paid staff.

    The Road Dogs' Mom

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  3. I agree! I wish we lived closer to the adoption group that we work with so I could go in and help up there. The people who work in shelters are completely awesome!

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  4. I don't think i can work in a shelter without bringing the doomed animals home. You've got to be someone who's really really strong inside. I salute them all.

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  5. I agree, I don't think I could work in a shelter. I had done a lot of rescue myself over the years and did work for a vet for a couple of yrs. I admire those who can and do the job they so love!!!

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  6. Hi Kirsten, my dad couldn't work in a shelter. I think that it would too hard for him emotionally. He would try to rescue all the doomed ones, the good ones and the ones that need more guidance...but there's reality. So while he can't do it, he believes that it's important to donate to help the animals and the people who help them. So he does that.

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  7. I couldn't work in a shelter. Ive volunteered and it was hard enough

    Kari
    http://dogisgodinreverse.com

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  8. There is no way I could work there full time. I would be an emotional wreck oh and then I would have to become a dog hoarder because I would have to take all of them home lol

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  9. Hi!! I agree with you on all counts. Although not everybody is doing everything they can, there are a heck of a lot of superheroes working every day to save our shelter workers. I was just thinking about this the other day when MCHS got an extremely emaciated young pit bull in, and everybody was immediately in motion -- finding the softest dog bed in the world, whisking him off to the vet for an IV and a thorough exam, procuring some very fancy wet food to feed him in tiny meals throughout the day, and showering him with incredible amounts of love.

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  10. Great post. It's easy for people to judge if someone is "doing enough," but is it really fair to judge people who are making the effort when many people don't try to help at all?

    Maybe some of them should be doing more, that's true. But I still admire those who are trying to make a difference.

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  11. Wow. We volunteer with a rescue group that pulls the animals out of the shelter before they end up on that list...The coordinator really has a way with words of breaking your heart with every email of the dogs being rescued. But to see the dogs thriving in our foster homes and getting adopted, there is nothing better than that! I work with the rescue because I want to volunteer, and know that with this rescue, it will all be happy endings. The more people who can deal with working in a shelter environment or dedicate their time to rescue, the more dogs that will be saved and find their living homes!

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  12. Thanks for stopping by our blog the other day. We love your post on volunteering. I volunteer with our local shelter as well as transport for Basset Rescue. I did a lot of with the dogs at first but found myself not having time to walk and spend time with my own dogs. I know focus on fundraising events for our shelter and basset transporting. Both are very rewarding and I wouldn't give it up in for nothing. One day I hope to foster for Basset Rescue. Sniffs, The HoundDogs

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  13. So true. They are a special lot.

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  14. My mom says that if she worked in a shelter, she'd just become a hoarder. She thinks people who work in shelters - the good ones with big hearts - are angels on earth.

    Wiggles & Wags,
    Mayzie

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  15. We spend a great deal of time volunteering at a shelter too. Ours is a no-kill shelter, but there are still heartaches faced - the returned for the umpteenth time pet, the one who has been there forever but so deserves a wonderful home, the big black ones that are often overlooked, the one diagnosed with an operation that is out of budget, and so on. I have the utmost respect for those folks who CHOOSE to be there everyday for the animals - the people who love each of them as if though they were their own - the people who rejoice when a successful adoption is made and who mourn when a beloved friend passes on. They have hearts made of gold.

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  16. those are good peoples. Wish we could take all those doggies home
    Benny & Lily

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  17. I can't do shelter work but I admire and applaud those who can.

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  18. Thanks for all the great comments you guys. I am with all of you who say you couldn't do it...I have sometimes wondered why I don't work in a shelter full-time, and then given the matter some thought and realized I wouldn't last long.

    Sam, your dad raises a good point that where we can't help out in person, our financial contributions can go a long way toward paying for staff who really care, getting more organized and better adoption events, paying for better facilities that attract the public and make people want to adopt.

    Aleks, I loved hearing that story! It sounds like really good things are going on at MCHS these days--and it can't hurt that they have a star foster/volunteer/photographer helping out!

    Skinny Fat Kid, that's another great point--rescue groups are a great way to volunteer for those of us who can't always handle being inside a shelter!

    Hound Dog, doing transport is a fantastic contribution. That way no one who wants a Bassett ever has to consider buying one from a breeder!

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  19. Having worked in nonprofit orgs my entire adult life, I know about being underpaid, underappreciated, and having more work than I know what to do with. If I had to add the life and death decisions made by shelter staff, I'd wig out.

    They have a very tough job. Thanks for writing such a thoughful appreciation.

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  20. I know a nurse who works in palliative care. Imagine going to work every day knowing that 100% of your patients are going to die and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. She does it because she feels end-of-life care is every bit as valuable and necessary as helping those who will leave the hospital and return to their lives in one piece. I think she's incredible. Most people go into nursing because they think they'll help save lives, not dedicate themselves to end-of-life care with dignity, compassion, and comfort.

    I guess professional shelter workers have similar values and nerves. They know they'll lose some, they'll save some, but they give 100% to each and every one. I know it's not a perfect analogy, but it does involve the same ability to accept the inevitable with equanimity.

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