Wish I was back at the Shelter.

14 12 2012

Before I get into the swing of things let me pause a moment to say (bear with me now)….

FREEEEDOOOOMMMMM!!!! Praise the Lord I can hear the Hallelujah chorus now and it’s not coming from Christmas station on the radio either! I have officially completed part 1/3 of senior year of college! I finished the meanest paper I’ve ever had (I call it the child of Satan) and have everything sent in. Christmas break is here and I have to say I’m so relieved. It’s about time too because the weather is very much telling me that Winter is here (though I would very much like for it to crawl back to a different hemisphere where it has been hibernating for the past several months.) When it gets colder I remind myself how thankful I am to have a job inside, in the warmth. However, it’s both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is of course the warmth. The curse is that the one job that I have held that required me to work outside in the cold was by far the best job I’ve ever had and I miss it.

I’m speaking of course of the time that I spent employed at the local rural animal shelter. There is nothing quite so rewarding as caring for the helpless. Don’t get me wrong, it was nowhere near a cush job. The pay was minimum wage (6.50 to begin with then 7.25 when the law changed,) the work was both labor and emotionally intensive and draining. You get to work at 7am and cleaning the animal cages (nothing says good morning like a nice steaming pile of animal poop!) After the entire shelter is scooped, hosed, scrubbed/sanitized and dried top to bottom (78 inside dog runs, 13 outside dog runs, 30ish cat cages, the outside cat porch and any pet carriers you may have used in the process) it’s already taken you three hours between 4 people. This put you at 10am and the animals get fed and the shelter officially opens up. The day is really hit or miss from there. You have to walk through and make sure all the animals are up to date on their medications ( sickness spreads in the shelter like wildfire because of the proximity of the animals) and their vaccinations/heartworm tests.

Then you’ve got animal control. We were the only shelter in the county and so had to not only take in the strays from the city but also from across the entire county. Living in the back woods of the South this is quite a challenge. Come June and July (puppy birthing months) we will take in 700+ animals a month. Which leads into the least glamorous part of the job. With so many animals and no room to keep them and no one to adopt them all the only alternative is euthanasia. Its ironic the community sentiments about this topic. The people in our area are less keen on spay and neutering their pets than in other places in the country, and with the extreme lack of containment systems dogs and cats stay around, mate and make babies. Some of those babies will find homes. Some get abandoned on the side of the road (which will result mainly in death by sickness (any dog not receiving a prevention pill in our area will, without a doubt acquire heartworms, which is a very slow very painful death), getting hit by cars, or attacks from other animals or they’ll wind up at the shelter.) Others find homes (not good ones that will pay for their treatments and so these wind up at the shelter) and some actually surrender the babies to the shelter (only a very small portion actually find good homes.) And then the people of the community do not FIX their baby making machines and next season they turn out yet another batch of little ones.

Our mentality is that we would much rather put a dog or cat to sleep painlessly with loving hands than have it out on the streets starving, sick, with an almost guaranteed chance of mortality by vehicle (Which is dangerous for motorists as well.) Yes I have put down more animals than I care to try and count. This is the emotionally trying part of the job. You wish you could take them all home with you but after awhile you just flat run out of room. I have been called murderer (more than once) and that is very hard to take especially from the very people that caused the problem to begin with! (And you don’t even want me to start in on puppy mills. That’s a rant best saved for another post another day.)

Anyway, we take in a lot of animals. We also adopt a lot of animals out as well. I am proud to say that our shelter has the highest adoption rate in the state among kill shelters! A whopping 7% of all incoming animals! Wooohoooo! This was a great part of the job, getting to match dogs and cats (mainly dogs for me) with their future owners. Its awesome because you learn each of the dogs not only by name but by personality. To see one of your favorites get adopted by the perfect family is the best feeling in the world!

If you’re not painting, cleaning, microchipping pets, taking pictures for the website, copying cage cards, euthanasing, running the crematorium (the bodies have to go somewhere and we feel the landfill is not as respectful as having their ashes spread in the woods) doing endless amount of laundry, preforming ongoing first aid to an injured animal, pushing paper, running adoptions, running errands, assisting animal control, or relaxing a bit with the pups (ok fine cats too) then your day starts to wrap up at 430. Everyone gets fed again with another dose of meds then at 5 you finally get to clock out and head home for a shower because most undoubtedly you’re covered in about 5 layers of poop, urine, blood and just plain good ol dirt. But you get the satisfaction of yet another day well done.

Now you may be asking why, if I love this job so much, did I leave? There were several contributing factors. The first was simply upper management. The removed the best boss I’ve ever had from the head honcho spot and replaced her with an ignoramus that literally did not know the difference between a male and female dog and fleas and ticks. This was the most basic of information and absolutely necessary to fulfill the job position adequately. Then new boss started firing long time (very experienced, dedicated and knowledgeable) employees for what has been confirmed as inadequate reasons. Fortunately said person has been relieved of their station but not before making life miserable for many people for several months. The second was because I was in the process of changing school locations and it would be too much in gas and time to try and maintain a job so distant from my college. I spent two years at the shelter and it took its toll on my emotions and my body BUT it double to triple, enriched my life and gave me precious memories I will cherish forever. I  wish I was still working there. (but not right now because its cold out. Scooping poop when the scooper is freezing to your hand did not make the top ten memories list!)

All of this stems from a work I wrote while still working at the shelter. It is titled “Why I Love My Job”. guess what it’s about…. any way I thought I’d share them with you.

Why I Love My Job

Because I love the smell of pine straw in a dogs fur and love to bury my nose in its fragrant warmth.

Nothing pleases me more than to sit in the run of a shy/scared/abused and otherwise distrusting dog, just being still and calm and slowly earning its trust to where I can finally pet it. When they look at you with those eyes of timid acceptances. Then finally they’re so comfortable that they are laying in your lap licking your hand. That’s what truly makes me smile. To be able to do that and then come back 2 hours later and they jump to their feet at the sound of your footsteps, wagging their tails.

Seeing the joy between new owner and recently adopted pet. I sit there and watch people talk to their dogs and cats as if they would respond to them. And yes I even catch myself doing it as well.

Because the best way to take a nap is to curl up with a puppy.

Because I get to play with needles and draw dog blood for heart worm testing which for some reason just tickles me to death that they let me do that. It helps the dog and I have fun.

Because occasionally community service comes in and I can get THEM to scoop poop from the runs (thank God for small misdemeanors against the law)

The people I work with are fun and also share a love for animals like I do.

I get to help name the critters.

When all the chores are done I can play and spend time with the whole dang lot of em.

Dogs gives unconditional love and know when you’re having a bad day. There is nothing sweeter than a large macho dog curl up in your lap and lick your hand looking at you with those large caring eyes.


Anyway for those of you who made it this far I congratulate you. This has been one of my longer posts. I would encourage you to go volunteer at your local animal shelter. Don’t worry probably the worst thing they’ll made you do is have to play with the puppies and kittens (we understand volunteers do not automatically want to get down and grungy with shelter filthiness.) So there you go just a little snap shot of me. And as a reward for making it to the end of the post I’ve included some pictures of my time at the shelter.


wasn't nothin but a hound dog :D note the signature orange boggin' is due to the cold temperatures I was referring to earlier.

wasn’t nothin but a hound dog 😀 note the signature orange boggin’ is due to the cold temperatures I was referring to earlier.


Abundance of kisses

Abundance of kisses


Proof I really do love cats (don't tell anyone though!)

Proof I really do love cats (don’t tell anyone though!)


Soft kitty, warm kitty, wet and dripping fur. (never try and give a cat a bath)

Soft kitty, warm kitty, wet and dripping fur. (never try and give a cat a bath)





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