I think that it’s pretty common for people who work at shelters and rescues to often be overlooked and under-appreciated. Sure we have some adopters who truly respect us and appreciate all the work that goes into caring for our animals (and trust me, we’re so incredibly thankful for them), but many times people come and go and see what we do as just a job.
For some people, I suppose, it is just a job. But for us, it’s so much more. We get the chance every day to save a life, and if we can’t save it, we at least have the chance to make it better, to make it the best life we can provide with what we have. As you can imagine, there are so many positives to working with animals and helping them find their new homes.
But like anything, there is always the other side – in this case the side that no shelter/rescue worker ever wants to go through but is forced to go through regularly. We often see things no one should have to see, the lowest point of an animal’s life. I don’t think everyone takes that into consideration. They come to the shelter and walk the runs and see a bunch of active dogs, all mostly plump and satisfied – no matter how eager to go home. They don’t see what we do. They don’t see the animals that come in emaciated, abused, injured, and neglected. They don’t understand that there are some days when you can’t help but completely break down after seeing a dog barely living because some monster decided it didn’t deserve to live and live well. They see us bright and cheery, trying to sell adoptions, silently pleading with them to not go home empty handed. They don’t see us when we’re a wreck, when we’re crying for certain animals that are carried in our building, or when we’re breathing heavy outside – just trying to catch our breath back that the stress of the day stole.
And so many times all the heartbreak and the stress is worth it. When an animal goes home and the family is ecstatic – when we receive the best photos of our animals cozy and comfy in their new homes, that makes it all worth every second. But that doesn’t mean our job is easy. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t days where each of us questions if we can keep doing this – keep having our heart broken every time a new animal comes through the door.
What I think so many people overlook is that, yes it is a job, but it’s a job where lives depend on us. We become responsible for saving the life of every animal that comes into our building, and that’s a daunting task. And I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a task that we don’t always accomplish. And it’s that guilt – that horrible sense of “I should have done more” or that realization that “I did everything I possibly could and it still wasn’t good enough” – that guilt can tear a person up inside.
I’m not looking for sympathy here – we all chose this job and we know deep down this is where we belong and this is what we’re meant to do. What I am looking for though, is for people to open their eyes a little to all aspects of shelter and rescue work – the parts that are not completely evident, but very much there. Our employees, and our volunteers, work so hard to be the best at what they do so they can be the best for our animals. They overcome so much each day they step into our building. And so often we’re all so concern with our own lives – with finding our special animal – with getting in and out and done and over, that maybe we don’t always realize how hard it can be.
All I ask is that when you go to our shelter, or to any shelter or rescue, take a second to breathe, take it in, look at the employees and try to understand the stress they’re under. Take a second to say thank you – to remind them that everything that they work through each day is worth it – that they’re doing the best they can and that everything they do is appreciated because I promise you, these people deserve at least that much.
We encourage you, no matter where you’re reading this from, to reach out to your local shelters and rescues to say thank you.
If you can, we hope you will donate to them, as caring for so many lives can come at great cost.
If you would like to show your thanks and support and make a donation to our shelter, please visit our Amazon Wish List: http://amzn.com/w/17V9I7WYPBQCC
or make a check out to Town of Islip Animal Shelter and mail to 210 South Denver Ave., Bay Shore, NY 11706.