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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday...My Friday

I came in today and realized that two key staff members were sick. What does that mean for me? No training today and a little more initiative on my part. We basically had double the work and only two newbies to keep the place running.

The two of us that were there to do the job decided to double up on the morning kennel cleanings. We seemed to get things done in a relatively short period of time but of course had to focus on those puppy kennels where the dogs love to walk all in their poop. As soon as we got the dogs down to their runs and the kennels clean it was time to move on to the cattery. This was my first time cleaning and feeding the cats. I have to say that I am not the biggest fan of cats but the ones here seem very friendly. The toughest part of this was dealing with the isolation cats (new arrivals). They seemed so scared and timid that my heart just broke.

Yesterday I spoke of a new relinquished dog that I couldn't believe that someone would give them up. Boy was I mistaken. The dog is actually part of the ASP program. Not sure what the acronym stands for but the meaning is simple. The shelter helps homes and people that are involved in domestic abuse and allows those individuals to bring their animals into the shelter while changes are made in the owner's living situations. This is one of the few shelters that does this and is yet another way that we can help the community.

After the cleaning and a short break it was time to check the laundry and make sure that the animals scheduled for surgery today were not fed. Tuesday is surgery day where the medical staff and a volunteer vet come into the shelter and make sure that the animals are spayed and neutered before they can go to their forever homes. I always feel bad for those guys but it really serves the purpose. There are so many animals that have to be destroyed every year because of negligent breeding.

On to the saddest part of my day. I was spending time with the new puppy making sure that he gets socialized when there was a call over the loud speaker for a kennel staff member to come to the front for a DB. I went up with a smile on my face thinking sweet, someone needs my help. It turns out that owners can bring in their animals that have passed. I then found out what DB stands for...Dead Body. The dog was a lab about 15 years old and had recently passed. I was told to make sure that the dog was in a bag and had to put him in the freezer in the laundry room. Now I know why the freezer is there. The poor dog's face wasn't covered, his eyes were open and he was still warm. I am not going to lie, I shed a few tears and did the duty. I not only felt for the animal but also the owner. My co workers said get used to it but I am not sure that I ever will.

To move to a lighter note, I found out that Tuesday's a small group of middle school students in a community service class come into the shelter in the late afternoon to pretty much do the nasty part of my job. From picking up poo, doing a load of laundry, and even cleaning the dishes. I feel lazy not doing this but I can see the benefits for this program. Every day I am astonished at how many programs this shelter has that really does help the community that it is part of.

Every day that I am here I feel like I am learning more and more about myself and ways of improving people's lives, from adopting animals, to sheltering those in need, to teaching young adults about hard life. More and more I enjoy (even the tough times) being part of a great shelter that gives back to the community. And on one more good note, the little puppy Sheppard mix was adopted to a loving family that will give him a lifetime of happiness.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Monday Funday

Of course another day beginning with scrubbing some puppy poo. I wonder if I will ever become immune to the smell. Once the scrubbing and rinsing were done we moved on to the morning feeding, mmm dry kibble. I can't forget the special meals for those guys that either need to gain weight, are puppies, or need to eat their meals out of kongs to slow their inhaling eating manners.

Ahhh, time to relax. It seems that Monday's you can be pretty efficient in what your doing even when someone goes home sick. We took care of all the morning duties pretty fast and had some time to sit with the dogs. I chose the one that seemed the saddest. I sat with him for a while scratching his ears until he rolled over on his back and wanted his belly rubbed for the next half hour. I think you can tell when a dog is smiling.

As the day progressed it seemed like the usual, just at a slower pace. Less laundry to do (still backed up though), and more time to clean. Of course the propane for the dryer ran out though and I learned how to light the pilot light and switch the tiny gas tank that runs the ever important soiled bedding room. I was told the gas usually runs out every day and you have to either shake it or replace it. Good to know.

Aside from the usual things there were a few new things I saw. Some of the medical staff was on property weighing and examining some of the animals. They were also putting the list together for Tuesday's operations (spays, neuters, and a urinalysis). They also had to draw blood on the new arrivals and make sure they didn't bring anything into the shelter.

Sweet, a volunteer brought in brownies for the staff. I have failed to mention earlier that just about every day there is some sort of sweet thing brought in for the staff. Even though this is a physical job I need to watch it because there is always something delicious to eat hanging around the kitchen.

The day progressed as usual with afternoon feedings, more laundry, some well spent time with the animals and another relinquishment. This guy was so frightened it broke my heart. He had no idea what was going on or where he was at. He was so well behaved that I have no idea why someone would give him up. I finally got him into his area, made sure he had lots of toys and then loaded him up with some food and a huge bone. He would sit and stay waiting patiently for it. Hopefully he won't be here long and we can find his forever home sooner than later.

It seems that I started by climbing the roller coaster on Saturday and have been letting gravity pull me along these past couple of days. I began with such a hectic and crazy day that the normal days seem pretty easy going. I love it because I get to pay special attention to those animals that are having a tough time dealing with their environment. I do have to say, I would like more animals to be adopted because it is amazing how close you can grow to them.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Day 2 - Feeling the Groove, Kinda

Today seemed night and day from yesterday. From a go go busy-ness that never seemed to end to finishing work early and getting a little more time to spend with the animals. Even after one day I feel like this is going to be a good fit. Mind you my muscles are sore and my shoes do stink, but all part of the job.

The morning was pretty uneventful with a cleaning of the kennels (not as intense as yesterday, pretty much just getting all the poo and pee out then rinsing with the hose). I need to remember to bring my ipod for this. A little music would surely take my mind off of the smell until I get used to it. From there came feedings, dry food in the morning with a few special diets, and requests from the dogs. One beagle won't eat out of metal bowls so she has to get her food in a plastic one. Then there are the dogs that inhale their food and need the meals stuffed in rubber balls to slow them down. And of course you can't forget the puppies that need their calories.

After this was all finished I felt pretty at ease with all of the volunteers helping out bringing the animals back to their temporary homes. Then it was off to the rabbitat to change the bedding and add some more hay. Not sure if it's the rabbits or the hay buy my nose was literally dripping snot. I hung in as long as I could and finished the job but I don't think my nose has been like that since the CS chamber in boot camp (some of you know what I'm talking about).

While I was taking a short break in between laundry and dish duty someone brought in a stray. A beautiful wimeriner that seemed well fed. No collar and a chip that was not registered led us to call county. I have to say that anyone that does not take advantage of the chipping system is asking for this to happen. A simple phone call and update on some records can help a lost pet find it's home and keep it from the stress of shelters. Usually though with these full bred breeds there is more of a chance that a rescue will pick them out of county and help them find their forever home.

Another person brought in an adorable 10 week old puppy (relinquishment) stating that the dog just didn't get along with their current dog. My thoughts on this are simple, it's because you haven't given them enough time together or your first dog is too under socialized. The big concern now is getting the puppy socialized which is tough to do in the shelter setting. Hopefully we can get his health cleared so we can star mingling him with the other dogs.

After all the excitement there was a scare with one of the cats in the cattery. A whole lot of eye build up and just a sad looking animal. I was given some warm water and some gauze pads and had some time to wipe the gunk away and make the animal feel a little more comfortable. Hopefully today she is doing better but the Vet will be here so I am a little more at ease.

Almost closing time. I was asked if I was afraid of needles and said only if they are going in me. Then one of the other kennel staff took me into the medical building and introduced me to a special cat that had been heavily neglected in it's previous home. She had diabetes and lived in the office now. She seemed very content but still required daily injections to treat her condition. It really is amazing how much care is in these walls.

As the days (all two of them) move on I am slowly feeling more and more comfortable in my surroundings. The love and appreciation that is here amazes me and the dedication and hard work is nothing short of a miracle. People are good and animals help bring that out. Don't forget to visit your local shelter and see what you can do to help.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Day 1 - Jumping right in

Traditionally I have always thought of a first day at a new job as paperwork and more paperwork. Not the case today. From the moment I walked in the door at 8:30 I felt as if I was a pledge in a fraternity, along with everyone else working there. "Here is your leash, treat bag, and radio", lets get to it.

I was partnered up with a senior kennel staff and was basically expected to know the job since I had volunteered at the shelter. The first words I can remember coming out of my trainer's mouth was you picked the toughest and busiest day to start working...I soon knew what she meant.

Approaching 8:45 I was told that Saturday's are kennel disinfecting days (I thought all 40 of them?). Did I mention that these kennels were about the size of my first dorm room? The system that they have is a very fair and effective one when it comes to getting the job done. You basically move all bedding, toys, ect. out of the area, spray them down with a disinfectant then proceed to scrub the hell out of each one on your hands and knees for about two hours then rinse, spray down again with disinfectant then rinse again. My thoughts during this were pretty minimal...I am going to get buff doing this.

I do have one other thought during this time and that was Explosive Diarrhea! I have never seen anything like it. This poor shepppard basically sprayed the entire kennel and managed not to step in it. I felt horrible for the dog but he seems to be doing a lot better now. Hey, at least there was another new person there that got stuck with the task of cleaning that one up.

Moving on to bringing the dogs back from their potty breaks. Pretty uneventful exept for those animals that are reactive to other dogs and your arm almost gets pulled out of socket trying to hold them back. Those and the door dashers are always fun. I think my reflexes aren't what they used to be. After all the dogs are back in it's time for some food, not me of course, but the dogs. I always thought just shovel and go, once again I should never assume. Almost every dog here has a speacial "request" when eating. From Macie who will only eat out of a plastic bowl, to Tommy that eats so fast that you have to put his meals in giant kongs to slow him down, to Mandy who gets a special mix of dry puppy food, adult food, and a little wet food as well. I hope my memory can handle all of this. The one thing I loved about this was actually going into the kennels and bringing something good to these wonderful animals.

11 o'clock and opening time. The show begins. Just when I thought I had some time to relax the next sheet of "chores" gets shown to me. This one has everything from laundry to checking on the rabbitat and cattery. I don't think I have ever seen so much soiled laundry in my life. The laundry is an ongoing thing that needs to be checked about every hour with a sign of sheet saying who checked it.

Along with all of this, and taking out garbages, washing dog bowls, giving medications, and of course continually picking up poop there are showings going on for these wonderful animals. A showing consists of an extensive application being filled out to make sure that the animal is going to a safe and comfortable place. Once that is evaluated the adoptors are questioned a little than introduced to the adoptee. The one that I sat in on was for a cute little female rat-terrier that had been returned to the shelter twice for various reasons. Not a bad dog just a whole lot of energy. The couple loved the dog but the next step was introducing their dog to her. The shelter dog was fine but the other was a little pretentious. The couple wanted it so bad but they just didn't seem to get along. As we're doing this I hear over the radio "we have four showings waiting". Time to get back to it and push this one along. There is always something to do.

After this I was told that there was a dog that was male reactive. What that means is that when males approach the animal gets very nervous and growled. Well, since I have a beard they said I was the perfect guine pig to test this out. I just kept thinking, he can smell fear just play it cool. I say this because this dog was not little. In I walked and was greeted with a wagging tail. I amazed that this dog could have shown aggression in any sort of way, and happy he didn't bite me too. This is just another reason that I love working here, giving these loving animals the opportunity to live and love again.

When things finally slowed down, for about 10 minutes, I was shown a sheet of dogs that needed extra loving. There were animals that were stressed and uncomfortable with the shelter. I loved this part. Just to sit down and see their faces was amazing. The reward of this job is knowing that these animals are getting another chance.

I had assumed that this was a pretty lax job with a whole lot of dog loving, I assumed wrong. There is so much that goes into running a successful shelter that there is never a moment that someone isn't doing something. It's more of a choreographed dance than people working. And I have to say, I am a little soar and pretty tired but I cannot wait until tomorow.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pre-Game Thoughts

Well, it's the day before I begin my adventure at the Humane Society and I wanted to share some of my thoughts about what I hope to accomplish in the time to come. Of course my main goal is to learn as much about running a dog shelter as possible but I also want to learn about myself and share my emotions with you.

I know that this is not going to be easy, mainly from the financial aspect of it all, but I also know that these experiences will help me grow as a person. I know that I am not the brightest person out there but I want to share my feelings on the the subject of finding good animals good homes and hopefully spark a few conversations in the mean time.

I hope that many of you continue to check back to this blog and see what every day holds because I know that there are certainly going to be some adventurous days both personally and with the animals. I also don't want anyone to be upset at what I say or share because there might be some touchy subjects that arise about euthanasia. Please feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts. We learn from sharing experiences and opinions and grow from listening. Talk to you tomorrow and I can't wait to share the adventure.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Getting Started

So here is how it started and this is how it is all going to go down. My fiancee, yes I'd like to congratulate myself, and I decided to volunteer at our local humane society about five months ago. I have to tell you that it is an unbelievably rewarding thing to do. Now on to the real story, if you didn't already know I have been looking for a new career since being part of a large downsizing with my past company and me trying not to be a pessimist have decided to do something that I truly care about and stop worrying about the monetary aspect of a career.

I am lucky enough to have a significant other that supports me in my dreams and aspirations that has allowed me to pursue my love of animals (and writing) further. That is why I have decided to take a position as a kennel attendant where we volunteer. I will be doing everything from helping out with adoptions, feeding, working with the on site vet, and of course picking up poop. Oh, and I can't forget the part about giving and getting lots of love from all of these animals in need.

On to the goal of this whole experiment. I hope to share my experiences in the day to day operations of the shelter and pass along some of the adoption stories that will better explain the benefits of finding the right homes for these animals. There will be tough times I can guarantee it but I also know the goods times will out weigh the bad.

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you and hope that you to contribute your animal stories. And if you're an enlightened person you might just know how your pet feels about you.

Why Not?

It's pretty simple when you think about it. Things in this country have changed and we must adapt in order to survive. My story isn't any different from many of yours, the only thing that I have changed is my perception on what work really is.

It begins about two months ago when I was laid off. Some think that is a terrible ordeal when all I take it as is an opportunity to reevaluate what "I want to be when I grow up". When I am asked what I "did" for a living I usually replied "as little as possible". I look back on that now and realize that all I was doing was getting a pay check. When you are forced to deal with loosing that security you really contemplate what living is in this country.

Now don't get me wrong, I miss my financial freedom and all of the fringe benefits that went along with doing the jobs that I have done. And don't think that I didn't try my hand many times over applying for those big paying careers. I think my confidence level really sank when I was turned down for a job at Starbucks. Hey, competition is tough and we got to do we have to do in these times. That's when I saw a posting on Craigslist for a kennel attendant at my local humane society where I volunteer.

I have taken a part time position at the shelter in hopes of helping the community, myself, and of course sharing my stories with you. Times are tough, we all might as well take a step back, look at our goals in life, and try to make a worthwhile impact on this planet for our children. I look forward to hearing everyone's comments and maybe even sharing some stories.

I have always had a passion for animals and the benefits that having a pet can have. Growing up with dogs I probably have a little bias for them but in general all animals can play a role in our happiness and overall well being.
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