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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Super Ball

I know, kind of a funny title for a blog about my days working at the Humane Society but if you saw me at all today you would understand. I started the day walking into the parking lot seeing all of the kennel staff's cars. Once I realized they all just parked there before going to their two day class I got a little nervous. Then I realized that of the other two kennel staff members one was assigned to the front desk and the other would be going home around 11 because she was sick. What does all of that mean to me, I would be bouncing around like a super ball from one thing to the next until five o'clock came around.

We split up the morning cleaning pretty evenly in order to get it done the fastest. We brought all of the dogs down and got started. I teamed up with another to whip out the south side kennels with the other attendant covered the East and West. Once we were done with our share we hurried over to the cattery. I was surprised at how many different places there were cats. We have five different rooms for them from the two in the main cattery, to the in/out room, cat iso, cat iso 2 you could call it, and of course the kittery. When cleaning the cattery you always have to keep an eye on all of the animals. You have to make sure that they don't wonder off anywhere or get stuck behind or underneath something. With all of the bedding and litter boxes changed and new food put out it was time to make sure the rabbitat was handled. Luckily the other staff member was taking care of it. And thank God there were those hard working volunteers to help out bringing the dogs back up to their kennels. They really are an imperative part of this whole operation.

Once all of the animals had been attended to, the daily cleaning duties were up to me. All of the trash was taken out and the laundry started but in addition to the normal duties Monday includes some weekly cleanings as well. Woo hoo, that means I got to take out all of the poop buckets from the play yards, clean the laundry room, and wash the cattery windows in addition to everything else. After all of this was done I took a quick lunch and got back to it.

Next I decided to tackle the dirty crates by the laundry room. These are all of the used or donated crates that need to be sanitized and scrubbed before their next use. This is always fun because no matter how hard I try my socks always end up dripping wet. At least I got the area a little more organized. Since I was right there I thought what the hell, how about another load of laundry. I am just really glad that there wasn't that much to do in the first place so it made it a lot easier.

With the rest of the busy work (washing dishes, afternoon and special feedings, taking dogs down to their yards) passing the time fast I was still asked to help out in a few more areas. Not only did I pass the day by fast by staying busy but I also learned quite a bit because there was no one else their to do some specific tasks. I ended up doing a dog showing with a little cocker spaniel. Well, I actually couldn't show her because she wasn't available until tomorrow, but I was able to get a good feel for the couple and evaluate the adoption. They said they would be back first thing in the morning to see the dog. After I filled out my opinions on the situation I was asked by our vet tech for a little help in her medical office. First though I had to feed some cream cheese to a big lab while his ears got cleaned. It's always easier with cream cheese. Next I went into her office and helped with a dog intake. Very similar to a cat one but with some different vaccinations. After that I had to get another dog that had already been through intake. Her test came back positive for heart worms but we wanted to be sure. I had to hold tight to the dog while more blood was drawn to be sent out to the lab. The tech wanted to take care of it today to try and make the dog available sooner.

A day that flies by faster than a Saturday was a curve ball today. I really did enjoy helping out wherever I could and having the responsibility in my hands. Hopefully I took care of everything that needed to be taken care of and of course I hope I thanked the volunteers enough for their help. I am definitely looking forward to a nice hot shower tonight.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Being Short Handed Isn't So Bad

Today started with a bang, kind of. As I was putting on my dirty shoes, I noticed that there was only one other kennel worker there. It turns out that was how it was going to be today. I'm just glad it was our kennel supervisor that had the experience to know how to prioritize to make sure what needed to get done, got done.

It began with rushing all of the dogs down to their runs, always starting off with those that held it all night. During this time, it was decided that I would take care of the puppies which meant that I could not handle any possibly sick animals. Hell, I'm not complaining, I get to play with two cute little guys and get to keep my hands off of the ones with the explosive diarrhea. Just goes to show you that the team of kennel staff really cares more about the dogs than they do about how difficult their day might be.

After getting all of the dogs out into the runs, it was time to clean. With only the two of us there was definitely a feeling of urgency for the simple fact that I knew we still had the cattery and the rabbitat. After a whole lot of scooping poo, scrubbing, and rinsing out we moved on to the cattery. Thank goodness there was another employee helping out at this point and pretty much had the cattery under control. It always works best though when there is a team in there to knock it out faster. We got to changing the litter boxes and feeding when one of the cats started attacking another. We put the victim back in their kennel when the cat jumped up and tried attacking again. The attacker ended up only knocking over the litter box but it was damn near impossible to get this cat out of the kennel without getting bit. We tried food as a distraction but this cat was amped. Finally I caught her looking away and went for the scruff. Luckily I was able to grab her and put her back in her kennel. Once she calmed down she was once again a sweet loving girl who just wanted some love.

After all of the cleaning and feedings it seemed we were actually ahead of schedule. Wow, some time to relax and take advantage of a little extra time. We decided to see if we can't pair some of the dogs up and offer up some new play friends. It's always tough when these animals become so aggressive against other dogs and sometimes it is a good thing to introduce them to other dogs to show them that they are not a threat. It ended up we found the little terrier mix a good friend with a dog that just lost her brother last week. It's definitely the odd couple but it was so nice to finally see them with a smile on their faces. Sometimes it is so few and far between that when it does happen it is very special.

With only the two of us you would never know it. There were several staff members today helping out with adoptions and volunteers that truly do make a difference. Without the volunteers today would not have gone as smoothly as it did. The volunteers not only helped bring dogs out they also were able to get a few of them to the quite room in order to give them some peaceful time away from the shelter.

Of course there always is the calm before the storm. Just when I thought everything was meandering along at a slow pace I was called to an interaction. It was with this greyhound mix and a German Sheppard. It seemed the animals really got along well but the shelter dog was a little standoff-ish from the adopters. I think it was merely nerves because the guy is such a lover once you get to know him. Turns out the people loved him and decided to adopt him. Always nice to see people find the love an animal can give, both to themselves and to the big sister German Sheppard.

Finally I was able to get to some laundry. I started a load and next went to stock the cattery with some beds and towels. That was when a volunteer asked if she could feed a cat. The cats are on a strict feeding schedule but in this case it was necessary. The cat ended up flipping his litter box all over the food and the kennel. The volunteer was so nice to help clean up the mess and make sure the cat was taken care of. Once again, the volunteers play a vital role in the operations and success of this shelter. After everything was swept up I got a call on the walkie that I was needed to help with a cat intake.

The intake was a mother and her four kittens. These guys were so cute, just a month old and barely walking. The mother really seemed like a good one always keeping an eye on where her babies were at. For the intake we made sure her kittens were right next to her at all times. We weighed the mother, gave her the vaccinations, checked for fleas, and did a blood test. Once all of this was done we made sure there was a very large kennel set up for her and her babies. We stocked it full of some tuna and dry food and hopefully she will adapt quickly to her new surroundings.

With the day coming to a close it was simply busy work from this point on. Making sure all of the dogs were fed (puppies three times) and getting all of the animals out for their afternoon breaks. I started a final load of laundry and made sure the rabbits were all set for the night. After a little cleaning and taking out some trash the day was over. It was a day with a lot of anticipations and nervousness. It was good to see that we were able to adapt to being short handed and still get the job done. I didn't learn to much about dogs today but I learned that with a little determination, team work, and help from volunteers this place runs like a well oiled machine. Very good to know.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Adoption Day

You might notice the title and think that today is the only day we do adoptions. I don't mean to mislead you, the reason I called today's blog this is merely due to the fact that the majority of pet adoptions at our shelter are done on the weekend. Don't get me wrong, when I walked into work after having off the last three days I did notice one dog and two puppies had found homes, but this was a rare occurrence.

With a few adoptions happening while I was off it started my day out right. Then of course it was time to sanitize the South kennels that put a huge smile on my face. It wasn't too bad, I just like to complain because I was being lazy and wanted to start the week off slowly. I teamed up with another staff member and knocked it out. Of course right when we were about to finish we realized it was already opening time. Even though we got everything cleaned in time we still had to do feedings and a little kennel swapping.

We had to move around quite a few dogs today in order to make a chunk of kennels available for some new arrivals that were coming in. We had the room, just spread out across the shelter. Once we had five kennels open, that were all next to each other, the new dogs arrived. Talk about perfect timing. There was a total of eight dogs, all toy size except for one precious little Cocker Spaniel. The dogs were all very young and updated on all of their vaccinations. I was curious who brought them in but it was a women that was taking animals in when their owners couldn't take care of them. Similar to what we do but she was doing it at her own home. It turns out in the past eight months her "collection" has grown from about five animals to about thirty five, that is when she called us.

All of the dogs were very well taken care of. One of them however was a little nippy and made our trainer a little uncomfortable so we couldn't take him at this time. That was another good thing about this woman, if for any reason these dogs were unadoptable she would take them back. It is always sad seening dogs brought into the shelter, but the amount of attention these little guys were recieving made it clear they wouldn't be here too long.

With the new dogs settled in it seemed business as usual. Cleaning, cleaning, feeding, and cleaning can usually sum up any day. Of course there was the rest of the staff doing showings and adoptions. Today was a great day for adoptions. From the moment we opened there were dogs, cats, and rabbits finding their forever homes. Six dogs, two cats, and one rabbit all were able to go home today. It might not seem like that many animals but it is a huge number for us. It was truly an exciting day seeing the smiles on the adopters well as thea animals.

As the day moved on we took out the animals for their afternoon break. It is always fun trying to find room for all of the dogs when you have a bunch of new ones that you have no idea how they get along with everyone else. Of course we found room and gave the guys some room to run around.

With adoptions on the books and all of the animals ready for bed it was time for a little afternoon treat. Usually I don't mention it because, well, I'm lazy sometimes about my writing. At the end of every day the staff gets a whole bunch of treats ready for the animals. Everything ranging from cream cheese and peanut butter filled kongs to chicken jerky. You always want to tuck them in and make sure they have a nice little treat to go to sleep on.

Today was a very tireing day but when I go home at the end of it I know that there are people out there making a difference for these animals. Of course it isn't always an easy day or full of lots of adoptions but today was and it was great. It's nice when you can go home, take a shower, and realize that people and animals are happier becuase of some of the work that I do.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ahhh, a relaxing Tuesday.

Sometimes I wish my days at the animal shelter would switch around just because I start on the busiest day of the week and end on the slowest. It's like riding a roller coaster that starts off dropping 300 feet and finishes with a slow clink clink uphill climb. It's not so bad though, just makes for a long day when you know it's your Friday.

Today I started by cleaning the South kennels. This is the area where we have four eight week old puppies. It's funny how everyone loves puppies until you have to clean up after them. I was however surprised at how little of a mess these guys made. Unfortunately, it was the first thing I had to this morning since we don't want to cross contaminate the little guys with any other dogs. The story is the puppies' mother never had any vaccinations so we are a little concerned with their immune systems. They have gotten all of their shots that can be given but you never want to put them at risk when you don't have to.

After picking up all of the poo and smelling that distinct one of a kind puppy breath, I moved on to the rest of the kennels. I'm still amazed at what a workout you get scrubbing a floor. Some people have no idea how relaxing it can be too. Jamming to your favorite music when there is no one around, it's like having a whole gym to yourself.

With my mad chef skills I took care of all of the special diets ranging from just soft food for those guys that just had their dental work done, mixing up the hoards of puppy food, and of course some of that diet flavorless stuff too. The dogs were fed and their beds cleaned and replaced so it was time to do some laundry and wash some dishes. On days like today you really try to find things to do to try to make the day go by faster. Of course when you get all of the necessities out of the way then you get to spend some time with the dogs, which is what I am working towards.

The busy work out of the way and all of the garbage emptied, I went to spend some time with a little wire hared corgi mix. The poor guy has been in the shelter a while and for some reason we just haven't found him a dog that he can get along with. I went into the kennel and noticed a little throw up. It didn't look to bad but it did require some attention. That is when I saw him coughing and doing it again. I felt so bad for the poor little guy and moved him to iso, turns out he has kennel cough. If you don't know what that is look it up. If you want a funny way of finding out what it is watch the Seinfeld episode where Kramer has the same cough as a dog and decides to take the dog medicine. Anyways, with a little antibiotics the little guy should be doing a lot better inside a week.

When everyone seemed to almost be falling asleep because it was so slow we heard "LOOSE DOG" from one of the volunteers and here comes a new lab just strolling up to me looking for some love. He was part of a pair of brothers that were relinquished to the shelter earlier this week. Apparently he overpowered the volunteer and simply put his weight into her pushing the gate open. We posted a sign stating the dogs were door dashers and to only use two people to leash them up because they are so powerful.

Now I'm not sure if it is something in the water or what but later in the day when I was stocking dry dog food in cat iso I took my eyes off of Minnie ( a cat with a cold who has free range of the room) for two seconds. As soon as I turned around I lost her. I had no idea if she was hiding or she had gotten out through the cracked door. My heart sank, I thought if this cat is outside there is no way I am going to find her. As soon as I grabbed another staff member to help me I noticed something rubbing up on my leg. There was that cat just hanging out looking for some more attention. What a relief, hopefully I learned from this and will keep a better eye on a cat's speed.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I said earlier that I wish I would start on a slow day and finish on a busy one but I really do love days like today. Being able to spend time with the animals and really work with them is what this job is all about. I am paid to make sure they are clean, healthy, and their mouths are fed but what I enjoy most, aside from finding them homes, is taking care of them emotionally. I know that it is a tough time for them and the less they know they are here the better. Whether it is taking them to a quiet room where they can get some sleep or just hanging out with them in their kennels, feeling the love that they are looking to give is what it is all about.

One more bit of news, there might not have been any adoptions today but two of the relinqueshed dogs that arrived yesterday got to go home. The former owner somehow was able to take them back. It was really a win win for this family and the shelter. The two dogs not only got to stay together but they get to go back to their own home. To add to that they were only here for one night so their stress levels shouldn't have gone up too much. In addition to that good news one of the ASP (animal safehouse program) dogs got to go on foster with a loving volunteer. When you know that an animal is going to be here for up to three months it is comforting to know that they will spend their times in a comfortable home with a caring family.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An Interesting Day to Say the Least

I guess I am kind of getting into a routine when it comes to working at the shelter, at least I thought I was. The day started off as usual with taking all of the dogs down for their morning potty breaks and getting to work on cleaning their kennels. After scooping some poop and sanitizing a few I took care of their feedings and some special diets. It might seem like not a lot of work but this usually takes about two hours. After that I was asked if I would help with some cat intakes today.

I know I mentioned in a past blog what this all entails but it really isn't a simple process. The reason for doing cat intakes is to evaluate the nature of the animal, get it vaccinated, and do a blood test for cat leukemia. I had no idea that the disease we do a blood test for is spread so easily. I was told the leukemia is spread by any type of sharing bowls or even breathing on each other. Now I see why every cat that enters the facility is tested. Now on to the interesting part. It turns out that the two cats that were being relinquished were done so because the owner lost their job and had to move where the cats couldn't. It is such a tough economic time that more and more things are becoming affected. The women had a particularly tough time dealing with loosing her tow companions that she originally adopted from the shelter five years ago.

After the woman said goodbye we attempted to get the first cat weighed and immunized. That's when we realized the cat was not too friendly. It turns out the women didn't say but the animal is not good at the vet, at all. I just wish she would have told us this before he bit me. We decided to take care of the other cat and allow the first animal to settle into it's surroundings. This is a very stressful environment and if we allow it to get comfortable the intake should go easier. Of course while we are doing this there is another relinquishment waiting and since the original one that was supposed to start at 11 showed up an hour late it tends to push back everyone for the day causing a bit of a ruckus. We got the first two cats housed in their own room together to try to help them adapt to their new surroundings and of course the woman wanted to make sure that they were comfortable. I truly do feel for these people having to give up a member of their family due to unforeseen circumstances but they do have to realize that we will do everything to take care of their animals and find them the right homes.

After all of the drama and a few scratches I was told to help out with an adoption. It turns out is was doing it on my own for the first time. Luckily it was a family that I had spoken with yesterday and I already had familiarity with. They were looking at one of the newly relinquished animals but wanted to see a few others. One of the dogs they wanted to see I steered them away from for the simple fact that they told me what they were looking for. I also knew that this particular animal did not do well with small children due to his size and playful nature. I ended up showing them another dog and giving them some time to get to know him. I came back a few minutes later and they liked him, but just didn't feel that connection. The first dog they say they seemed to be going back to. They really enjoyed the way he showed affection and also had a little training. Since this is such a big decision and truly does effect everyone in the household they decided to think about it overnight and would make their decision soon. Whether an adoption happens the next day or not, I feel that we have a good idea of which type of dog would be the best fit for this family. A true cuddler that knows how to listen and gets along with other animals seems like it would be a win win situation.

While everything was going on today I am happy to say that the man that looked at the dog late afternoon yesterday came back to adopt him. It is always nice to see someone go home and to put not only a smile on my face but that of their new owners. The sad part is the dog that he was kenneled with knew something was different and we need to make sure that we spend quite a bit of time taking care of her adjustment. You can always tell when a dog is sad.

With highs and lows seeming to pop up at random today was really a slap in the face. With the economic hardships affecting everyone, and even their animals, I am becoming aware of how difficult the situation is becoming for owners and pets alike. I also realized that without me loosing my job I wouldn't be working here experiencing all of this. It is truly a crazy time in our lives and we need to remember that it will get better, and don't forget about the little guys that offer undying loyalty and always seem to put a smile on our face, our pets.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Time Flies When You're Too Busy To Look At Your Watch

Today was beginning to look like how yesterday started. The reason for this is because we were short handed yet again with only three kennel staff and only one able to do adoptions. We did have our head trainer who could do the showings but that still only left three of us for the daily duties.

I took on the job as usual of cleaning the East and West kennels. A lot quicker than yesterday since I had already taken care of the weekly sanitizing. The only downfall is I finished so quickly and there were so few people to take care of the rest of the cleaning I had to make sure the rabbits were taken care of. Now I'm not the biggest fan for two reasons. One of those reasons is there are about two of those little guys that just don't like people, in fact they usually bite. The have never broke the skin but it definitely gets your heart beating fast when they snap at you. Now the big reason I don't like taking care of the rabbits is because I am either allergic to their hay or them. When I say allergic it isn't a couple of sneezes but a full on downpour out of my nose. Needless to say I cleared my sinuses and got the job done.

While I was finishing up with the rabbits, the rest of the staff and some volunteers brought up the dogs from their morning breaks. Luckily, they did this just in time. As soon as all of the animals were in their heated kennels, it started to pour down rain. Not sure if I mentioned it but this is an open air human society. The dogs stay dry and warm but for us to get from one place to another usually means we are getting soaked to our underwear. I was actually enjoying the weather and thinking it was going to slow down business so our limited staff could handle it. Apparently on rainy days, everyone wants to go to the humane society and get a new dog. From the moment it stopped raining the whole day just seemed like a blur.

From dog introductions, to refusals, everything seemed to blend into one. The first thing I heard over the radio was to get a dog for an introduction. We went down to the yard and the two dogs seemed to put up with each other. I think it will usually take about 20 minutes for them to start playing but the amount of grass both of these guys were eating was telling me it wasn't going to happen. The owners of the dog said this is about the best reaction their pet will give to a dog so it might be a good fit after all. The shelter dog attempted to play but was very well mannered when the other didn't. The couple wanted to think about if the two would be a suitable pair and hopefully return tomorrow.

After the showing, I got a call that one of the adopters of the second chance dogs was here to visit them. The family adopted the little schnauzer mix but can't take him home until we clear him medically and have him neutered. It is always nice to see the smiles on faces that these dogs can bring, not to mention the smiles on the dog's face. I hope all of his medical stuff gets taken care of soon and the little guy can go to his forever home.

Quickly, I moved from one thing to the next. I took care of afternoon feedings and of course all of those special diets. That's when I was asked to help out with a refusal. This is not always an easy thing, in fact, it never is. Our adoption forms have some specific questions that will disqualify an adopter depending on how they answer it. One major answer that we noticed on this specific application was the dog would be outside the majority of the day and also sleep outside. We know that there are pets out there that this environment would be suitable for, but since we are a private shelter and hand pick our dogs, we choose the ones that are indoor dogs that require lots of human companionship. The gentleman of course wasn't the happiest camper out there but he understood and if a dog does come around that fits his needs we would be happy to call him.

With a quick load of laundry under my belt, it was time for an afternoon break for the dogs. I have to say, the two new guys that were relinquished yesterday are awesome dogs but are like alligators when you are trying to put their harnesses on. I mean these guys roll and jump and if you don't know what you're doing, you might get hurt or in my case, really really muddy.

During this time, there were yet more and more showings going on for all sorts of dogs. The end result was another four dogs and two kittens that found their new homes. It makes all of the hard times worth while when these animals, that have been here for some time, find the perfect family to take care of them. When we started bring the animals back up to their kennels, I recognized a man that had been shown one of the dogs about a month ago. He was back with his wife wanting to see him again. I know I know, it is surprising but the dog that he was looking at is still here trying to find his forever home. The man and wife loved the dog but still needed some time to think it over (hopefully not another month) and may return tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed.

Before I knew it the clock showed closing time. There was still a few odds and ends to take care of like locking up and administering some afternoon meds. This was the first day I was tasked with giving an insulin shot. I had seen it done several times before but this was the day that I would be doing it. The shot was to be given to a diabetic cat that has complete free reign of the medical offices. The cat has an interesting story...I'm saving for another day. Back to the shot, the cat was lounging and was seemed pretty used to the daily medication of insulin. I pulled up gently on the scruff and injected the small amount and that was it. Pretty simple and now I have learned something new. Always a good thing in life to experience something new in your day.

No matter how fast or how slow a day goes by is pretty much irrelevant. The things that I look to take away from any day is new experiences, taking care of animals, and seeing the animals that will put smiles on many faces in the future. You can't sweat the small stuff and realize that we as a whole want to make things better.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

And the Race is On

I sometimes forget that my week always starts with a bang until it actually happens. Saturday started off as usual, a little shorthanded. I was given the task of sanitizing East and West side kennels same as last week but today I think there was about twice as many dogs occupying the space. I hate being off for a few days and then come back to work with so many owner relinquishment. It really seems that this is the month for those. An owner relinquishment is when an owner feels that they can no longer take care of the animal and at least have enough sense to take it to a shelter to find it a better home. The first time I heard of one of these I was so angry but after I opened my eyes I realized that sometimes it is the necessary thing to do. I can't look down on these people for giving up their pets because in most cases I don't know the full story.

Back to the cleaning, sorry for the tangent. With my sanitizing duties today I have to say it really does make the time go by fast. I throw on the headphones and think of it as a good three hour workout. The only problem is I don't look at the time until it is too late. The reason I say this is as I was rinsing out the final kennel I noticed some guests walking around, I thought "who the hell let them in early?" when I realized it was already 11. Time to get cracking, I still had to squeegee out the remaining eight kennels and get those animals fed and brought back up from their break. As soon as I went to get food and some special feedings for a puppy and another special needs dog one of the senior staff members asked me to do an interaction with a possible adopter and their dog.

From this point on I was no longer "in the zone" and always felt like I was playing catch up. I quickly got the dogs fed and luckily had the help of some volunteers to help bring up the remaining dogs. I quickly headed out to the front office to do the interaction with a little poodle and a basset hound. After some loud hound barks and some sniffing we decided to go to the yard. The dogs were a little tense at first with all of the smells that are always associated with the runs but eventually warmed up and started playing. That is when I knew the other staff member had it handled. I headed back to the office where it was time for "the jack of all trades" to do his thing. I am always surprised at how flexible you have to be at this job. Saying that It was time for me to do a volunteer orientation for cat and rabbit helpers.

I'm not going to lie, I like doing this. Having all eyes on me and coming to me for information makes me feel important rather than just a pooper scooper. I know that sounds pretty vain, which it is, but I have to be honest. The orientation was simple, I went over the rules of the cattery and rabbitat and explained why our shelter is different from the others. Little things like we won't adopt individual kittens, they have to go home in pairs and also we won't adopt them out to homes that want indoor/outdoor cats. We also went over each individual room in the catter from iso, to the regular kennels, and the indoor outdoor room. They all seemed pretty impressed with the operation and were eager to help. I truly do appreciate all of the volunteers that come to the shelter on their own time to really give that loving that these animals need. On days like today it really helps.

After my ego boost it was time for some more cleaning. I had to now disinfect the iso yards that had been occupied this past week. Once again not to tough of a job except for the fact I don't think this has been done for quite some time. At least now I can see a difference from the before and after the cleaning.

And then of course there is the never ending laundry. Thank goodness we have the new girl becuase she rocks in getting the every day duties done from crates, to dishes, to laundry. I hate to say it but when I see a load I can do now I jump at the oppurtunity because I know she will be in there shortly to get it done.

Asside from the cleaning I really do wish that I could do adoptions. It seems like they are piling up in the office due to the fact there is only two individuals qualified to do them today. I don't think there has been a day like today when everyone seems to be running around like a chicken with thier head cut off. Organized chaos is always fun to watch as an observer, just not to much when you are part of it. I have to give credit to the adopters though they sure know how to juggle and plow through the adoptions. It seemed like the dogs were finding homes left and right with some animals being listed because there were so many people vieing for them (usually the case with cute little puppies).

It seems like everything was caught up and we all had a short lunch when the next wave of adopters came in. It might have been hectic but these are the day I love. People coming in to the shelter looking for their right pet and willing to wait an hour in order to find a new best friend. That was when I was tasked with explaing to some possible adopters that the dog they were looking at just wasn't a right fit for them. The reason this is the situation is becuase the dog that they were looking at wouldn't have a yard to play in. This isn't necissarily a bad thing but unfortunately the animal isn't good on leash or around other animals. I know this for a fact becuase he is the guy I tried to foster but just didn't get along with my pets. Hopefully after some hard work we can get him a bit more socialized but moving into a home where his excersice will be primarily at a dog park might not be the best pet for this couple. They were understanding and wanted the right dog that would fit them, and trust me, if I thought it would have worked I would have sent the guy home the second, but the one thing we don't want is the animal to get returned and put back in this stressful situation. The couple went back outside to look around and of course they wanted the website to keep updated on any new animals that were coming in. They really seemed like a loving pair and I hope we can find them the right animal that will make everyone happy.

Giving the dogs their last break made me realize how fast the day went. With several adoptions and some new dogs arriving it is always a roller coaster ride of ups and downs of emotions. It is nice to see people so happy with their new pet and vice versa. I am aso happy to say that a dog that once got returned becuase he couldn't get along with other animals found a new friend in one of the relinquishments. It was awesome to see them playing for about 45 minutes straight. After we had brought them all back there was yet another relinquishment. At first I was furiated with the man for giving up his animals until I heard the story. It broke my heart to hear the situation that forced him to give up his best friends. I need to always remember that there is undoubtaly two sides to every story and never jump to conclusions or assume anything.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


You may or may not know what the title of today's blog stands for but if you don't you will soon realize why I used the abbreviation. Getting on with the morning, the typical scrubbing and scooping ensued with some special attention paid to the new arrivals or "second chance" dogs on the west side kennels. It still amazes me that even in this stressful situation most of these animals are able to hold their potty breaks for a good 12 hours or more. It's funny because you really want to get the ones that didn't mess in their kennels out to the yards as quickly as possible. You always get a nice cardio jogging all of the animals down to their runs.

After the feedings and doing some quick laundry I decided to spend some time with the Chow mix that might not be with us much longer. He is such a sweet guy but he definitely has some behaviors that make me a little nervous. I still wish I could just run him off to a farm to run freely instead of being locked in a small isolation kennel. I did make sure that his meal was a good one rather than the usual dry kibble. After a little time giving some love it was time to get back to cleaning and me trying to keep my mind off the the lovable pup who seems to be barking at me every time I walk by.

I took a little initiative and started scrubbing all of the crates that were used to transport the new arrivals that were brought in yesterday. It isn't the worst job in the place but it isn't the best either. The task is basically sanitizing and drying about 30 good size cages and making sure they are ready for the next go round. About mid way through one of the senior kennel staff members asked me to help her with something. Me being the guy that wants to learn everything here jumped at the opportunity. We went back into the back office where a cute little black cat was meowing. I assumed it was an intake since we have quite a bit of space in our cattery. I was told to make sure the quite room (used to get animals into a stress free environment away from the stress) was empty. I was a little confused but still thought we were going to be making sure the cat wasn't psycho. When we entered the quite room I was told we were doing an EBR. I had a sinking feeling once I heard that. EBR stands for euthanasia by request. Basically when an animal is beyond repair and has had a good life they are given an injection that puts them to sleep, forever. If you can't handle this, skip the next paragraph.

The cat was 19 years old and the owner felt that it was time for them to move on. The animal wasn't going to the bathroom and seemed to be in pain so they decided to bring it to the shelter to be put down. The process wasn't that difficult to do but is was pretty tough to experience. I am not going to lie, this was very sad, and a little freaky at the same time. I think if I had blinked some tears might have come out. However, this is part of the job and part of life so I am glad I experienced it. I do know it was a little more bearable for the simple fact that the animal had a good life and I wasn't close to it. I'm sure it will be a different story when it is an in house dog but I will deal with that when the time comes.

With quite a bit of emotions brewing I decided to go back to cleaning and move on. That is when we heard two of the new dogs going at it in their kennels. The new guys really haven't been evaluated but this was some crazy rage that I haven't seen before. Luckily everyone at the shelter know that the quicker you separate them the better. The vet tech knew exactly how to separate them safely, a big bucket of water. I knew it worked for humans but it's good to put that knowledge in my bank for future uses.

After some hard core scrubbing I saw the med staff and asked when the neuter was. I was told that I would be sitting in on the operation so I would know what goes into it. Unfortunately they had forgotten to get me. I was a little upset that I was overlooked but kind of glad I didn't see the eight year old Schnauzer lose his manhood. It was kind of funny when the vet tech brought the surgery "remnants" over to me to look at since I missed the operation. I happily declined out of shear respect for the dog. At least it put a smile on my face after a tough day.

Closing on a good note, since today is my Friday, there was another dog intro close to closing time. It was with a little terrier mix that I like to call chicken wing. I gave him that name because one of his legs has an old healed break that doesn't hurt him but it sure does look funny. He was meeting a big lab mix for the second time to see if they got along. There was some butt sniffing and a little ignoring but about 15 minutes into they became best friends and went into to play mode. This is always great to see and the adopter agreed. The little guy not only found a new home but he got a big sister at the same time. At least there is some light at the end of today's tunnel.

This week was a bit of a rollercoaster but what in life isn't. The microcosm that is this shelter is such a vivid picture of life set to light speed. You see puppies coming in, dogs getting a second chance, dogs screwing up their third chance, and the life cycle ending. I have to go back to the Marine Corps saying "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger".

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Day With Emotions Bouncing Everywhere

Today I am not going to go into the whole this is what I cleaned because if you have read any other blog I have posted you would get a pretty good idea of what it was. Anyways, after the normal cleaning and feedings, and of course laundry, I was asked to help move some cabinets. I knew that I was the jack of all trades but moving 200 pound filing cabinets was even new to me. After a couple of scratches and bruises we got it done though. That is when I decided to spend some time with the pups.

There are two dogs in particular that I wanted to spend time with. One is a sweet little Terrier mix that just doesn't get along with other dogs. He loves people but if you put him with other animals it is either complete aggression or fear. He even has to go to his own private yard for potty breaks so he really gets no interaction. The other dog is a chow mix that was brought back a few days ago that is being kept in isolation. He is the guy that just craves some company and attention. He really is a good and innocent dog but when you try to leave his kennel he grabs on to your pant leg. I mentioned yesterday that he even bit one of the staff members and that is why he is in isolation.

When I was putting a harness on him I learned the bad news. It looks like he might not be with us that much longer. With the unpredictability, aggressive behavior, and what the former owner told us he might have to be put down. This is the toughest part about being here. Seeing the good side and the bad side of the dog and saying there really isn't anything wrong with him and yet you know that he just won't going make a good pet. I really do wish I had a bunch of land to take all of these animals to. It really does motivate me to open some sort of safe haven for the animals that aren't a threat, just are a little unpredictable.

Well, got to get over the sad stuff because there are a lot of other animals that need help in this shelter and even more that haven't yet arrived at the shelter. Speaking of more dogs, the shelter accepted four new puppies today, a mix of pit bull and Irish Terrier. Luckily one of the staff members is taking them home to foster them because the amount of poop those guys put out is insane. The good thing about puppies is though once you get them all updated on vaccinations and tests (about two weeks) they usually get adopted pretty fast. At least that's what I hope because it's tough to get them socialized when you have so many other dogs that need attention as well.

With a hectic day of cleaning and getting lots of new kennels ready for some new dogs arrival, I forgot to mention, our trainer went around the state to different shelters and rescued eight new dogs to bring to our shelter. This usually occurs every couple of weeks depending on how many adoptions we do. The new guys seemed really nervous about their new surroundings but I think in a couple of days they will be a little more comfortable.

So when it comes to getting new dogs at the shelter today was busy and exciting. With four new puppies and eight new shelter dogs the house is full. It is always nice to have a large selection of animals for adopters but I can't help to think about all of the work that goes into taking care of a large group of dogs. Hopefully all of the new arrivals aren't too sick and we can start adopting them out soon, otherwise, they will be on quarantine for a week or so.

After a busy day of dealing with emotions and a whole lot of manual labor it was time to see if I can help out that little terrier I talked about earlier. I decided to introduce my dogs to him and if they get along we would bring him home at night and give him a comfy bed to sleep in. We weren't going to foster him but really just wanted to socialize him a bit more. Unfortunately the energy of a Whippet and Italian Greyhound didn't mix well with a shelter dog that is already very nervous around other animals. The poor guy was terrified. My boys showed no aggression and you could tell they just wanted to play but the terrier was so under socialized he had no idea of my dog's intentions. I guess we will have to take it slow with him but I think with a little time he is going to make a great pet.

Right before it was time to leave the shelter got a call. It was the adopter of Sparky. The dog that had been returned once after about 18 hours at his new home. The woman spoke with our trainer for quite a while and without me getting to emotional when I think about this, would be bringing him back. The animal showed signs of aggression towards the vet and was very scared at any new environment the woman brought him to. I kind of got a feeling of not knowing the dog's intentions when I worked with him. It was one of those do you like me petting you or are you going to bite my hand off? The woman said she didn't feel safe around him. This is horrible news because the next step is euthanasia. It is a very sad thing but animals do digress in any shelter setting.

It doesn't matter what shelter an animal goes into. Of course some are more comfortable than others, but dogs should stay in that surrounding for as short of time as possible. In the few weeks I have been working here I have seen great animals become dangerous ones. It is very sad to watch but the stresses that are felt here I can't even imagine. I think the longer the dogs have been here the more work they need which in turn takes away from the dogs that haven't been here that long. It is almost a snowball effect on the psyche of the animals. I guess the best thing for me to do is realize that no all of the animals that are here are going to end up in a home and deal with it rather than dilude

Monday, March 16, 2009

Felt Like a Juggling Act

When you go into a day thinking it's going to be easy, you are usually wrong. At least that's how today panned out. I assumed since I had disinfected half the kennels yesterday that there would be no way that I would be involved with that part today. Well, when you're short handed and the only male working you usually end up doing the majority of the grunt work. Luckily there wasn't enough time to do all of the disinfecting but I still had a lot of area to cover. After everything had been cleaned it was time for some juggling.

All dogs that enter the shelter are kept on quarantine to make sure that any illnesses that are brought in can be contained to one area of the shelter. Today was the day that all of those animals were to be taken off of quarantine and moved into the "general population". The tough part is there are still some animals that are sick so they have to go into a certain area of the shelter but in some cases there are already dogs there. So for about an hour we moved and moved again and crossed our fingers there would be a lot of adoptions to free up some kennel space. The reason we don't just leave it the way it is is due to the fact that another group of animals will be heading into the shelter tomorrow afternoon.

Never assume anything, you think you have so many kennels and you get a curve ball thrown to you. A great dog got adopted yesterday to a very loving woman. It seemed like a perfect fit. The problem was the adopter apparently couldn't have a pet in her home. I don't quite understand this because we as a shelter require a rental agreement. Anyways, the little guy came back and we need to find him a home that sill work.

Of course we found some space, one reason was not a good one. One of the returned dogs who seems to be a door dasher tends to grab your pant leg when you are leaving the kennel. He really is a sweet dog that just wants some company but unfortunately he got a little more than a pant leg and broke the skin. In these cases the dog is sent to isolation to be evaluated in tested to see if they are adoptable. It is a sad situation but I can see why the policy is in place.

As a volunteer I never realized how many animals got returned. It is a sad situation but in reality I can think that it is only narrowing down what will be the perfect home for these animals. Even though some animals got returned there were several previous returns that found their forever homes today. One was a sweet little girl who is now going to have a brother and a sister to play with and keep her busy. The other went to a young female who was almost in tears she was so happy she found the right pet. Even though there are some tough times and I get a little pessimistic at the way some people treat their animals, there are always those moments that make you smile.

Business as usual as the day progressed, lots of cleaning and loving on some animals. I sat in on a few adoptions and got a sweet little dog ready to go home with his forever family. Oh yeah, the bees I mentioned yesterday that were at the dog park decided to leave right as I was walking outside. Luckily I had no idea what I was walking into other wise I know I would have freaked out. I literally walked right into the entire swarm while they were moving Northward. I guess I wasn't a threat and snuck back into the shelter.

I'm pretty sure the highlight of today was the information I got about an ASP dog that had been relinquished to the shelter. The young cattle dog mix went through a lot and was almost euthanized on several occasions. It has been the staff's mission to focus on her training and keeping her from digressing to fast. The problem isn't that no one will adopt her it's making sure that she goes to the right home. Well, I think they found it. She went from maybe adopted to this loving couple to 100% adopted. I am glad for more reasons than one that this happened, but aside from the obious, now we can focus on some of the other animals that need help.

Ups and downs are the game of life. Seeing it in this microcosm of an enviornment is pretty amazing. The immiediacy of good times related to bad is really like a roller coaster. I over heard today that there are four stages that a kennel worker goes through, kind of like when you have a death in the family. You deal with the lives and deaths of these animals and it does get hard. I just hope that the adoptions and smiles out weigh those harder times I don't like to mention.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

New Staff Member and Still Short Handed

You know your day is going well when as soon as you walk in the door someone asks if you can do them a favor. Not that I mind, but you know that today is going to be a little different. With a new staff member and today being Saturday I was curious to see what the trainging would be like. Of course since we were short handed I was still asked to do the grunt work since there was no one there to explain exactly what do do when it comes to disenfecting. Off of the tangents and back to the "favor", it was to disinfect the East and West kennels because no one else could do it. This was new to me since I had always worked with someone else on Saturday morning cleanings.

So after a two and half hour upper body workout I took care of the morning feedings. A few special diets that included some food for dogs with allergies and of course some diet food for an overweight dog that needs to lose about 20 pounds. After this I went to start the laundry but learned the new girl had already done it. I thought we were short handed today but there are definitely some very hard workers here.

Speaking of laundry, I think this is the first time, even in my volunteer days, that I have ever seen all of it caught up. After a quick break we all got some disheartening news. Another one of the adopted dogs, Buddy, was returned to the shelter. Like I said last week, I'm sure people have their reasons but it still makes me a little upset at them. Apparently the dog was very loud when left outside while the owners were at work. Just goes to show that many dogs, no matter what thier size, still want to be inside. The staff evaluted the situation and decided that they would adopt to the individual again but only if an outdoor dog comes around.

With a quick lunch of some leftover Mexican food it was back to work. With the new girl staying on top the daily doings I almost felt like I was slacking. That's when I decided to jump ahead on the schedule. Usually I would do anything to not pick up the poo buckets but since just about everything else had been done already I decided to get it done. With all of the buckets changed I got a call over the radio asking for some help in the dog park.

Apparently anyone that has been a grunt in the Marines is basically a Jack of all Trades when it comes to working at a dog kennel. First I was asked to fill some pretty large holes that some dogs had made. It kind of amazes me how some people that were out there really do think they are better than you. As soon as I filled the hole there was someone else saying there was another one to be filled. All I wanted to say was you do it and keep your damn dog from digging another one. Right when I finished and headed back to the office I got another call that there was a swarm of bees at the park. Me being the grunt I was sent to "evaluate" the situation. With a beach ball size group of bees I told the staff we should shut down the park and take care of the bees. Problem solved, on to the next adventure.

The rest of the day was pretty business as usual, aside from the fact that we were always ahead of schedule which is pretty unusual for a Saturday. I guess it really was slow in showings and adoptions, until the late afternoon. That's when the rush came in. We had one adoption and the possiblity of two more. One of which is a dog that the entire staff and then some have been working with for about a month. This is the dog that was about two minutes away from being euthanised and got a reprieve. Keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best with this one because this dog needs to get out of the shelter soon.

Overall it seemed like today was really a slower Saturday than usual. Of course there where the unusual differences and there were the ups and downs. With dogs being returned and random jobs popping up here and there it really seems like there is rarely a dull moment. All I know is I am glad we have a new staff member that isn't afraid to get dirty and I hope tomorow when I go in there will be some good news about a dog getting adopted and making a family happy just becuase someone stepped in and kept her from being put down. Shows what a little extra work and traing, and of course the compassion of others can actually save a life.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Seemingly Uneventful Turns Eventful

Of course it was a coworkers last day and that is always something memorable. Especially when their new job is going to be taking care of one of the rarest animals on the planet, the Giant Panda. Business as usual, get to taking the animals down to their runs for their morning breaks and get to cleaning. Pretty normal beginnings with a little poop and a lot of scrubbing. After a quick feeding I headed over to the cattery to help out in there. Hopefully this time I won't get scratched to hell by some not so nice felines.

When I was finished with the cats I headed into the office and saw Sparky, a dog that I had been working with due to his nervousness in the shelter. The big surprise was that he was adopted less than 24 hours ago and his new owner was "returning" him. I have had my heart sink a couple of times at this job but not like this. I actually felt some hatred towards the man for bringing him back. It turns out that in his new home the dog was left outside and tore through a screen door. Now I can understand that this would make anyone upset but have some patience. I guess the man really didn't want a dog because guess what, no one is perfect and some training and patience is needed when adopting any animal. I'm trying to hold back some real nice words I have for this guy but you have to look on the lighter side. We got a better idea of what time of home Sparky is going to need and I get to work with him some more. I guess I need to stop thinking that everyone is going to take care of their animals the way the shelter staff does.

After working with Sparky for about half an hour I spoke with the medical staff about his return. I kind of took a step back and put myself in the new owners shoes. It's not an easy thing to do because I think I have tunnel vision when it comes to taking care of animals. There might have been some underlying reasons he came back but in reality I don't know the whole story so no grudges here.

Later in the day I was asked to help out with some "photos". A local paper is nice enough to come by the shelter every so often to photograph the adoptable animals and get them some more publicity in order to get them adopted. I think it is a great thing that so many people care. This has definitely been an eye opening day where I need to be a little bit more positive about the people that really run this shelter, the public.

Of course after all of this I was called to the front for a "DB". If you haven't read earlier that means dead body. He was an old yellow lab that had passed earlier in the day. It is always tough to deal with this but it is part of the job and at least this time I didn't have to see his face. I just wish there was something that I could tell the owner to make it easier, but there really isn't, they are loosing a member of their family.

Time ticked by, the school kids in the weekly community service class came by and helped out with laundry and dishes. We got all of the dogs out to their yards for their evening break. After we brought them back up we had a small rush of possible adopters. We usually stop showing at 4:00 but because we had taken care of all of the closing duties some of the staff went ahead and showed some animals. So, closing on some good news, one of our Chihuahua mixes who had been in the shelter for quite a while was adopted. He is going to a great family and is going to make an unbelievable pet.

I know that there are always going to be tough times in life. Dealing with those times and taking something from them is a big part of our lives. Today I learned that not everyone is the same when it comes to pets, and you have to respect that. There are a lot of things that I do that I am sure annoy a good amount of people, but guess what, that is who I am. All animals deserve the best home for them, it is our job to put as many of them there as we can.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Without the Tough Days there Wouldn't be the Easy Ones

Business as usual, sign up for a certain area of kennels and get to work bringing the dogs down to the runs for their morning potty breaks. You should always get the ones that held it all night out first and the ones that couldn't last. Except when one is 80 pounds and has diarrhea and proceeds to jump in it and spread it six feet up every wall in their kennel. It's tough to explain what it looked like so just Google Jackson Pollack and you can get an idea. And that was how my day started. I thought about putting some Vick's vapor rub under my nose just to mask the smell but I got used to it.

After a good two hours of scrubbing and sanitizing two or three times, the east and west kennels were clean. This might have gone faster but we had a kennel staff call in so it would essentially just be two and a half of us. I really don't mind when there is less of us (and it's not the weekend) because it really does make the day go by faster when you are busy.

Once I got the laundry started I soaked all of the dog dishes and went inside. I saw Hank, a dog that I had spent some time with at the shelter because he was stressed. I was happy to see him because I didn't have a chance to say goodbye when he got adopted yesterday. Bad news though, the idiot that adopted him had no idea what he was getting into by adopting a 50 pound dog and was returning him. It broke my heart to see him back at the shelter but hopefully the new adopter won't lie to the shelter and tell us he will be an indoor dog when they really plan on keeping him outdoors. There is a reason that our shelter has the policies that it does, to give our animals the best living situation that they can have and in turn make them great pets.

Same old stuff the rest of the day except for a few minor anomalies. One of our staff members had brought in their boxer mixes to play with a boxer/sharpei mix that is in the shelter. It was hilarious to watch these two go at it. I have never seen such agility from a 70 dog let alone two. They would literally box and do somersaults and spins all over the yard. It is always nice when you can actually see a dog smiling.

After the play date I turned my attention to the cattery where I was assigned with washing the outside windows. I'm not going to lie, I thought it was going to take a while and I would have some time to jam to my music. In reality there was a squeegee that made the job very easy and quick. I was actually pretty surprised that they were as clean as they were to begin with.

Of course with two of the staff members leaving there was an issue today about schedules. Me being me I offered up my flexibility, as long as I still get my days with my fiancee. It's funny when you offer up any help that might make your life more difficult, people tend to help you more. It's kind of like scrubbing the worst mess everyday for a month and then other people feeling like they need to pitch in and you never have to do it again, at least for a while!

I always thought that people in general are patient, I was proven wrong today by yet another animal coming back into the shelter. Now I see why there are such stringent guidelines on getting our animals adopted. When we take care of them and love them they tend to become a large part in our lives, and of course, we want them to have the best possible home with the best owner. So when you go to your local shelter and you are turned away from a certain animal because criteria isn't met, just remember, we want the best for these guys and just because they weren't the right fit doesn't mean that the right one isn't out there.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Different Kind of Day

Rather than starting my morning cleaning out the dog kennels I was assigned to the cattery. One reason for this is I wanted to get to know all of the animals that are in the shelter. Since I have been becoming a little more fond of cats I thought this would be a good way to learn their names and personalities. I learned fast that not all cats are friendly. The first cage I started cleaning I was swatted at by a long haired that really got some blood flowing on my hands. Like an idiot I went back in because it had to be cleaned and of clawed at again. Not all the cats at the shelter are like this though. I was cleaning out another cage and a tiger striped short hair cat literally jumped on my back as I was bending over and started purring. It was a little frightening at first buy really funny once I found out I wasn't being attacked.

Another reason that I was cleaning the cattery and not the dogs was so that I could stay as clean as possible. I titled this blog a different kind of day because that is exactly what it was. There is a yearly event put on by some specific shelters, including ours, that is a contest for the ugliest dog. I got to be the lucky kennel staff that was assigned to work it because I am not yet qualified to do showings and adoptions. I was very fortunate to be the least qualified in the group because this was a fun event.

It started off with five dogs and myself being dropped off at the event. All the animals had adopt me vests and were ready for some publicity. The plan was to have some volunteers walk the dogs around and just get as many people as possible aware of the shelter and the great animals that are there. Little did I know that all of the animals and volunteers would be called up on stage one by one and need a little spiel about each one of them. Of course I was there so I got to take center stage and introduce all of the great dogs the shelter brought. Did I mention we dressed them up too? It ended up being great. I love being in front of a group of people with all of the attention on me, a little ego centric I know. I just wish I had had some time to prepare rather than just wing it. I do have to say I did get a few laughs.

After the introductions it was on to the contests. Everything from best St. Patrick's day costume, best mutt, most beautiful, ugliest, and a whole lot more. There was a category for everything and the shelter dogs participated as well. We didn't win anything but we did get a little more face time with the public. After all of this the dogs were getting pretty pooped and the volunteers decided to take the animals back to the shelter. Hopefully there would be some great adopters waiting for them.

Once the show was over I was the grunt when it came to taking down the shelter booth. Lugging dog toys, clothes, and leashes across the parking lot and putting them in the truck. I'm not complaining, it was a great workout but is was very tiring.

A great thing that I learned is a good portion of the money raised at the event would go to the shelter. Not only that, the booth that we had set up raised over 1000 dollars selling items that would directly go to the shelter. Overall everyone at the event was amazing, from the organizers, to the participants, and even the vendors. I look forward to next year and preparing a little better both for an impromptu speech and finding ways to promote the animals better.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Some Ups and Some Downs

Saturdays always start the same, the only variance is who I am going to be sanitizing the kennels with. Today it was with a guy named Jeremy. I had met him a couple of time before and knew that he was a Marine that will be deploying to Afghanistan within the next two months. It seemed that the cleaning flew by with the stories we shared about training and transitioning into civilian life. No matter how long ago anyone has been in the Marine corps it seems it is still the biggest frat in the world. It was a good start to the day getting someone's opinion on the war, politics, and why they were working at the shelter.

After cleaning I got some very disheartening news. Mandy, a one eyed dog that had been in the shelter for quite a while had been put down. I really wish I could have found out towards the end of the day just so I wouldn't have had to think about it every time I walked by the empty kennel. It's pretty simple, this is a no kill shelter, however when there are health or behavior issues and the animal is unadoptable there is the option of euthanasia. It turns out there were no medical problems with Mandy but she did show some aggression. She had started as a sweet and loving dog early on, but as time progressed the shelter environment wore her down. She began showing some signs of aggression towards other animals due to her new lack of depth perception. She was being worked with the last time I worked and always seemed very friendly towards humans. What I learned my first day back this week was that somehow she escaped from her kennel and when a volunteer walked by she attacked biting the person's leg and doing some serious damage. With that type of behavior and unpredictability there were no other options than to put her down. Really not a good way to start my day out.

After the emotions the crowd started arriving. I had almost forgotten it was Saturday and the busiest day of the week. I sat in on a few showings and tried picking up some tactful ways of asking people some pretty serious questions. One showing involved a Rat Terrier that was the sweetest dog but had been returned twice due to behavior issues. The new adopter was for warned and took at as the third time is the charm. She had a German Pointer and really wanted a smaller dog with the same energy level. It seemed like a perfect fit so our little friend hopefully found the right home this time.

Later in the day I was shadowing a showing for a kitten to two young adults that lived with their parents and about 20 other animals. On their paperwork that put the animal would be an indoor/outdoor cat. Unfortunately it is the shelter's policy not to allow kittens to live this way since they have no way of defending themselves. The staff member wanted to make sure that the people understood the question on the paper before telling them that we can't adopt to them. Of course they said they wanted what they put on the form and we informed them that we cannot adopt to them. I had almost forgot what maturity was when I saw a true lack of it. These people threw a hissyfit but we stood by our ground and apologized. It's good to see a place that stands by what they believe in rather than folding under the pressure to apease a client.

After this is was feeding time for the bottle fed kitten. This was my first time ever doing this. I held the little black 14 day old on my shoulder and put the tiny nipple in his mouth, boy was he hungry. After he finished I burped him and comforted him for a while. I was then taught how to make them go to the bathroom buy taking a cloth and rubbing those areas until it basically just falls out. Kind of an interested experience because I have never been fond of cats, but they are slowly growing on me.

During the usual aspects of the day, from doing laundry, picking up poo, and loving on some dogs, two strays had been brought in. Both were very good looking and healthy animals and one even had tags on him. We contacted the number and left a message, then of course we had to call county. The shelter is very specific about the animals it takes in. Since it is a private shelter it has the ability to do this, unfortunately the strays that do come in are transfered to county. Hopefully the owners will find their animals soon before they are adopted out.

Overall the ups and downs of this job are what make it interesting. Yes a great dog had to be put down but four more found thier forever homes. There is some hard work but the rewards are certainly fullfilling. I'm looking forward to tomorow and the Ugly Dog contest that I will be working as a representative from the Human Society.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It's Fun When You Know You Have the Next Three Days Off

What can I say, when you go to a job, no matter what it is, and you know that you have the next three days off your attitude is usually pretty good. With a smile on my face I attacked the East and West kennels where all of the new arrivals were. This was the first time I had done this area so I was a little apprehensive. As soon as I started I realized why I had been doing the South side my first two weeks...initiation. This new area, even thought there were more dogs, seemed to fly by with a whole lot less poop to pick up. Not sure if it was actually easier or I had a good attitude today compared to yesterday but overall I wasn't thrown by the grueling morning cleaning.

Today seemed a little different from most. It seemed that there was like double the staff that was usually on, and this was a Tuesday. Anyways, after cleaning up the kennels, getting the dogs fed, and bleaching the fake grass yards it was time to check out the new ASP dogs that were brought in during the night. I finally found out what the acronym stands for, Animal Safe house Program. The two guys were really cute but completely unnerved with their new situation. Both of them would bark and snap at whoever went in their kennel. If you were able to get close enough to give them a treat they still wouldn't give you the time of day. Finally I got their two bowls that they came in with, filled it with their usual food and entered the kennel. I guess the term don't bite the hand that feeds you really is true. These guys were my new best friends now, and yet still seemed to bark and bite at everyone else in the shelter.

After a load of laundry and switching out the propane to make sure everything actually got dried we got a call to come show an women her dogs that were brought in last night. I was there so I decided to walk over to where the little rascals were. The young women didn't know our procedures and just opened the kennel...bad idea. Even thought the dogs were looking at their mom they were still very nervous and before we knew it one had bolted. This little 15 pound thing was fast too. Without realizing it just about every gate in the entire place was left open, not sure why because it is never like that for this same reason. The guy made it through the laundry room, out the DB gate, past the cattery and on towards the main gate. All I know is skate shoes are not meant for running. Eventually I made it to the main gate and said a silent "Thank God" we didn't open until 11:30 today (the only day in the week we don't open at 11). It was 11:05 and the main gate was still closed so the ASP dog didn't make it out to the street and the owner was able to coax it back into her arms. A little excitement I haven't experienced yet and I would rather not like to experience again. We finally got the owner and her scared pets together in a quite area and gave her a radio and said for her to call us when she was ready to leave. We were prepared this time for any door dashers.

After the midday workout I went to check what needed to be done next. I was told to look at the new training manual (for dogs) and learn a few things I could practice on some of the more stressed dogs. I did my reading, got my clicker and treats and made my way back to a dog. I worked on sitting on the mat and "look at that" which really seemed to work. These two techniques are designed to calm the animals when there are stressful things going on around them or are just so anxious that their behavior becomes destructive.

At 3:00 I was introduced to a cat intake appointment. This is when someone is giving an animal to the shelter to find it a home. The standards are pretty strict from evaluating the behavior of the animal to its health. The animal I was helping with was a young 14 week old kitten. Everything seemed good so we went ahead and gave it some vaccinations, tested for cat leukemia, de-wormed, gave it advantage, and even micro chipped it. This was something that I had no idea the shelter did. Yet another way for lost animals to find their way home. The great part is, if you have a pet and want to get them chipped it is a mere 25 dollars to do so at the shelter. For anyone that hasn't gotten this done you are putting a lot of trust in a collar that could fall off.

Once the cat intake was done I was asked to help with a stray that was spotted outside of the shelter. I grabbed my radio and a handful of treats and made my way out. I saw the little Jack Russel out in the middle of the street and tried to get his attention. Of course the game is just beginning for him. As soon as he caught wind of me he took off through an apartment complex gate. I was lucky enough to catch a car going in so I didn't have to hop the fence. The bad part is I found that the complex was huge with lots of places to hide. By this point we had called all hands to come and help. I made my way through the complex and around a small park just when we were about to give up then I saw the person that I had followed in pointing me in the direction of the lost dog. As soon as I saw the puppy a women was grabbing him. It turns out the dog was hers and she had no idea that he was out. I wanted to scream at the women for not having a collar on her dog but I kept my cool and tactfully told her that it was illegal not to have a rabies collar on her animal. She looked at me with that dumb blank face and walked in her house. For all of you people out there that think their animal will never get out of your home please reconsider, not everyone in the world will send a team of crack dog chasers out after your pet. There are so many endings that can happen that aren't happy when you have no identifying tags or chips on your pet.

So I really got my workout in today. Running after door dashers and strays isn't really the way I would like to get my exercise but if there is a happy ending to it all I am content. The lesson of today for me is always have your pet's collars on them, no matter how safely "locked" up you think they are. And if you really want to be safe merely head down to your local shelter where 25 bucks can give you a nice sense of security by having your animal chipped.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

One of those Days

Everyone gets "those days" every once in a while, I just didn't expect it so soon at the shelter. It really had nothing to do with anything except maybe the side of the bed that I had woken up on in the morning. I'll go into some more details a little later.

Business as usual in the morning, down as much coffee as possible and get to taking the dogs down to their runs. Starting with the ones that were able to hold it and working backwards to those that made the biggest messes. With some diet changes, those that couldn't really hold back in the diarrhea department seemed to be getting a better handle on it. Cleaning seemed to move pretty fast and once I got all of the feeding and special diets done it was time to move on to the cattery.

I found several people taking care of the cats, emptying out and replacing the litter, removing and replacing bedding, and feeding and watering. It seemed like everyone had it under control so I moved over to the isolation area where four cats were in some need. Of course these are the ones that might have some "behavioral" issues so I was told to keep my guard up. The cats seemed fine, I have to say I even enjoyed their company. One was trying to get her paw out of the cage to get my attention, not claw me, because she wanted to be petted. The one lesson I did learn careful with the garbage bag full of litter and poo. One wrong snag and I left a trail about 50 feet long. Whoops, that took a while to get into the dustpan.

By this point I had a huge smile on my face...NOT! I went into the back and realized no one had taken out the garbage so I figured the sooner I get to it the sooner I can forget about it. Today it seemed like a slacker day but I still think it was just me waking up on the wrong side of the bed. As soon as I got the garbage out I proceeded to clean out the fake grass yards and spray them down with bleach (got to keep the flies down you know). After all of this I had to lay the guilt on the others that were playing on the computer. I know it wasn't the nicest thing to do but they got the hint.

After cleaning up the dog bowls and bleaching the rest of the yards, oh and of course doing some laundry we moved one of the new dogs to a bigger kennel because he has what is called happy tail. He basically gets so excited and wags his tail so much that he whacks it against the cement sides of his area and cuts the tip of his tail open. Poor guy, you feel horrible for him but he really doesn't seem to mind. I kind of picture this dog with a Gomer Pile voice just because no matter what his surroundings he just seems like a content and happy guy.

Following lunch we wanted to focus on a few dogs that were having a tough time in the shelter and starting to deteriorate a little. I don't want to go into to many details about this but just know that being in a shelter is one of the most stressful times a dog will ever face. The dogs that we were working with had shown some signs of aggression and also some aloofness as well. Our main goal was just to get them comfortable. Feeding them treats and introducing them to other dogs. This really helps in getting them comfortable with others and also taking their minds off of their surroundings.

When I was working with one in particular down in the far yards our lead trainer came back from her day trip picking up dogs from other shelters. Woo Hoo! 11 new arrivals that all seemed scared and yet happy to be out of the less fortunate shelters. Some were matted and others stank horribly and were shaking from fear. One was even running a temperature of 104. You feel horrible for these guys but then you realize that our shelter offers so much more than where they came from and a better oppurtunity to find them the perfect homes. Then of course you realize that of the 11 new dogs that we are able to help there are 11000 more that still need it. I know that it is a drop of water in the bucket, but we have to realize that the more people that help and get educated about the pet population the more water goes into the bucket.

I know I started to day on the wrong foot, but after a little sweat, some down time with the dogs, and a little self realization I went home with a smile on my face and an incling to hurry back in the morning. I might wake up on the wrong side of the bed sometimes but as long as I remember to go to bed on the right one it will be o. k..

Monday, March 2, 2009

More and More POOOOOO!

I always think when I start my day that the morning cleaning is going to be a breeze because that one dog that was always so messy has now found their forever home. I think the more that I hope that the worse that it gets. I did a walk through of the south side kennels that I had just sanitized the day before and found not only an extra dog that had been brought in during the night but about four kennels that were filled with some messy diarrhea. I don't mind cleaning it up, I just really feel bad for the poor dogs that have to spend the 15 hours in their kennels with it.

With a little time to spare with my cleaning I was able to take care of a few essentials for the day before the doors opened. We moved all of the dogs from one section to another to make room for a new batch of guys that will make their way into the shelter. This is a simple task of making sure the areas that the dogs are moving into are sanitized and have nice bedding, a few toys, and some water. Along with this we needed to set up a fence outside of one of the dogs kennels that has been showing some aggression towards certain males. Along with this we put a treat basket there to try to get the dog trusting everyone that comes up to him. Hopefully this will work because the dog is such a friendly and loving animal that is just so stressed out he acts a little weird around some people.

On to the cattery and scooping out some litter boxes. I won't go into much detail here but you can imagine. Man, this place really does have a smell of it's own. We made sure everyone was fed and had a clean bed and moved on. Thank goodness my allergies weren't acting up.

I found out the new dog wasn't really new but another return. A beautiful boy who I had rememberd spending some time with as a volunteer. I wish we had some land because I would take so many of these guys home. Anyways, it turns out the dog had some issues with eating. He had lost a lot of wheight and the owner, after two months, felt that she could not take care of him. Not that she didn't love him, she just did not want to see him deterioate. I put some sensitive stomach food down with him and he preceded to inhale it. I fed him two more times and he seems to be eating. Not sure what is going on with him but we have him on a medical hold until he can be evaluated. I hope he will be o. k. because he really is a wonderful animal.

Business as usual during the afternoon except for the fact that there was a birthday party being held for about 20 pre-teens and their parents. I had no idea that anyone would have a party at the humane society but what I learned about it all just added to the fact that this place is helping in more ways than I ever thought imaginable. The party was traditional with cake and games but also included a comprehensive tour and educational speech on why the shelter does what it does. Everything from neutering animals to bringing them off the street. I have to say, it is a cheap way not to have a bunch of kids tearing up your house for a birthday but it also educates them on the importance of animal shelters.

After a little bit of laundry, some speacial feedings, and some well deserved loving on the dogs it was time to train the young female that almost got put down. Pretty simple when you think about it. Just feed her full of treats when other dogs are tending to get her riled up. That and just keep her calm and try to wear her out on runs so she is to tired to jump around and jump on the fences.

Later in the day I learned how to bottle feed a kitten that didn't even have it's eyes open yet. I learned that it had been found on the side of the road wrapped in a blanket. It makes me woner how many more don't get found. Aside from getting peed on, the little guy was really cute and I'm looking forward to seeing him grow up a little and find a permanent home for him.

Well, today we had one adoption and one dog brought back. Not quite a perfect day but it will do. I learned that some animals might not find their forever homes on the first go round but we won't shy away from trying again...and again. I learn something new everyday and wonder in what other ways could this shelter be helping the community.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Really Busy Day, Kind Of

Today started just like last Saturday, aside from the fact I had a clue of what I was going to be doing. That and the fact that there were a lot more people scheduled and willing to get their hands dirty with me.

On to the weekly sanitizing of the south side kennels. Usually it is the entire shelter but we will be doing the rest tomorrow. Me still being the new guy got to scrub the worst of it. I really don't mind though as long as I have the ipod in and some good tunes to work out to. That's pretty much what it is, a good solid work out. It did still take myself and one other person over two hours to sanitize about ten kennels if that can give you an idea of how much scrubbing is actually going on. I just hope I am not part of the same crew tomorrow.

Just as the doors opened for the shelter I was told that some of the staff would be attending a training course in animal aggression. The course would be taught by the staff trainer who seems to know what she is talking about. Caesar Milan, you need to listen to this women, maybe you could learn a thing or two. The class was intense and long, I did catch myself day dreaming a little, after all it was Saturday and beautiful out. After I got back into it I really did learn quite a bit. There were so many details about dog behavior that can really come in handy in helping those animals in this shelter. Being able to read the signs of aggression and catching them early you have a better chance of helping those animals become better pets. I do have to say I feel like a pretty bad pet owner after the class once I realized how much I spoil my dogs. Oh well, they are family.

After the extensive training course I was told to take a lunch, aside from some scrubbing I really feel lazy here today. Thank goodness my fiancee brought me in a sandwich when she was volunteering otherwise I wouldn't be eating, I am that kind of forgetful. After lunch it was business as usual, kind of. Did a little laundry and took some dogs down to their runs. I did have some great news and some not so great news once I came back. I noticed TWO dogs had been adopted which is always nice to see, but I also saw one brought back due to some aggressive behavior that just broke my heart. Hopefully we can evaluate her and see what went wrong.

Towards the end of the day I had some more good and bad news scenarios. I had learned that one of the dogs was supposed to be put down due to overwhelming aggression. The dog did have some kennel issues but when you got her on her own she did really well and was trained. With all of this and a foster parents help she got a reprieve and the staff is going to continue working with her. On a sadder note, one of the dogs in the shelter was euthanized while I was on my "weekend". The animal was very skittish and you could tell he was not a fan of humans. I really do feel bad for these animals, it is not their fault. That fact that they are pretty much socially created tells me that whoever handled this dog originally is to blame.

After all of the sadness you have to think about the guys that got adopted and found their forever home. That is what this is all about. Helping those animals find the perfect families that will take care of them for years to come. Yeah, there are some tough times, but without those times the good ones just wouldn't seem as good.

On another note, the staff member that started a week prior to me has gotten another job being an animal attendant at a very well known zoo. So congrats and I wish you luck. And wish me luck because now I am the only newbie that is sure to get lots of fun jobs in the weeks to come.
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