I just started volunteering at an animal shelter. I love animals and wanted to do something unselfish for a change.
The first week I walked dogs, which was great. This week I petted cats.
I went home in tears.
The cats were all so loving that I hated to leave. I also knew some of them would probably end up being euthanized.
I know I did a good thing today but I feel incredibly sad and feel that maybe I'm simply not thick skinned enough to do this. (Though if I weren't sensitive, I wouldn't be doing this in the first place.) I tried telling myself that the kittens were so adorable they'd probably be adopted and also that euthanasia is better than life in a cage, but it didn't help much.
Have any of you done shelter work? If so, I'd like to hear your perspectives. F8
Location: Texas USA Posts: 6230 Joined: 2008-05-25
Please take care of yourself first, even above the animals. You may be causing yourself trauma that will be hard to overcome. I love them too, but too much sadness 'gets to me'. I haven't had a dog or cat for years. Loosing them just hurts too much. - jus'
HI fuegos, I've done shelter work for many years starting from when I was in high school; am now working as a volunteer with a behavioral modification program for dogs who do not pass the initial temperament eval's to be adopted; dogs who are borderline and/or dogs who start going downhill in the very stressful shelter environment and do not present well to adopters. I also volunteer with dog training at different venues and have been involved in rescue.
At the shelter we just pretty much just lost a litter of very adorable, young male Pittie babies <I love Pits> who we worked with as soon as we could there due to their age - but most ended up being bite cases...one just recently attached himself to a child's hand and wouldn't let go. This was a 8 week old puppy.
My very first year, one of my first dogs I worked with was a young female Rottie. I live with Rotties and they're my heart breed.
I and others worked with this girl at the shelter for several months - she worked wonderfully with people and without other dogs but was very dog-reactive <and one my own girls is also dog-reactive> and eventually bit another dog in the foot. She also started losing condition. I tried in vain to find a rescue placement for her and another large male Pit and no luck. Both dogs went to the Bridge.
I cried for both of them and continued on. I have kept a glossy picture-based brochure from that time frame that was a shelter publication -I keep it because it shows a picture of dear Rottie Olive who I've just described. It sits on a little kitchen shelf with pictures of my girls and another Rott girl we met through rescue.
Her name is Charm and we met her as a young puppy soon after my very first Rottie was diagnosed with kidney disease at age 2. This young puppy we met was in need of an operation regarding her kidneys and we donated for that. The picture of her is her as a young adult holding a ball, sitting in the sun
After some time and some logistics, she did end up getting adopted
I think it's perfectly natural to feel sad at times when you are doing anything with a shelter. Shelter and rescue work is a heartbreaking because not all can be saved. It is also a wonderful thing because many can be saved. Our program worked with and was able to place several hundred dogs in the last 2 years that prior to program inception, would have been euthanized.
Recently at one of our meetings, one of the topics was "saying goodbye". That was to a volunteer who was moving - as well as to a large 6-month old male Pitt/Shep mix who was in our modification program - he had just been re-evaluated after being given at least one reprieve after an incident<after which he was put in quarantine> - and the eval didn't go well...I saw this because I watched it. Prior to this final eval, a few of us with the most experience/desire etc to work with him, were chosen and/or volunteered to work with this particular puppy during his quarantine to see if he could get beyond his issues <among them resource guarding-food, and being sweet and playful one minute than escalating and grabbing onto you and climbing up and gripping and not letting go - those were probably the most serious things> with additional special assistance beyond what the entire modification program had been doing. Only we 3-4 people out of the whole modification team could work with him, which we did. Every day I spent with him I knew when I put him back in his run it could be the last time I saw him. For a few weeks, he had the most devoted and particular attention he'd likely ever had <he was the result of an "accident" and came from an isolated barnyard situation> and he was showered with training, toys and walks and love. But it just wasn't enough to overcome genetics and poor early socialization. Just wasn't enough. So in that mtg, one of the other volunteers who is also an adoption counselor, started crying and I knew why.
Sometimes, we can only do the best we can do. Many of us cried during that meeting - and we carried on. More dogs need us.
I try to think of those who do go home - like the dog with severe <the most severe they'd seen> resource guarding of food issues. We have particular programs for dog-aggression and resource guarding that are very detailed and very sequenced. This dog was with us working the food program for months- and she went home!
Dogs are shown love who may never have a chance to know it otherwise. There is great sadness -and great triumph too. That's how I think of it.
and - really, rescues face the same if not sometimes more of the situations I've described - because there simply aren't enough foster homes, especially for some of the breeds or types of dogs. Now, cats - never really been involved with cats and that might be very different. But going to rescue doesn't guarantee that an animal will be placed and sometimes rescue doesn't work out either. Many animals are in rescue due to severe medical needs that require particular attention that a shelter can't give, or behavioral such as extreme shyness - which can cause excessive fear which can cause biting. An animal that bites in a rescue situation is unlikely to ever be re-homed because of liability. Rescue homes are not required to keep an animal in their care.
Degree of reputable-ness/ethical considerations vary WIDELY among rescues. Placing an animal simply to get the foster home freed up when that animal likely shouldn't be placed - is sometimes a problem. "Rushing" animals through the system only serves to add to the issues of returning animals, long-term animals, solitary confinement cases in animals - where you have well-meaning people trying to simply keep an animal alive til someone, somewhere has decided what to do with her - but in the meantime no one can work with her because of some kind of history and so she languishes in a cage, only given sustenance. That is a form of torture. No-kill shelters can have this problem.
With the exception of Best Friends in Utah, "No-kill" tends to mean they've chosen only the ones that have the best chances of getting adopted out - they can screen who they will or will not accept. Dogs that are turned away end up back in the municipal shelter system. So "no-kill" doesn't mean no one dies.
Edited by RottieWoman on July 22 2012 06:02 PM