Working in an animal shelter is HARD. It’s back-breaking and it’s heart-breaking. And if you’re not careful, it’s soul-breaking too.
This week’s saddest case:
If you live in the Lower Mainland area, you’ve probably seen this photo of mine, or one like it, plastered all over the news and the internetz. It’s 6 week old Phoenix, a blue nose pit bull puppy, who was found hiding in some bushes on the side of the road in Surrey.
Now she’s curled up in my lap as I type this. Just a baby, Phoenix has a terribly infected wound all over and around her muzzle and under her chin. The vets believe that it may be the result of something tied around her face, like rope or twine.
The Food Lady is saddened by humanity … or the lack thereof.
Phoenix is sad because her face freakin’ hurts :(
The poor wee dear. She was also absolutely covered in hot-pan-hoppin’ fleas, and is suffering from what seems to be a bad case of malnutrition, as her bones are crooked and malformed. This baby had a long uphill battle in front of her.
She sleeps nearly all the time, except when she gets the 2AM zoomies, like she did this morning. Mostly, all she wants to do is snuzzle in my lap, periodically chew on my fingers, and leave crusty, pus-y chunks of shedding flesh on my shirt. The infection has spread to one of her eyes, and she is most definitely having the crappiest week of just about anyone’s life.
Sometimes she wakes up screeching, and I’m forced to wonder if she’s dreaming of all the wrongs done to her in her oh so short little life, and if the small comfort of my arms helps chase away those demons at all.
Every day as I’m driving to work, I wonder what shitty offense some human is going to perpetrate that day. Is some angry little man in a wifebeater going to throw money in my face when I tell him what the impound fee for his aggressive, roaming dog totals? Is somebody going to leave yet another animal tied to or boxed up in front of the gate before opening hours? Am I going to get verbally abused over the phone by someone who didn’t get the dog they applied for because they wanted to leave it in the backyard with nothing but a shed for a “home?” Am I going to witness matted senior dog after emaciated cat after litter of orphaned semi-feral kittens get carried through the intake door with no end in sight?
It’s tough sometimes, to remember that we do this thankless job because we’re trying to make a difference, when nothing we do seems to actually make a difference. Every day is another new set of frightened, hairy little faces hiding in the corner of their kennel, with a pretty small chance of their owner coming to collect them. Less than 1% of our cats are claimed every month. How sad is that? They become your responsibility – an immense, encompassing, crushing responsibility.
So you’re getting beaten up emotionally by the sad animals all around you, and you can’t turn away, because even when you try, you walk straight into the humans who want to tear a strip off you for doing your job. They don’t see what we see every day – and I get that. But it doesn’t mean it’s easy to take.
The next time you think of your local animal control, don’t think of the fees you have to pay, or the dog you didn’t get to adopt, or the animal control officer who made you put your dog on a leash. Think of the animals that find their way there, and the love and effort and care the staff put into making their stay as pleasant as it can be. Because for many of us, this isn’t just a job. Some of us take our work home with us.
Please don’t contact the shelter about Phoenix – she is nowhere near ready to start looking for a home. However, Phoenix has lots of friends at the shelter who are looking for a home. If you have room for a dog or a cat in your home, in your heart and in your life, adopt a spayed or neutered friend from your local shelter and make Phoenix’s struggles worthwhile.
To see more of Phoenix’s story, watch her explore her new life on the CBC evening news (your new claim to fame: “I see the Food Lady’s arm in that clip!”) or on the BCTV website or see more photos of her (I took those too!) on the Global Noon News.
It’s too hot to play ball. My life is HARD.
(Tweed has first-world-dog problems)