The myth of the animal shelter worker

The myth of the animal shelter worker
This is Dena.

A lot of people say they want to work in animal shelters.

And perhaps they do. They may genuinely love cats, dogs, rabbits, ducks, guinea pigs or whatever other animals the shelter at which they say they'd like to work has. They may genuinely want to make the animals' lives better by working at the shelter.

But that's not enough.

A friend recently texted to ask me if I wanted to meet up at a bar to see her friend's band play. I told her I wasn't sure because I work that day and I know it's going to be a long day, so I could be pretty tired when I get off.

Her response: "Working with animals all day. How hard. ;p" For those not in the know about those emoticons that all the kids use in their texifications, ;p is meant to represent a wink, which conveys gentle ribbing and/or some form of sarcasm or snark.

This is Simba. Much as I'd like to, I don't spend all day playing with him.

This is Simba. Much as I'd like to (and he'd like me to), I don't spend all day playing with him.

There's a popular belief that those who work at animal shelters spend their days playing with puppies and kittens and bunnies. That's why a lot of people say they want to work at shelters. They think it's easy work. They think they can spend eight hours petting fuzzy, adorable creatures and get paid for it.

And that's just not true.

Working at an animal shelter is tough work. You're on your feet all day. You're constantly cleaning. You're dealing with animals of all different temperaments, many of whom won't hesitate to bite and/or scratch you rather than let you get anywhere near them. You're constantly exposed to (and sometimes covered in) animal urine and feces. You're moving heavy boxes of supplies like litter and food. You may get to spend a couple minutes every day petting the animals, but it's not a common occurrence. You're underpaid and overworked.

By the way, I'm not telling you all this to try and get you to feel sorry for me. Quite the opposite. I love doing what I do. It's the best job in the world. When one of the cats or rabbits at my shelter gets adopted, I'm the happiest guy ever. And I know that everything I do at work makes the lives of those cats and rabbits better in some way. At the end of the day, that's what matters.

This is Dena.

Ever been bitten by a rabbit? It's not pleasant.

Maybe I've digressed a bit here. What people tend to think shelter workers do and the realities of the job are very different. It's not easy. It's not glamorous. And if you think it is either of those, you're likely not someone who'd enjoy working at an animal shelter.

For the record, animal shelter workers aren't the only ones whose jobs are regularly thought of as far easier than they are. Teachers get this all the time. But you know what? Teaching is not an easy job and I certainly couldn't do it.

And that's my point. There's no shame in admitting that you are not cut out to do something that from the outside might seem easy for anyone to do. I am not cut out to be a teacher, even though I'm smart, a decent public speaker and a hard worker. And there are people who are not cut out to work at animal shelters even though they love and care about animals.

The long and short of this is that before you assume a job is easy and that you could do it as well as anyone, know the realities.

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Filed under: Pups

Tags: animal shelter, cat, dog, dogs, kitten, rabbit, Red Door

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