Basically this means I get to eat pie and I get a bottle of wine that’ll last me like 3 months. Red wine is the best.
This also means that I get to shove a ton of related posts up about the novel and because this book is about a no-kill animal shelter, I’ve decided to name the top 3 things you should know before you walk into an animal shelter to adopt your next family member.
And remember, I did work in a shelter for two years as an adoption counselor, so I’ve got some experience here.
#1 – We love all the animals in that shelter.
All of them. From the newly arrived to the long-time residents, we absolutely want to see these animals in a home with people who will love them for the rest of their lives. So when we’re discussing what each individual animal needs in their future home, it is because we know how hard it is on the animal when a new home doesn’t work out.
Home visits or interviews between pets and all the family members in the home (to include meet-and-greets between dogs) and paperwork from landlords that promise you’re allowed to have an animal on the premises, are all put into place for the animal’s safety. Please be open to what the counselors are saying to you about each individual animal. They really do want what’s best for everyone.
#2 – What you see in the shelter is an animal under stress.
No matter how nice the facilities, there is no denying that a shelter is still a shelter. Pets need and want love and while every counselor on the premises has loads of love to give, it is not the same as belonging to a home. So while they are in the shelter, they may exhibit behaviors that will not be seen in the home. The stress of having a ton of other dogs nearby can make a normally quiet animal quite vocal, and vice versa.
What does this mean?
It means that there is a transitional period when any shelter animal is brought into a new home. Generally speaking, you’re not going to see that dog or cat’s true personality for several weeks after you’ve opened your home to them. Once they have settled and truly believe that they are in their forever home, they will show you who they really are. And more often than not, that personality is far sweeter than you would have been able to see through the kennel door.
#3 – Shelter work is hard and it is physical.
Visiting hours in a shelter are set so that every animal in the facility is given the appropriate time for cleaning, walking, and socialization. Because we do love every animal in there, we don’t want to skimp on any one of them. Please be patient if you show up and the doors are not open yet. Sometimes there is a new arrival that needs a little extra attention and it has thrown staff behind. Sometimes a dog decided to make a third (or fourth or fifth) mess in their kennel and it needs to be taken care of.
Sometimes that mess has gotten in our hair and we need to clean ourselves up before we open the door too.
Often there are volunteers who come out to help at a shelter, and they are worth their weight in gold. I cannot count the number of times I internally blessed the volunteers who showed up and helped muck kennels because it meant every single animal was going to be loved a little extra that day. But in the end, I can promise that a shelter worker deals with more poop (literal poop) in a day than you probably do in weeks, so please just be patient.
A final note —
Staff love – and I do mean love – to hear progress reports about the animals who have gone home. Send them pictures of the animal loving life. Send a holiday card where they are lounging with their family. Because shelter work is so hard, these little reminders that an animal they’ve cared for is out there living their best life can mean the difference between throwing in the towel and pushing through another day.
Compassion fatigue is a thing and I will explore it a little more in my next post, but suffice to say, those updates are a lifesaver.