My profession is working with adolescence, and as you know my current position is mother to Young Miss Crazy Cat Lady in Training.
But let’s face it. We all need a bit of a break sometimes. As a little me-time, I decided to put my name down as a volunteer at my local pound.
I usually spend Saturday there, hanging out with both the dogs and cats currently being held at the facility and chatting with the public. I love it because I get to do all the fun stuff. Walk and play with the dogs and cuddle and play with the cats.
There have been many things I have learnt there already. The pound staff have even provided opportunities for us, as volunteers, to receive some training. The worst part is seeing some of the darker parts of human nature. There is something truly upsetting about a dog sitting and waiting at the gate of it’s kennel for it’s owner to come get them – not realizing they are never coming back, it is also truly upsetting seeing an older cat confused and unwell after a hard knock life hiding as high up in the eaves of the cattery as it can get, even if this means it will also get soaking wet. It is a sad picture to paint.
Now let me shed some beauty for you.
I know without a shadow of a doubt that the dogs remember me from week to week. You can both see and sense their excitement as you approach them. When practicing basic obedience with them, it is pure joy to see how elated they feel when they get it right and get some positive reinforcement (read:TREATS!!). Putting a dog back into it’s kennel after a marathon fetch session in the exercise yard, and watching him collapse onto his bed as though he has not a care in the world is a feeling second to none.
I cannot describe to you eloquently enough the sheer satisfaction when you spend half an hour with that elderly puss hiding in the eaves and eventually are able to entice him down. Maybe not to get a smooch, but you do get him to go willingly to their own soft basket. Winning at life, right there.
And when that cute couple come in and adopt the shy fluffy kitten (c’mon you know who you are!) and you know they are going to give him the best home EVER – well, you almost overdose on that warm and fuzzy feeling.
The realisation that you cannot save them all is tough. I would never envy the job of the pound staff; they are not the mean dogcatchers you have pictured in your head. They are people who genuinely love animals. If you ask me, they do the hardest job in animal welfare. They deal with the surplus. The overbred, the unwanted, the neglected, the ‘I’m having a baby,’ the ‘kids would rather a cat/dog’ (as they drop off their dog/cat), the ‘I don’t have time’ and the strays that just never get picked up. Animal lovers, who see, deal with and have to, at times, hand out the worst possible sentence to our domesticated pets.
If you take anything away from reading this, I hope it is a firm respect for the people who are employed by animal holding facilities (pounds) and the next time you see people on social media call them ‘killers’, I hope you serve them a piece of your mind.
So just to circle back, no, you cannot save them all. However, as a volunteer, you can make a difference to these animals that is immeasurable.
Suddenly all of their days don’t look the same and they have something to look forward to.
Wouldn’t it be nice if that something was you.
(I imagine it will also be nice when I stop wanting #allthekitties =^.^= )