In the latest issue of Animal Chronicles, we asked our employees to answer the one question that we all get asked a lot: "How can you work at an animal shelter?"
Due to space constraints in the magazine, we were not able to publish all of the answers. Below, please find the responses from every employee who answered.
Peering into the eyes of an injured, neglected, sad animal is the saddest thing I know … and the most beautiful thing I have ever been honored to mend.
Field Services Sergeant
I can’t look away.
Behavior & Training Volunteer
I get great satisfaction from helping animals who have no one else to help them and nowhere else to go. It is also rewarding to be working to end the animal overpopulation problem with spay/neuter and education, and I feel lucky to work alongside people with similar goals and values.
I started working here because I needed a job. In a short time, however, I realized that even though I do not work directly with the animals, everything we do here is for the animals. This is one of the most rewarding careers I have ever had. It also is on some days the worst place to work because of the tough cases, and then later the same day the best place ever.
After seeing how much need there is, I ask myself: How could I NOT work here?
Registered Veterinary Technician
I like coming home at the end of the day and knowing that in some small way, today I helped to make the world a more humane place.
Director of Marketing & Communications
How can I not work here? Working here is a gift, a gift that keeps on giving. It is so rewarding, fulfilling and inspiring. I feel that I make a difference in the lives of animals and people every day. It may not be anything huge, but to connect with any living thing is a deeply rewarding feeling.
Animal Care Technician
Working as an Animal Care Technician, I see myself as one who provides shelter. I consider what the animals gain by being here, not what they lack. If they are here in our care, I know they are no longer subjected to the alternatives. Here, they are NOT alone, hungry, abused, neglected, or suffering from injuries without vet care. Providing care is the antidote to the heartbreak I otherwise experience when hearing about how animals suffer. I love my job because I help end suffering and start animals on their way to new and better lives. And how can I not want to take them all home? I remind myself that I am only one person: I have limited time, space, and resources that are already devoted to my own animal family. If I tried to stretch those limits too far, I would not be doing a service to any animals. By working here, I can help them find forever homes with the quality of life they deserve.
Animal Care Technician
For me it’s about the animal-human connection. Most people have no idea about all the issues that we deal with surrounding animals and people. From domestic violence, divorce, family disputes, lonely people filling a void with every stray they find, homelessness and animal care, mental illness and animal care … the list goes on. One thing that is often missed by people who love and advocate for animals is that we would have no success stories without humans to care for the animals. My goal every day is to use my skill and knowledge to create better pet guardians, educate people about animals, and provide support to the people in our community with animal related issues.
Customer Care Supervisor
I really think of MHS as a happy place, a place for animals to get a second chance. I don’t know that I could work at another shelter that has to put animals down just for being there too long. We are lucky. Our community is well-educated on the importance of spay/neuter and therefore Marin County doesn’t have a stray problem quite as problematic as other counties. Plus, we have wonderful support from the community that allows us to offer great education programs. MHS is a wonderful place to work and a really good place to end up if you are an animal in need.
I continue to work here because I know that every day I have the opportunity to make the life of an animal or person better. I can’t solve world peace or environmental issues but I can make a difference in small ways. And, these small acts have the ripple effect—if I make someone’s day a little better, the chance is that they will pay that forward. Same with an animal—if I give an animal some love, they might feel more relaxed and happy when the next person approaches them. And that next person could possibly be their “forever home.” Some days are really difficult, but when I go home, if I know I have touched a life, I can come back the next day and do it again.
Director of Volunteer Services
I am happy to work here because I always can ensure every animal I come in contact with is treated with dignity. Animals do not have a voice of their own and it is very rewarding to assist animals through difficult situations. I am a registered nurse and hope someday people receive the same amount of dignity.
Customer Care Representative
I would like to save all of the animals but cannot even take one home. Instead, I work and volunteer at the shelter to help save as many animals I possibly can. And, because our animals are so well taken care of medically, physically and mentally, it’s not sad at all. Also, it’s important to me to make friends with and take care of animals that cannot be rehabilitated so that their final days are as peaceful and pleasant as possible.
Animal Care Technician
Well, it’s easy! I love it—it’s really that simple. I love the department that I work in. I feel very fortunate to work with a great group of people who are all in it for the same reason. We work well together—everyone is willing to help each other out. We have fun and we work hard. The adoption department is one that can be quite challenging. Not only are we here for the animals, but we are here for the people as well. It is very rewarding to match up the right animal with the right family. It’s awesome when a long term adoption animal finds the perfect home … finally! It is very challenging when you have a difficult client … but it is also very rewarding when you know you have done your best and they have left MHS with a positive experience. The challenge can be difficult … but it can also be quite fun and rewarding.
My answer is always: All the adoption dogs find wonderful homes and it is our responsibility to keep them safe and happy until that happens.
Behavior & Training
I love my job because there is something new each day. My experience over the years has taught me that my job is very rewarding and satisfying. There are days that I want to scream at the top of my lungs when I see the awful side of what human beings and what they do to animals. I see suffering but I know I can end that pain when no other options are viable. Some days I leave sad and overwhelmed but most days I'm leaving feeling I made a difference for at least one.
Director of Special Programs
I can work at MHS because of the love. I know that even the animals that are too far gone, the animals that can't be placed, and even the ones that arrive already deceased, are going to be treated gently and with love. Their time here will be with loving hearts who care about them. And of course the animals that move through the program and go into new homes... that's wonderful. There's a feeling of accomplishment, that all our teamwork helped this animal through their time of need, and now hopefully they have found their forever home.
Kari Ann Selman
Registered Vet Tech
People usually ask me this when walking them through strays.
I tell them I love working here because we do great things for animals. I would tell them about PPP and assure them we don’t euthanize for space or time. I would tell them how we rescue animals from bad situations and find them wonderful forever homes. I would tell them how lucky we are here in Marin County, as Alameda County where I’m from doesn’t have the resources we have. A lot of people were under the impression that after the animal’s stray time was up they were usually euthanized, I assured them as long as they were friendly and healthy they were put up for adoption and sometimes they go home with their finder also.
The response I get much more often when I tell people I work at MHS is “Oh, that must be a great place to work!” Some do follow up with, “But I don’t think I could stand it,” meaning they would feel guilty about not being able to take all the homeless animals home with them. They relax visibly when I tell them that every adoptable animal gets a home, no matter how long it takes. I figure they grew up a community like I did, in which “The Pound” was an awful place where animals looked crowded and desperate, and where they were euthanized regularly just because they were “surplus.” I welcome the opportunity to tell them how much animal welfare has progressed in our community. And I hasten to add that for concerned folks, it’s not a choice of supporting animal organizations rather than those which help people. We can and should do both and fortunately many generous people in Marin donate to care for both people in need and animals in need.
I love my work and I know I make a difference for animals and people everyday. So how could I not work here? I believe those questions come from 2 places.
Number 1: wanting to save all the animals by taking them all home. I jokingly tell people I can’t do that because I have a husband but then I also tell them I can do more to help many animals everyday by my work than I could if I attempted to care for them all. The quality of my family's life and of the pets I have committed to care for has be considered before adding another member to the family.
And number 2: the fact that we euthanize animals that cannot be rehabilitated. I know from the times I have assisted in euthanizing animals that at that moment in time it is the kindest thing we can do. Whatever the reason, it is blessing to have that choice. And I know the animals are being treated with respect and dignity and loved during their final minutes.
So, again how could I not work here?
Community Programs Manager
This is kind of trite and obvious but I usually say - yes, it's hard sometimes but these animals are the lucky ones. They are safe, have food, have the opportunity for a new life and will receive all the best efforts of MHS to ensure a forever home.
I think the question is more, “how can you not LOVE working here?” Where else can you come every day and KNOW you have helped an animal’s life if not saved it all together? It doesn’t matter what department you work in, every department has a large impact somewhere along the animal’s journey with us. And almost every animal we work with realizes we are trying to help, whether it be at the front desk, taking them in all the way to Adoptions that has helped find their new “forever home”. All departments have one philosophy in mind, and that is to help the animals, protect and educate the public and try to do this in the best way possible for both. In addition, no one works here for financial gain, prestige or many of the other motives in the profit/private sectors of business. We are all here because we love animals, want to make a positive difference in their lives and always strive for the ultimate outcome of being a big improvement in any animal’s situation. Yes, sometimes there are sad moments and perhaps we can’t save all that come here, but the vast majority of animals receive wonderful medical care; they meet caring and concerned people trying to make them happier, comforting fears and introducing them to joy and love. We have managed to make so many wonderful people happy by introducing them to animals that are looking for new, loving homes. In addition, our officers out in the field go far and beyond with their efforts to save animals, help wildlife and resolve issues that affect animals and the public, always trying to do what’s best in the interest of safety and the animals.
Many here put in as many volunteer hours in addition to their regular work schedule, all because we know we are making a huge difference in the lives of so many innocent animals that otherwise have no advocates for their plight. We go home each night knowing we have given every effort, felt true, unconditional love and made a positive difference every day. Why would you not want to work here?
Behavior & Training
Well, I really, really like dogs (cats too but dogs are tops). Sometimes there’s nothing better than having a warm, fuzzy quiet little conversation with a dog. So yeah, it was a shock to go to work at a shelter and find out there’s diarrhea, blood and sometimes very angry animals to sort out. Sometimes the animals are so mentally damaged and dangerous no one can communicate with them except those who slowly get to know them by feeding them daily. This is very sweet for the dogs, as they bond with their caretakers and can relax and be puppylike.
So, sometimes as a group of committed, involved people we have to make responsible decisions. When the decision means euthanasia to protect society, it TEARS at the attendants who’ve cared for the dog every day. It is almost always them who quietly insist on performing the euthanasia- they can control the event, comfort the dog in its last seconds of life, and make letting go a painless thing for the dog. To us, sometimes, the question is really “how could you NOT work at an animal shelter?”
Maintenance & Field Services