Sunday, October 26, 2008

DogTown it AIN'T!

As I type this, I could literally break down and sob. Not get teary-eyed, not sniffle a little, but full-on hiccup-inducing bawling. What could make me so incredibly emotional, you ask? I've just come from a job interview. The interview itself went very well so no, that's not why I'm crying. But the veil has been pulled back and I've lost some innocence I can't reclaim. I've taken a peek into a world that I was too naive to believe existed, and it's shaken me to the core. Let me explain.

A couple of weeks ago I asked Jeremy if it would be alright if I only found part-time work. That would give me an opportunity to volunteer in some capacity at a dog shelter, something I've recently felt a calling to do. (It's all the Dog Town I've been watching, I swear.) He said that would be ok with him, so I got online to see what kinds of volunteers the Kansas Humane Society was looking for. Lo and behold, they were actually HIRING! This, I took, to be a sign.
What's in the list of top 10 things Sarah loves? DOGS!
And who needs a job? SARAH!
And who's hiring right now? A place where you get to work with DOGS!
It seemed meant to be.

So I brought in my application on Thursday and took a look around. I've never been to the Humane Society. Both of my "pound puppies" were found online first, then we went to pick them up specifically. I always knew if I went "browsing" at a shelter I'd be wrought with guilt that I couldn't take them all home. Well as I roamed the halls of kennels that afternoon, I have to admit I got pretty emotional. Every dog gazed back at me frightened, shivering, so alone. The whines and barks echoed in my ears, bringing to mind the miserable song of the pound dogs in Lady & The Tramp. Remember it?
One little terrier mix that reminded me so much of Wrigley nearly brought me to tears. He was underweight and looked so cold...such a flashback to the sickly little dog we brought home over two years ago.

Though emotional, I left there with a bit of a hero complex. I was going to go in and help those animals find homes, daggumit. It wouldn't be easy, but I was going to make a difference! I knew they euthanized animals when they can't find them homes, but I told myself that it was only a small percentage and I could overcome it because of all the good I would be doing, helping families meet their perfect canine match. Everyone (including me) would live happily ever after.
Um, but that was my fantasy. And today I saw the real world.

The position I had unwittingly applied for is, and I quote, "the hardest position at the shelter." I wouldn't be adopting animals into happy homes, I would be taking them from the people dumping them off. People who have just lost a loved-one and can't take in their animals. People who are moving and can't take their beloved pet with them. People who love their carpet more than their new puppy. All-day-long, emotional, crabby and possibly sobbing people with unwanted animals. Animals that, as I found out today, don't have a promising future.

The shelter takes in from 80 to 90 animals each day. EACH DAY! Over 600 animals per week! As she told me this, I began to remember my visit on Thursday afternoon. I saw 20 dogs TOPS. And then I was suddenly struck with the ammount of animals that are being put down each and every day. I was completely horrified. Obviously, the sick, old or aggressive animals are the first to go. But still, they are left with too many happy, playful, young, GOOD animals. In the position I was applying for, it would be my job to decide who lives and who dies. In the little world of the Kansas Humane Society, I would basically be god.

You get a happy home with a yard and a warm bed and a little boy to chase and a bone to chew.
You die.
You get to live with a nice lady and chase balls of yarn and bask in the sun.
You die.

CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE?!?! I felt sick to my stomach. All this time I've been picturing the handful of dogs up for adoption and imagining that if THEY didn't get adopted, they would possibly be euthanized. It hadn't even crossed my mind that they were the lucky ones! They were the ones that made it past an initial choosing process, that hundreds of dogs weren't even given the chance at finding a new home.

My mind immediately traveled back to the lobby I had just come through. The little boy with his Mom surrendering the mild-mannered german shepherd. The frightened little pomeranian that was already behind the counter, panting and darting around nervously. The ROWS and ROWS of cats in carriers! Would any of them even have the chance?

It gets worse, though. The position would also require me to be present for the euthanization process. At best, hold the animal still. At worst, administer the injection myself. The woman interviewing me said that the first time she had to help, it lasted for three hours. One animal after another. She said she held it together the entire time and then afterwards went out in the hall and threw up. "Everyone reacts differently," she said. Well if by differently you mean having a nervous breakdown then yes, I would react differently!!!

Oh did I mention I'm NOT taking the job?!? If the information in the interview alone was enough to send me over this emotional cliff, there's no way I could actually experience it day after day. I would be the most depressed person in the world. Plus, I would end up hating people. Watching them drag in their loyal, loving pets, signing them over to a certain death sentence? job is definitely not for me.

So now I'm going to go sit in on the couch and cry into my dogs faces, trying to get my mind off of the horrible facts that now fill my brain. I wish there was something I could DO. The only suitable alternative I can think of is to actually MOVE to Utah and work at DogTown, which is a no-kill shelter. Or win the lottery and start my own. But for now, I'm a very sad, very umeployed, animal lover.


Michelle said...

Oh Sarah! I can't even imagine what that was like, it's not a job I could do either. I was amazed by the number they take in every day! People, spay and neuter those doggies so their offspring don't have to go through that!!!

Kimpossible said...

OMG Sarah!! There is no way I could do that!! I had no idea they took in that many animals each day. Thats crazy! All of our animals have either come from there or the shelter in Newton. I am a firm believer in shelter animals. But I simply couldnt decide who goes and who stays. I do hope you find somewhere to work with animals though, I think its your calling!

kilax said...

Oh my gosh. She did it for three whole hours? 600 animals a week?

I understand animals are over populated, but I wish we could get more of them spayed and neutered to control the population. I believe in the no-kill mentality.

I worked in a no-kill cat shelter almost every night when lived in Rome for 6 months a few years ago. It was so hard to see all of those frightened animals. I wish I could say it made me tougher but I am not sure that it did. It made me more worried about what is wrong with people in the world that the are treating animals this way (My favorite cat, Cher, was hit on the head and went blind and slighting retarded - photo of her on the second post on this page).