Last month, I celebrated my second year in retirement. My one-year anniversary of creating this blog. The blog is therapy for me; yes, after two years of retirement, I am still winding down from the experiences from my adventures in animal welfare.
The early days of my profession were easy; people had better control of their emotions and had some semblance of commonsense; but best of all, they had not harnessed the destructive power of social media. My last two gigs were a bit more complicated. In one gig, the “powers” surrendered their efforts of evolving to a no-kill operation to appease one employee. That employee didn’t like having volunteers around or allowing rescues from coming into the shelter. Although I was the Executive Director, it was clear who had the power. In the other gig, the “powers” were more concerned about positive social media than having a properly run operation. Without someone showing some constraint many, many aggressive dogs would have been released into the community.
I bring this up because in the animal welfare profession we come with great expectations of making our organizations great, only to be undermined by the social and political currents that surround us. While I was in the heat of the fire, I frequently asked if I had made a poor career choice. In looking back, I remember all of the good that I participated in. Looking in the soft eyes of an animal in pain, I felt the strength to help that animal. Humans are a thankless species, but the dogs and cats that we help make up for the grief that we receive from our own species.
The purpose of this blog is to help someone who might be considering animal welfare as their own profession. I report mostly on the negative things to prepare you for what you have to face, but the rewards are great as well. For those who are in the fire now, leave your office and walk back into the kennels and hold one of the animals in your care. As directors, we feel alone, but what you are experiencing is happening to many, many others. Fight the good fight, provide your community with what they need, not what they want. Protect the innocent.
In our profession, we will get plenty of advice. Much of it will be bad advice. Some of the worst advice I ever received was from a County Attorney who told me not to say anything bad about an employee who petitioned the County Commission for reinstatement. How can you make a case that you don’t want a bad employee back, if you cannot tell the truth? My mistake was that I listened to the attorney. The next time, I was told by a City Attorney that you cannot fire a volunteer. This time I was smart enough not to listen. The No Kill Movement depended on City/County Attorneys making this mistake when they encouraged volunteers to stand up for their rights. But, just as you can fire an employee, you can fire a volunteer who is disrupting your organization.
So, you are faced with many decisions and you’ll have to make the best decisions for your community. You will face many people telling you what to do and many of them will try to bully you into doing what they want; for that reason, your decisions must be ethical, sound, and consistent with the morays of your community. This blog is intended to pass along my journey and it is up to you to decide if any of it pertains to you. During my walk, I have become biased, for good cause; but, that doesn’t mean my advice is sound for your situation. Your are being paid to make the right decisions that will impact your community and the pets within that community. I spent a lifetime of compromise and now I can reflect back as to whether I did the right thing when I made those compromises. The funny thing about history is that at the time it felt good, then history later shows your mistakes. Do the best that you can with the information that you have at the time and hopefully you can later live with the results. And later in life, you can sit back and hopefully help someone else who has just started their journey.