True Heroes

Just like comments about giving up a foster dog, if I had a dollar for every time someone said, “I don’t know how you do it” about working in a shelter, I’d be able to buy a Kong for every homeless dog in Maryland. It’s true: working in a shelter is very, very difficult.  But at the end of the day it’s our job and it’s our paycheck. We go home night after night thinking about the homeless animals we care for, only to get back up and do it the next day. Because we love it, but also because it’s our job.

The people who are really something remarkable are the ones who put their entire heart and soul into helping animals on a volunteer basis. I am the minority as a paid shelter employee – most people out there fighting the good fight to save animals not only don’t get a paycheck for it, but they invest much of their own money.  There have been days so tough that, if this wasn’t my career, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have walked away and never looked back. I can’t believe there are people who are in shelters walking dogs every single day, or people running rescues outside of their 9 to 5 jobs, or people who do transports every weekend not knowing where the animal will end up – and they don’t walk away. They stick it out through the most emotionally taxing times, because they know the animals need them no matter what. That is amazing to me.

I am blown away when I talk to the people who do this as essentially their second job. I know we don’t do it for the money, even those who get paid – but hearing how much passion and drive are in some of these volunteers is inspiring.  They fall in love with the animals they work with just as much – if not more – than others do.

Last week a poem circulated that a volunteer from a local shelter wrote. I’m really not one for words, especially poems, but when I read this the lines jumped off the screen and straight into my heart. This poem really showed me how much these volunteers take on when they come into a shelter and put their love on the line for these homeless animals.  This volunteer is so attached to this dog, almost like it’s his own.

The air is crisp, my paws sense the cold concrete floor.
I’m encaged in metal that lacks an inviting decor.
Another season begins and I am still here.
Are my days numbered? I shiver in fear.
You see I live a sheltered life devoid of endless fun.
On most days I get no more than 20 minutes out in the sun.
Patrons pass over me cuz I’m a misunderstood breed.
Unfairly prejudged no matter my plead.
So I whimper and lick the lock on my door.
Oh why can’t it be your hand, your face? Rescue me, I implore.

So thank you to those who volunteer so much of their lives to helping these animals. Shelters, rescues and advocacy groups could not function without you – and not nearly as many lives would be saved without your help.