The day of reckoning has come. Meaning, our shelter president requested all volunteers to send in their estimated hours of work for 2008. The shelter is required to submit shelter stats to the authorities, whoever they may be, including volunteer activity. As I have said before, our shelter doubles as the animal control facility for four towns in Passaic County, NJ. It consists of four buildings: the main doghouse, the cattery, the outside kennels, and the offices of the animal control department. There is also a fenced in yard in the back where agility tests, general dog training takes place. I spend most of my time in the doghouse.
Well, let's see what we have here. I finished my three Sundays of training in January, and I became a volunteer officially in February. That makes eleven months of shelter duty. In that time, doing two-hour shifts every Sunday morning, add the occasional Saturday, Sunday and Monday afternoons, I estimated my volunteer hours to be 144 altogether. Somehow, it feels much more than 144 hours, but that's about it. In that time, I've seen dozens of dogs get adopted, about five of which I was directly involved. I don't know how much time I spent cleaning the cages and runs: scooping up poo from the floor, hosing them down, scrubbing them with anti-bacterial agents, hosing them down again, and finally squeegee to dry. I estimated that just seven regular sized dogs can produce five pounds of poo at one time. How many pounds of poo did I haul to the garbage bin in 2008? More than a hundred, easy. Yep, if you want to volunteer at a shelter, you'd be doing some tough cleaning jobs. You'd be washing bowls, beds, feeding dogs and administering their respective medications. We also machine wash soiled blankets, pillows, and stuffed toys. A washing machine and dryer sit in the back room.
Now, we don't euthanize dogs/cats to make space. In fact, we have a dog who has been there for nearly a year and a half. My heart breaks for her. However, we do euthanize dogs for other reasons, like those who are miserably and terminally ill and those who have a history of aggression. You can't allow an animal to suffer any more when it doesn't have a chance at a good and healthy life. And you can't adopt a dog out to a family when you know that the dog can turn on them. For this reason, I believe that there isn't a true " no kill " shelter. Some people can handle tough dogs, but full disclosure is a must. In the past eleven months, I've known three dogs who went down for sure. There are others who disappeared, adopted perhaps. But, I have not asked about their true fate and I'll let that be as it is. When I expressed my sadness about seeing a dog go, one who I've known for a time, our president said, " Ted, concentrate on those we've helped and not on those we couldn't. " I am sure that euthanasia is part of the yearly report. 2009, let it be better.