Companion Animals & Urban Wildlife >
The Longest Walk
A Day In The Life Of A
Humane Society Employee
by Teri Campbell
It is Wednesday afternoon. I make my weekly walk through
our shelter and contemplate the number of animals we'll be able to bring
into here tomorrow. Four cages in the dog's kennel area, two in the
isolation room and three empty cat cages are available. Depending on the
size of the available dogs, it appears as though we'll have nine to
thirteen openings this week. We've had several adoptions in the last few
days and are lucky to have this much space available. It's never enough
though...if every single cage were open it would still not be enough.
There are always more unwanted animals than we can hours
Thursday morning now. A morning like every other morning except for the
weekly task that looms before me every Thursday. You see, part of my job
is to go to the Harrison County Animal Control Center and "choose" animals
there to take to our Humane Society Shelter...animals scheduled to die on
Friday morning...more animals than we have room for.
There is a
full house of animals at the Animal Control Center this week. As I walk
down the gravel road that separates our facilities I can hear them barking
and see some of them in their outside cages. Every single cage is filled
to capacity with several animals in each one. Animals that never asked to
be on this earth or in this place.
When I open the door to the
kennel area, I am greeted by a chorus of excited doggy voices. They each
seem to beckon me to "look at me, choose me, love me....."
one is a large litter (9) of chow mix puppies, each one equally adorable.
Run two holds a very old Golden Retriever, two small briar scarred Beagles
and a shy German Shepherd. Run three holds four dogs held for biting and
four has two Terrier mix puppies, five shepherd crosses and a small puppy
so mixed in breed no recognizable one can be named.
Run five holds
several dogs unavailable for adoption at this time and six holds twelve
different puppies varying in size, shape and breed. Each one competes for
my attention, providing antics to convince me to pay attention to just
As I start down the second side of the shelter, my heart
drops. Run seven holds four confiscated dogs whose owner is being charged
with cruelty to animals. These particular ones have been starved. Two
large, withered Coonhounds and an old shrunken Beagle lay together in the
corner of the cage and a pregnant female Coonhound lies on the outside.
The female is so thin each rib is apparent. Her hair is dull and lifeless
as is her eyes. She barely has the confidence to look me in the eyes and I
am glad. I'm glad because I don't want to see the pain that lives inside
of them...glad because I am ashamed that one of "my kind" did this to
Her stomach protrudes awkwardly from her thin body...almost
pulling her to the ground because of her weakened state. Food bowls are
filled to capacity but these animals no longer have the desire to eat and
are so ill the food goes untouched. As I turn to go, the pregnant females
tail slaps ever so slightly against the concrete floor. As cruel and
horrific as mankind has been to her, she still longs for the kind word or
soft pet she knows must be in them.
Runs eight through twelve hold
more of the same. Relinquished pets who aren't "cute" anymore or who ate
little Jimmy's favorite toy. The St. Bernard mix who "got bigger than we
expected (?)" and puppy after puppy whose owners thought they could find a
home for them but couldn't. Puppies who have never known love or a real
master and who for the majority of them, never will. Older dogs ready to
die whose owners either didn't have or wouldn't spend the money it would
take to put them to sleep at a private veterinarians office. I see dogs
who are frightened, depressed and unable to understand why they are here
and where their master has gone...dogs who because they are so withdrawn,
will not find a new master in time.
Now I must "choose". I walk
into run one and bend down to examine the chow mix puppies. When I get to
floor level, my lap is filled with the wiggling, licking puppies. Each
lick says thank you...each glance one of pure adoration. I choose four,
two boys and two girls, choosing simply by sex as each one is equally
Many of the animals I am looking at are too sick to be
adopted out and therefore must be passed over by me as well. Their
illnesses are caused oftentimes by the negligent way they were treated
before they came here. Many die of parasites and controllable diseases
that could have been prevented had they only received a little care...a
worming or a vaccination.
In run three I take the two terrier mixes
and the small unrecognizable breed. From run five I take a lab mix puppy,
a half grown German Shepherd and two cocker crosses. I only have two spots
left and I've just finished side one! I retrieve a Boxer mix from run nine
and in twelve a Beagle puppy. I've reached my limit but there are so many
more left. The animals look at me hopefully, wagging their tails and
bouncing against the cage fronts. "Don't leave," they seem to say, "I'll
be a good friend to you if you'll only let me try." I try to avoid their
eyes and actions and remain focused on the fact that I was able to save
the thirteen dogs in tow. I try not to hear their cries...try to pretend
they're not back there...the way so many do when they leave them
I enter the cat area expecting the worst and I am not
disappointed. Every cage is filled with every color and age assortment
imaginable. I only have three available cages and there are at least
thirty five animals in these cages. I pick three tiny kittens (I can put
them in one cage and still have two choices left), a large white female
about one year old and a large black and white neutered male whose owners
"suddenly developed allergies."
My two kennel technicians walk over
to help bring our pets to the shelter. Eighteen animals will be taken out
of here by us this week (an unusually large amount) and we are still
leaving over fifty animals behind that are available for adoption. Why
can't we make people realize there is absolutely no reason to let their
animals breed indiscriminately? I only wish they could see what we see
every week of every year.
We take our charges to the shelter and
settle them in their new temporary homes. Each one is given a raised
platform or a soft carpet to lie on, a full food dish and fresh water, a
chew and a toy or two. Shots and worm medicine are administered and baths
are given. It's been a long day for us all. The animals settle into their
new surroundings and we go home.
It's Friday now. If possible this
day is often worse than the last. This is the day of the week that the
animals we left behind are killed. We drive our cars by the closed
facility and try not to imagine what is happening inside. Before long, we
can hear the doors open and a thudding sound...a sound we know all too
well. You see, this is the sound of their now lifeless bodies hitting the
bottom of the truck that will take them to their final stop. The sound of
the many creatures who only yesterday looked to me for comfort...who asked
me to choose them...who only wanted one last chance.
I try very
hard to focus on the good we do. I don't want to downplay the tremendous
effort it takes to save and place the many animals we have, but I cannot
forget the ones I didn't save...the occupants of the truck that leaves the
Animal Control Center every week.
I walk back to the dog runs and
view our newest arrivals. Everyone has had their cage cleaned, eaten
breakfast and are now napping or pulling on their littermate's tail. I
bend down to the little Beagle I just brought in. She gratefully licks my
hand and then my cheek. Her eyes are so full of adoration and
gratefulness. I try to look past the tears in my own and for one moment
forget that I'll have to do this again next week.