I started working at the SPCA of Southwest Michigan in August of 2011. In retrospect, my biggest mistake was not researching the place I was accepting a position of employment at. Even more perplexing, after the experiences I had dealing with rescue I was more naive and green than I should have been at the time but I digress. To me, a no kill rescue didn’t kill dogs unless behaviorally or medically there was not a more compassionate option for the dog and that’s what they all did, damn it.
(You don’t have to correct me, I’ve been LONG standing corrected, and I will get there, believe me.)
The facility seemed nice, the staff seemed moderately capable of cleaning up dog poop and not much else, and every one micromanaged every thing. I recall a positive note during my interview (which was held by volunteers.. and not actually any one capable of hiring/firing any one..) was mentioning my history in transporting animals and connections to other rescues. I also absolutely recall stating my position on when dogs within rescue systems should be euthanized: When all options have been exhausted. For a rescue that claims to have placed over 11,000 animals in a few short years with a 1.2 million dollar facility, I did not assume that would be an issue. And at the time it apparently wasn’t, as I was hired.
Not too much of note of the first few weeks. After two two hour “helper” shifts I was placed on my first closing shift alone- with no training and absolutely no idea what to do. When I came in another new hire was there and he obviously couldn’t fill me in on much, either. I fed the dogs, let them outside in the tiny concrete area we called a yard, and muddled my way through any questions asked of me with “I am new and have no idea, we have to find someone who knows.” Whatever screw ups I left behind apparently were not enormous enough to merit any sort of training or follow up, so I continued to be scheduled and just figured things out as I went. The staff turn over rate at that point was so high it probably didn’t really matter to any one that no new hires had any idea what they were doing. Why would it? We were merely in charge of the lives of animals and all.
My second week there I was called in to an opening shift at 7 AM, still with no knowledge of what exactly I was supposed to be doing. An employee had been placing unvaccinated puppies outside (against the supposed protocol of no dogs under 6 months out in the yard) and there was a large scale 20 some puppy out break of Parvo. Said employee was apparently fired, so they were filling the shifts with whoever they could. Upon my arrival the doors were locked and the director was bumbling through trying to get a hold of whoever could open them. I asked what the morning protocol was like, and was just assured to clean the kennels and that I would be fine. I would be fine with no knowledge of the morning shift beyond “clean the kennels” with multiple puppies with Parvo. So it goes.
Save for a few, the puppies were largely in recovery. I was instantly covered with diarrhea. I remember mixing bleach water and cleaning the kennels with a hilariously unnecessary amount of towels. Whoever had to continue laundry after I left was likely enraged. I made it through several kennels before I encountered the strangest looking dog. Like a Pit Bull that somehow developed a scruffy v-cape:
I knew absolutely nothing about her. At the time she didn’t even have a name despite having been there two months prior to my arrival. So, I opened her kennel and went to put the slip lead on her to lead her outside, like any other dog. Except this dog let out a screech and tried desperately to climb the kennel walls to get away from me. I would be lying if I didn’t say it scared the bejesus out of me. So much so I just quietly shut her kennel and skipped cleaning her. I came back and opened the kennel again to set food down, and she regarded me quietly with large eyes from her bed.
Later I would post that same photo on my Facebook and oh little did I know when I commented on said photo: I want to foster her and make her better real bad.