Friday, May 21, 2010

A "Good" Question and Kitten Season

Somehow I got into the "I could never do your job" conversation last night, which, of course, frustrated me. However, the conversation turned because a friend of a friend was involved, who asked me a question I've never heard, in the 7 years I've been doing this. It's a fair, hard, ugly question that deserved a fair, hard ugly answer. She asked me if I like animals any less because of my work.

I do like animals less because of my work.

I'm not a saint- I like animals, I really like certain animals like T's kids, and the pets of my friends and my sister, I obviously love/am obsessed with Mac, and in theory I love dogs. I love "dogs" as a group- I can't imagine a career without them, at this point. A friend just today said "do you still hate cats?" Well, I never "hated" cats, but they've never been my animals. I've actually learned to like cats a lot more since I started working at shelters- I never really knew a cat growing up and didn't realize that they had personalities- isn't that terrible? I've learned to really appreciate rabbits as companion animals. I've even met a couple nice roosters, no matter how much I bitch and moan about them. I consider myself an "animal person." But I don't seek out snakes and lizards and roosters and cockatiels, I don't run up to pet every dog on the street, though I do find myself cooing at some of them (yes, even I coo), and I don't think EVERY animal is cute, like some people think EVERY baby is cute by nature of it being a baby. I just don't.

But the answer is, yes, I think my general affection for animals has gone down since I started working as in animal welfare. I can generally tell fairly quickly when a dog isn't sound, or is a bite risk, and am generally not interested in interacting with these dogs. I judge them for this, whether they are stray or irresponsibly owned. I know it's not the fault of the dog, but I tend to resent the dog, although it's irrational. I've been snapped at and peed on (like leg lifted peed on), and as T will tell you, I take it personally. It's not rational, but it's true. Seven years ago, I wouldn't have taken it personally. Is that just age or overexposure? I'm pretty sure it's overexposure.

And then there's kittens and puppies. I do not like kittens. At all. I hate kitten season, I've mentioned that a thousand billion times. But when I see a kitten, something in me turns, and it turns on the kitten. No kitten has ever done anything to me, but the truth is, although there's some sick weird joke about "kicking puppies" (I don't know where it came from) as the worst thing you can do, I kill kittens. I really do. During kitten season, I kill them daily. So I've been conditioned to see kittens and kitten season as killing season. It sucks. It's compassion fatigue. It's a side affect of my job. And yes, I like them less. A lesser reason I dislike kitten is the sheer volume. There's so many of them- everything is more in kitten season- the numbers of animals, the amount of shit, the amount of people bringing in animals, etc. It's just MORE, and in certain businesses, more isn't good. Of course, there are more adoptions, too, which is great, but there's a lot before then that is not so great.

I feel similarly about puppies. Poopies. They are poopy, and most of the puppies that I deal with come from irresponsible breedings. They're often nervy, badly structured, sick with mange or parvo, etc. Again, not the fault of any dog anywhere. But I've gotten to the point where I see someone walking down the street with a puppy on a leash and I cringe and think "parvo bait." I see puppies in a kennel and I worry about what kind of temperament they're going to have, since they probably spent the first two months in a backyard, missing all kinds of crucial socialization. I see momma dogs with hanging teats and I wonder where her puppies are. Yes, this affects how I view puppies. It sucks.

Judge me all you want for this post. It's a great question: I can't pretend to love all animals. On the other hand, I don't treat the animals in my care poorly, and I want them to live long, happy, healthy lives. I'm not taking them home, though, either.

3 comments:

Sarah said...

I understand completely. I rarely have to handle kittens - thank the heavens - but I think I would hate them if I had to deal with them every day. Puppies are bad enough.

I don't like dogs less than when I started working in a shelter, but how I think about dogs has changed dramatically. My innocence and wonder is gone. There are very, very few dogs that I'd want to bring into my home, and like you, I easily recognize the bad ones. The flip side of that is that I also recognize the good ones, the dogs that have an amazingly solid temperament and untold potential. I'm glad that I can identify those ones and do something to help them.

On the other hand, there are dogs out there that I would happily euthanize. Dogs that haven't done anything bad yet, but who I don't think are good family pets. I would have never held such a position before I started working in a shelter.

Marie said...

I totally understand where you are coming from. I've worked at a shelter as staff and do not miss it at all. I mostly worked with the dogs and hated listening to the barking all the time. HATED it! I am happy being a dog trainer and (mostly) love it aside from some of the people. I also work at a vet office now as a receptionist (formerly a tech)and I do not miss having to wrestle stinky or uncooperative pets. I like animals but I have my limits. I also don't want to take them all home and don't feel the need to save every one. Not all of them SHOULD be saved either. But like you I don't want to see them hurt. I can't imagine ANYONE giving you flack for this post, you have explained yourself VERY well. If they don't get it from the post then they never will.

themacinator said...

Thanks Sarah and Marie.

Sarah, I think you said it better than I did, as usual: people who read my blog usually rearticulate what I want to say in a much better manner.

You wrote: I don't like dogs less than when I started working in a shelter, but how I think about dogs has changed dramatically. My innocence and wonder is gone. There are very, very few dogs that I'd want to bring into my home, and like you, I easily recognize the bad ones. The flip side of that is that I also recognize the good ones, the dogs that have an amazingly solid temperament and untold potential. I'm glad that I can identify those ones and do something to help them.

On the other hand, there are dogs out there that I would happily euthanize. Dogs that haven't done anything bad yet, but who I don't think are good family pets. I would have never held such a position before I started working in a shelter.


I know you, and I don't think you mean "happily," in any sort of trite sense, but I would, if I had written this, and I wish I had, ammend it a little as I go back and forth on my struggles with no-kill. I think for me, it's something like "feel few qualms about" in terms of safety, etc. I make snap judgments about dogs much more quickly these days, and much more quickly than many people would like, but in many cases, a dog that is unsound enough to show serious unsoundness in the first meeting, is going to show some of that later. Some dogs won't show it until later, and some dogs are really just freaked out, but I'm unwilling to forget first impressions.

And I really do hold grudges. The problem, and I'm acknowledging that this is a problem, is that I resent the animals for the problems: over population, (yes I still believe in it), bad breeding, temperament flaws, etc. Of course I don't then take it OUT on the animals, but I can't look at puppies and kittens the same way. This is a problem, and Marie, what I was expecting the flak for. I really appreciate you ladies and your kindness!