By Chris Nelson
La Plata County Humane Society
“Cats and dogs living together, MASS HYSTERIA!” is a line from the movie “Ghostbusters” and is delivered with great comedic timing by Bill Murray. I often say it when people ask me how things are going here at the shelter. In case you don’t believe me, here is an example of a typical day:
The first team members arrive around 7 a.m. The dogs hear them and start to bark and jump up and down, all wanting out to go to relieve themselves. The cats also begin rising and stretching. All the animals are excited to see us after 13 hours away. Then begins the cleaning and feeding chores. It takes an average of three to four hours to clean up after 80+ animals. We also have to sweep and mop the office area and begin answering phones. The medical staff is also preparing to do 15 to 20 spay/neuter surgeries.
We open a 11 a.m., and that’s when the fun begins. On an average day, more than 100 people come through the door. Some are here to get low-cost vaccines or microchips for their pets. Some are looking to adopt a fury friend. There may be an owner-requested euthanasia appointment. There are dogs and cats that go missing, being reunited and returned to their owners. Others are being surrendered and/or brought in as strays by Animal Protection officers. Don’t forget the volunteers walking dogs, the meetings with staff and working on fundraisers. Whew!
While all this is happening, we run through just about every emotion a human can experience. One minute, you are happy because a cat that was here for six months is getting adopted. Five minutes later, someone is screaming and cussing at you because they have to pay an impound fee to get their dog back. They accuse you of holding the dog hostage. Mind you, the dog has been picked up three times in two weeks. We might be crying with an owner whose beloved dog has just passed away. All in a day’s work times 10 at the shelter.
Through it all, we try and keep our sense of humor in place, while maintaining teamwork and professionalism. The adoptions, the reunited families and the satisfaction in making a difference for so many homeless animals, makes it all worthwhile. So stop by the shelter and join in the hysteria. You, too, can feel the satisfaction of saving a homeless or unwanted pet.
Chris Nelson is director of Animal Services at La Plata County Humane Society.