Do you know what emergency response animal sheltering consists of? It’s not “oh, look at the nice people feeding the animals”. No, it is hard, grueling days. You stumble out of bed in the morning, and stumble back at the end of your shift, which if you are lucky only lasted 16 hours or so. You try to stay awake long enough to hit the shower. You eat whatever volunteers bring to the site, or hit the fast food on the way home. You walk, socialize, groom and care for dogs/cats/others all day long. Everyone needs to be fed, everyone needs to be cleaned, everyone needs to be walked a couple of times a day. You have to deal with the mess and smell of animals with upset stomachs from stress and unfamiliar food.
In between you are frantically trying to organize supplies and volunteers. You need to make sure each animal has temporary identification which specifies where he/she was found. You have to pause a million times a day to talk to people, intake animals, direct volunteers. You do not stop. There are no meal times, no coffee breaks. There is only the constant pressing need to do more, do it all, give all you have. And if, by sheer chance, you have an extra moment, you give it to an animal who is scare and worried about where he’s ended up…missing home and family, scared of the sounds, the smells, the sights.
You grimly smile and grit your teeth when people show up who are obviously taking this opportunity to dump animals they are tired of. You worry about every single being under your care; the old, the sick, the scared, the aggressive. You do everything you can to give them a modicum of comfort in such an alien situation.
You patiently give owners the time and space to visit their beloved family members, and you tear up as you watch them have to leave their companions behind. You deal with people who are rude or aggressive because of the stress they are under. You hold your tongue, because you know how hard it must be to have lost everything.
You cry at the condition of some of the animals. You cry when you see their terror. You cry when new animals come in. You cry when they are reunited with their people. You cry until there are no tears left, just pure exhaustion.
That is the reality of what our emergency response teams are up against. I know, I’ve done it.