I grew up with the understanding that whatever my job, I should do my very best at it. Anything less would be unethical. If each person does his very best at his job, we are a country of greatness. If some slack off, we are only as strong as our weakest link.
I work in an office. It’s not particularly interesting to the general public and there are no puppies or kittens involved. I don’t get to save lives. Still, once in awhile, I appreciate when someone notices I do good work and thanks me for it. I do my job because I am being paid to do it but a little recognition when I’ve gone the extra mile feels good.
If you work in a shelter, your job is to protect the pets in your care from harm. Although the work itself may be tedious or challenging at times, there are some added bonuses: the public is interested in your work, there are puppies and kittens, and you get to save lives. Pretty sweet built-in bonuses if you ask me. And I can imagine that like me, you appreciate someone recognizing your hard work from time to time and saying thanks.
But here’s the thing. Protecting animals from harm and saving their lives is your job. You signed up for the work. You get paid for it. In that sense, it’s no different than the work I do at my office or the work most anyone does anywhere. It’s a job where you have to meet certain deadlines, quotas, etc. You punch in, you earn your paycheck, you punch out. Like other caring pet advocates, you might volunteer to do more on your own time, using your own money. That’s extra work that you choose to take on and it is appreciated. Or maybe you choose to do no extra work for shelter pets. Maybe you do the required work at the shelter and then leave. That’s your choice and no one is knocking you for it.
Due to a number of factors which have resulted in a broken chain of weak links within our nation’s shelter system, there are many shelter workers who are failing to do their jobs. Worse yet, they are not only failing to protect animals from harm and save their lives, some are literally harming the pets in their care and killing them. The harm may be in the form of neglect or it might be actual physical abuse. The killing is usually sanctioned by those in charge – the very people who have the authority to force them to do their jobs but instead, allow them to harm and kill pets.
As if this bass-ackward situation could be any more screwed up, there is the perception among some that, on the rare occasions when you actually do your job at a shelter, you should be praised and hailed as a hero. Any little crumb that you toss out – anything that rises above the level of inflicting harm and killing puppies – we are supposed to reward you with flowery speeches and positive vibes. Click and treat, as if we are training you to perform behaviors consistent with doing your job and hoping you will want more clicks and treats and so will offer more crumbs.
But no. No because, if we were actually training you to do your job by thanking you for your crumbs, you’d damn well be doing it by now. No because, of all the shelters whose directors and staff I admire, none of them instituted reform by tossing out occasional crumbs while continuing to harm and kill pets. No because, I see that it is actually you who is training us to tow the line, to remain silent about the horrors you perpetrate against animals and to sing your praises in exchange for a crumb now and then. Click, crumb.
I know of no other job in this country where you can fail so completely, behave so cruelly and still get a paycheck. The public is interested in your job because most people believe you are kind-hearted workers who help animals in need. Many are unaware of the neglect, abuse and needless killing that goes on behind closed doors, paid for with their tax dollars. But every day, more people are learning the truth. And more people are refusing to sit down, shut up and accept your crumbs. More people are demanding that you do your job – not for any special thanks or recognition, just because it’s your job. I am one of those people and that makes me unpopular with those fighting to preserve the status quo and those who’ve been successfully trained under your click and crumb system. But it’s an issue of practicing a strong work ethic for the greater good, not a popularity contest.
Do your job, and do the very best you can at it. I have as much right to say that as any employer does to any employee because I am a taxpayer and a concerned citizen. I pay your salary. You work for me and like most people, I don’t want you to hurt or kill animals.
Do your job. If you go the extra mile from time to time, I will surely recognize and thank you for your efforts. I appreciate good work. But just protecting animals from harm and saving their lives 5 days a week – heck, that’s just your job. That’s the minimum I expect from you. Granted, it’s a damn fine line of work to be in and I admire you for the work you do but it is your job.
Do your job. And if you dig in your heels, resist meaningful change and refuse to implement proven lifesaving programs, I’m going to call you out on every little thing I see. And every big thing. Every. Thing. Because to do anything less is to give tacit approval to the harm and death you bring to shelter pets. And I won’t do that. You couldn’t pay me to do that.