You’re Killin’ Me, Dog! What It's Like to Work at an Animal Shelter

From early 2009 through mid-2010, I worked in an animal shelter. You definitely don’t need any specialized training for the position, but it was still a difficult job. My experience working at an animal shelter taught me a lot about people and animals.

I was excited when I got the job. On the last day of my temporary job, I got a call from my local government agency that I’d been chosen for hire at an animal shelter. I now had a job that was making me more money, and was relieved I wouldn’t have to be unemployed again.

That first day, all new kennel attendants filled out paperwork. The following day, we were told to arrive at the animal shelter in clothes we didn’t mind getting dirty. Actually, filthy. My training was easy enough – I’d volunteered at an animal shelter once before, but never witnessed a euthanasia.

While I don’t remember many details from my first work day, I do remember the dog laying there. I was walking through the back of the shelter, when I crossed paths with the most beautiful Bull Mastiff sleeping on the floor. Only it wasn’t sleeping, it was deceased. Our supervisor gave my colleagues an earful for allowing my poor little eyes to see that on the first day, but I eventually felt it better that I had seen it early on in my experience.

The most often euthanized breeds at this shelter were Chihuahuas and Pit Bulls; both highly overbred, equally loved and hated. The first euthanasia went smoothly, for better or worse. I remember the feeling of a dog dropping dead in my arms. The vet tech asked if I was okay, and I nodded, lying. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

I can’t tell enough people to please give a chance to a deserving pet in an animal shelter, though the awareness had started long before this job. Having volunteered in an animal shelter, I found it heartbreaking going from week to week, and seeing so many dogs disappear because their time was up. Something about it is unfair, and the waste of life uncanny. But the best many of us can do is spending a little time and energy with a creature whose time is very finite.

Sometimes people were wonderful. A woman wouldn’t leave a year-old Pit Bull puppy since she knew he was going to die, even though she already had three Pomeranians. Another woman found out another year-old Pit Bull puppy would die, but left him because he was too gentle with the neighborhood children. A family left an 18-year-old Pit Bull named Stormy to die alone at the shelter. Stormy luckily went home with a kind woman and her niece.

I left the shelter because I needed a better job and a better life, and went looking for it in another city, but not before rescuing an awkward 3-year-old Pit Bull with a tuxedo-like pattern on his coat. Today,his name is Kuro-Inu, Japanese for, ‘Black Dog.’ And man, he’s funny.