Someone really wise once said, “Great friends are made when you go through war with them.” I know it’s not war, but on a lot of days it feels like triage, at the least. I am very grateful for the friends I have made in the time working at the humane society. We see a lot of shit together. Together we loose our faith in humanity. We keep clinging on together hoping that the ship still has a chance. On most days I hear my coworkers say, “What the fuck?” On other days I see them cry. On really hard days we go out, get drunk, and scream to the heavens. Sometimes it is really something quite simple that makes us turn our heads. Yesterday my coworker was filing a lost report. When she asked the gentlemen what the color of his dog was, he paused, looked at her, and said, “I don’t know.” How do you not know the color of our own dog?
People who work at shelters are different. A lot of them have a fantastic sense of humor. It’s ironic. People who deal with such sadness all day you would think would be pretty depressed. But for the most part we are a happy lot. Many of us come there trying to figure out our course in life. Some trying to find their careers, a couple that just need a job, others searching for the best possible way for them to achieve some good. Despite why staff members come, what they walk out with is so much more. Some would call it cynicism but I see it differently. Innocence is lost in place of a new wisdom. We are not blind to what people are capable of. Cruelty is a reality we live in. Still, it makes us shine that much brighter when we see good done in the world. Seeing death and sadness weaves some good into a person’s soul. It makes us inexplicitly happy when someone brings us cupcakes, it makes us sing out loud when a good song comes on the radio, it makes us dance at closing time, and it makes us high five one another when the sun comes out. It makes us calm when there is a moment of peace and nothing is happening.
A while back I read a book about the way dogs live. The author of the book simply followed her pet dog around and observed him. Her conclusion was that all dogs want is to lay on the side of a hill in the warm sun and have nothing happening. They love to explore and go on walks, sure, but they aren’t restless like a lot of people can become on a quiet afternoon. They just appreciate the silence for what it is. I used to think that conclusion was silly. Who wouldn’t love a grand adventure? Yet, now, I see my dog across the living room floor, sleeping in the sun, and I know he is at peace because there is so much worse that could be happening. This understanding brings dogs that have good homes tranquility much like the author noted in her book.
After working at the humane society, my coworkers and I see what life is like for the animals. Witnessing this turmoil builds within us that same respect for simple uninterrupted quiet. I have seen way too many people leave this job. Good people. It can be very hard to say goodbye to someone who has wrapped up a dead dog or cat with you. Who has fought beside you to argue with your boss why certain people shouldn’t take home a specific animal. Who have risked getting written up because we are following our sense of what is right. We see terrible decisions regarding the outcome of so many animals and share that same sense of helplessness.
When my coworkers now leave this job, I can’t help but think they are merely the old dogs in the book purely yearning for a sunny hillside. A life filled with the absence of chaos. They know it’s still there somewhere out in the world. They have seen it. They return home from their long journey never to truly be the same. Yet, they can now simply lie in the grass peacefully having learned just a little wisdom from our friends the animals.