“Two dogs just came in and there's nowhere to put them.”
I didn't look up from my computer. I knew by the loud voice and looming presence in my doorway that it was kennel attendant Joel, who never stopped complaining about how “full” the shelter was. I wondered then, as I would for the rest of my career in animal sheltering, why people who don't like cleaning kennels apply for jobs cleaning kennels.
“The dogs going to surgery tomorrow can move to the barn kennels.” The “barn” kennels were overflow chain link kennels in the parking lot, not great for long-term housing but good enough for those about to go home, or somewhere, soon.
I could feel Joel frowning even though I still didn't look up. The staff didn't like putting dogs in the overflow kennels because they were a pain to clean, but the alternative was putting multiple dogs who don't know each other together in the regular kennels. This was successful more often than not, but when not, had led to some serious injuries and even deaths. Realizing the conversation was over, Joel huffed and walked away. Minutes later, animal control officer Brooks stood in the same spot.
“Morning,” she said. “I just picked up two dogs in a guy's chicken coop. He witnessed one of the dogs actually killing the chickens, but the other dog was just standing there, so he doesn't think that one did any killing. Here's the kennel cards.”
“Thanks,” I said as she handed me the cards. “Any owner info?”
“No, no collars, no chips. The chicken owner says he never saw them before.”
“Thanks. How's your day going?” I asked as I thought of how much I respected Officer Brooks. She was a hard working and truly caring person. The previous summer, when the overcrowded conditions led to an outbreak of ringworm in the cat room, she took 38 shelter cats into her own home and treated them for months until they were healthy, then placed them through several rescue groups because of course by the time they were well every cage in the shelter was full and there was “nowhere to put them.” After a short chat, Brooks headed back to her truck to roll out on the next call and I went back to my email.
A while later, I felt a little dizzy and realized I needed to eat. Logging off my desktop computer, I stood up and stretched, feeling the blood rush to my head and seeing little spots dance all over the room. I headed for the break room where I had a plate of dinner leftovers waiting to be eaten for lunch. Walking sluggishly through the swinging double doors and down the long aisle of dog kennels, I glanced around, smiled and said hi to the dogs as I always did, extending a hand for those who wanted to sniff or lick. Little Chihuahua-Terriers danced on their hind legs, thrusting their black button noses through the bars of their kennels towards me. An old yellow Lab didn't rise from her bed but looked up with a benevolent white face and thumped her tail on the floor, and in the kennel beside her, two dogs stood and looked around as if they were confused … a white Husky mix and a big black German Shepherd.