"I don't know how you do this job!"
"I could never do your job."
"How do you do what you do?"
I can't recall how many times I have been asked these questions when on a call or even when I am anywhere and in uniform. Or when someone finds out what I do.
My most standard answer is, "I just do." Or, "somebody has to do it." This isn't far from the truth. To me it's like asking why am I left-handed. It's just a part of who I am.
To be honest, when I think about it, I have a hard time answering this.
I think I heard somewhere that what we do is "Save animals from people and save people from animals." That only encompasses a small portion of what we do, of what I do.
Another apparent shocker to the public is that I am a woman. I frequently get the stunned look when a door is opened, or I get out of the truck by the calling party. "They sent you? A woman to do this?" Granted it is usually elderly individuals or other women who say this, but really? Why not?
I'm sure to the scores of cars driving by as I am picking up some animal that has been hit by a car (sometimes multiple times), not only is the horrified look for the animal I am removing, but that I am a "girl." And "girls" just don't do icky things like that.
So why do I do this?
First, it's all about the animals. I have always had animals in my life. I feel a part of me is missing if I don't have animals around me.
Since I was little I was always rescuing sick, injured, or too young animals and birds. Nursing them back to health and finding them proper homes. I was also involved in 4-H, horse showing, and any other activity that involved animals. This I'm sure drove my mother crazy. She likes animals, but I wouldn't say she was crazy about them. And she showed a lot of patience and tolerance when I was growing up and bringing strays and wild life home. Thanks mom!
Somehow I think this had me pegged at a young age as being destine to be an animal control officer. I did try the veterinary field as a vet assistant for several years. And while I did enjoy my work, it still wasn't completely me. I was also very interested in law enforcement my entire life. And I did work for the Sheriff's Department for a few years. Somewhere along the line it clicked about Animal Control. The idea rolled around in my head for several years before I finally did something about it. I became an animal control officer.
But how do I do it? Seeing sick, injured, dead, neglected, abused and abandoned animals. Dealing with aggressive animals that want to eat my face. Dealing with people who cause the problems and the angry people who think we don't do our jobs good enough.
I would be lying if I said there weren't days that I wonder why the heck I put up with these people, or how I can stand to see another sick or injured animal due to someone negligence or indifference.
There are days when I want to scream, or cry or punch someone in the face. There are days when I get angry having to defend what I do. And defend decisions I am forced to make.
But then there are those days, even those moments, that make it all worth it. To see an animal happily reunited with it's owner after being lost, an animal that was in a bad situation go home to a new great family who will love them forever. To save just one makes it worth it. To get one out of a bad situation. To know that I made a difference in one life, saves one life. Or even end one life, humanely, with unconditional love and freedom from pain.
But how do I deal with all the death? Picking up dead animals. Euthanizing animals. Having grown up with animals, lots of animals, and trying to nurture sick or injured animals, I early on was exposed to the facts of life and death. I won't say that death doesn't bother me. It's never easy. No matter how many times you go through it. But, I think I have a realistic understanding of death. And I very rarely get grossed out by roadkill. Part of the trick is to not personalize it. Don't think about it too much.
It's almost a pre-requisite to have a good, although bizarre at times, sense of humor for this job. I'm glad I have one.
So does this explain why I am an animal control officer? Does this explain how and why I can do this job?
I guess it's not something that can be completely explained. It just is.
This job is definitely not one just anyone can do. I'm just happy that I am one of those who can.
(You can read more of my past adventures by visiting my personal blog at http://www.tailsfromthefield.blogspot.com/ )