What makes a veterinarian want to take on a shelter job?
I must be crazy. I’ve fielded an offer to apply for a [very] part-time position at my local Animal Services shelter. I completed the paperwork for my app just before posting this and I’m now waiting for Miami-Dade County approval on my license and other basic pre-employment necessities.
I’m not completely sure what makes most vets take on the more stressful, lower-paying positions most shelters offer animal healthcare workers. I can only offer you the reasons I’m conscious of in my own case…
1-I’ve always wanted to experience things behind-the-scenes at a big municipal shelter.
2-It gives me a virtuous feeling knowing that I’m putting my time where my mouth tends to ramble. (Our County’s shelter is woefully understaffed. They just don’t have enough vet hours to do all the spays and neuters required in a timely fashion. It’s reported that hundreds a month are euthanized because potential adopters don’t want to wait for a vet to get to their choice next week.)
3-I’ll get lots more proficient at the big dog spays that tend to make me crazy with all that fat and horrorshow bleeding potential.
4-Though it certainly doesn’t pay like my regular job does, it’s something extra every month (and I’m really needing it right about now).
Considering that I was willing to do this for free (here’s hoping the County isn’t reading this), that last point is a not-insignificant factor. Money is a good thing, even if it’s about half my standard rate.
5-The fifth and final reason is the one perhaps most interesting to you (and most selfish for me): It’s gotta be great blog fodder.
But don’t despair, it’s not as if I’m taking on what I consider to be a critical job in animal welfare simply to expose the nasty underbelly of shelter life. I think we’re all familiar with its harsh realities and probably wouldn’t benefit from having them thrust in our faces one more time.
The problems at this shelter are widely known. Its solutions, too, are on the table and imminently forthcoming, albeit at a snail’s pace. So don’t expect a knock-down drag-out whistle-blowing post after each of my weekly shifts. It’s not going to happen.
Rather, my goal is to address the nuances of shelter medicine—not to spew politics (though it will be impossible to stay completely free and clear of these themes, I’m afraid). This’ll hopefully open our eyes to the unseen realities of being an animal healthcare worker in a less-than-pristine clinical setting.
I, for one am both thrilled and apprehensive. Though I probably won’t start for a few weeks (the County is slooow), in the interim, I promise to keep you posted on my start date and first posts (assuming this prelude-to-the-position-post doesn’t do me in on what should be a formality). Sure, you might think I’m somewhat naïve to announce my intentions to the world, especially when we’re dealing with the vagaries of County government. But what can I say? I know they need me.