Happy New Year, Shelter Worker

 

To me the New Year has always felt like a fleeting promise. This year is different. It’s the first time in my life that the promise is not so fleeting after all.

After 14 years in animal sheltering, the New Year has become a necessary time for me to pause and look back. If you know me at all, I don’t like looking back. I much prefer to look ahead. Even when we’ve had a big win or made measurable progress, it makes me uncomfortable to spend too much time celebrating. Lest we forget about all the work still ahead.

In my attempt at keeping my eye on the prize (the prize being progress), I’ve probably made it just a little bit harder for me to persist in such a tough industry. Make no mistake, though the industry as a whole is progressing, it is still a world wherein a loss is quite literally the loss of a life. Every single death or poor decision leading to that death chips away at even the strongest resolve.

VSA
2017 Highlights: VSA

That’s partly why it’s so important every New Year to pause and reflect on both the good and the bad. Here is how my reflections went this New Year…

The year 2017 was one of the hardest years of my career. Among other personal struggles, the year closed with me taking my first deferment in a continuing education course (In a word: Humiliating). It was the year I got hit with not one, but two, of the most painful losses of my career when Chester and Chewy were euthanized (Agonizing). And it opened with me still reeling from the loss of the best friend I’d ever had while also being personally attacked in a professional setting (Paralyzing).

It should have been one of the most devastating years of my career in animal sheltering, but thankfully, it wasn’t. Here’s why.

In the midst of sharing my grief over my best friend, a new friend gave me the perspective I needed to keep going in this industry. An industry that, by the way, abounds with reminders of all the things I wish I could have done differently before I lost her (Reviving).

In the face of the unwarranted personal attacks on me – attacks that stem from my role in a shelter that euthanizes – I found one, then two, then a few open-minded people who took the time to get to know me before making their minds up about me (Encouraging). I could not have persisted without their support.

In the aftermath of my grief over Chester and then Chewy, I found inspiration in passionate people who are creating life-saving programs in other communities. Programs that will save the next Chester & Chewy (Strengthening).

And I found that despite what I thought of myself for taking a deferral in an important course, my own dog, who depends on me for every little thing, still looks at me like I’m the greatest thing since squeeze cheese (Steadying).

Hope Snuggles
2017 Highlights: Hope

I guess what the New Year has brought me is a greater sense of peace by reminding me that…

The loss of someone you love can be the very reason to keep on living, even if it means living without them.

Though there is hate in this world, there is also love.

Keeping up the good fight means relying on and supporting the people that are in it with you.

Though you may feel really small at times, there is always someone who thinks of you as their entire world.

Above all, my New Year reflections have reminded me that no matter how hopeless any given moment may seem, life is full of endless hope and possibility.

Toro Kisses
2017 Highlights: Life-saving shelter programs

For the first time, I’m looking forward to the new year! What about you? What are you looking forward to in 2018?