I’m sitting here at my computer trying to gather my thoughts amongst the slew of emotions…anger, frustration, confusion, and most of all utter sadness. Things have been running around my mind of what I want to say. The challenging part is there is so much. I apologize for my thoughts maybe being all over the place and any grammatical errors currently. I usually go back through my posts to proofread better, but I need to not spend too much time on this. Thanks for understanding.
Disclaimer: These are the thoughts and opinions of myself only. Though others may feel the same way, I am not speaking on their behalf. My thoughts, opinions, and truths are my own. I do not represent anyone or any entity besides myself when I am writing this. There is use of explicit language in this post, so read at your own discretion.
As many of you know, I have been volunteering at the Gwinnett shelter for about 5 years now. When I was a teacher I started volunteering on my Saturdays to help take dogs out or help adopters. There were tough times then, I cried a few times (sometimes at the shelter), and felt defeated at moments. However, it wasn’t until I left teaching that I become even more involved. I was excited. Finally, I had more availability to volunteer and help out how I wanted to since animals are my passion.
I got involved with a group of other volunteers who were really making a difference with their picture and video taking to network the animals on Facebook. So, I became a part of that. Some weeks we would spend 3-4 days up there for hours working almost a full time job schedule (for free of course).
As I got more involved, unfortunately more sadness came along with it. I spent more time getting to know the dogs since I was there so often. I knew their names, their cage numbers, and their personalities. Before, when I was just going up there Saturdays, I was kind of blind to when or if animals were being killed. [By the way- I refuse to use the word “euthanize” for the killing of shelter animals. Let’s be real about what is happening. Euthanizing is when you put a pet down that is injured or ill, not healthy animals who just don’t have homes or rescues yet.]
So over the past 2 years, my life has changed drastically mainly because of my time as a volunteer. Don’t get me wrong, volunteering can be rewarding and I love spending time with the animals, but parts of my soul are forever lost due to the ongoing pain. Many volunteers have left or moved on to other ventures. Again, I don’t want to speak on behalf of anyone else, but if you talk to them I’m sure you’ll find similar reasoning.
I have trucked through though. The amount of times I’ve felt absolutely heart broken is impossible to count at this point. I’m always on edge anticipating who will be next on the chopping block. But here I was, beaten down not only by the sadness of the loss, but also of feeling like a worthless piece of shit. Never in my life in any place that I have worked or volunteered or been a part of as an organization have I felt more like a burden instead of an asset.
So, you have to see where one of the issues lies. I’m mentally and emotionally being drained only to feel like my compassion doesn’t matter. I don’t do this for praise, recognition, hours, etc. However, at some point you become burnt out and worn down.
As many of you also know, as volunteers we have run a pretty successful page to network the animals we work with via those pictures, videos, and interactions we did on all those days and hours at the shelter. I’m proud of the hard work we did as a TEAM. We reached out to rescues, we helped raise funds for animals in need, we displayed how a dog truly is versus what they were wrongfully labeled as in the shelter. We have answered questions and assisted with issues that arose due to the negligence of the shelter personnel that should have been handling these questions/concerns.
Through all of this all we got were scoldings. That we all need to stop “playing rescue” and not get involved. That we needed to refer rescues and people who had questions to the shelter. I have TONS of messages, texts, comments that I could dig up that show that people were trying to reach the correct people, but they usually never got a response, were brushed off, or left hanging.
Honestly, if it wasn’t for us getting involved hundreds of dogs would not have gotten out. Yet, we still were and are looked upon as what feels like a burden. Due to that, it’s clear why our volunteer group became smaller and smaller with time. I started to take on the shelter part of the page. Thankfully there were a few volunteers left still willing to help with some pictures and videos. Though they weren’t the best quality and we weren’t doing it anywhere near the level that the page was at before, we were still working to push the ones who needed it.
Keep in mind, we could no longer work with the rescue only (orange cards) due to risk management. We used to help even the dogs in the bites pod. We got quite a few of those dogs out to rescues. In fact, I personally (with the help of a few others in the rescue world), arranged for a dog (Hawk) to be adopted in Maine. He sat in the bite pod for months left to die practically.
I get picture updates from his adopter and he’s doing great. I feel bad for all the dogs now that barely have a chance because they don’t have us able to fight for them.
So, a lot of our pushing for the “hard to get out” dogs was over with anyway. But, we still tried to do what we could. We would take pictures of the dogs in their kennel window or get a quick video through a bonding pen. It wasn’t the same of course, but that’s really all we could do. At first, the shelter was doing their own videos of these rescue only babies. That lasted about a month. Sadly, those dogs are hardly ever being pushed, if at all.
I’m a very solutions based person. It’s quite annoying actually. I have to find a way to fix things even when it’s likely impossible to fix. I’ve met with almost every person in management, multiple times. I’ve even met with the person who oversees the shelter. I’ve sent emails. I’ve offered help with fostering hospice animals. I’ve reached out when I had an idea that could help specific dogs. I’ve reached out about my experiences with certain dogs to see if that would help that particular dog.
On top of that, I even braved speaking during an animal advisory committee meeting in front of the committee, all of management, and members of the community. My thing has always been about advocating for the under dogs…the ones the shelter management, some of the staff, and probably a lot of other people would say aren’t worth advocating for.
Literally I had one of the management personnel tell me that we should focus our efforts on getting the more adoptable ones out. No joke.
How about caring about the well being of the animals in their care? There was a dog named Louis who spent 11 fucking months in the bites pod. He came in February 2018 and was killed January 2019.
Please imagine what it is like to sit in a cage for 11 months with no outside time and no socialization only to be killed. I brought this up in one meeting I had with management the week after Louis was killed. I kid you not, they had NO clue who I was talking about. That is not ok, guys.
So no, I can’t just care about the more adoptable ones because they at least have a fighting chance. I understand there are some issues with the court system being really slow when it comes to court hold dogs like Louis. I know he had a sticky situation, but that doesn’t necessarily make a dog destined for death.
My concern is about the well being of these animals while in the shelter. Rapists and murderers in prisons get better treatment than these poor creatures. Do you see my frustration? Do you see why I am always in their corner fighting for them?
I have decided to walk away from pictures/videos, networking on the volunteers page, and helping behind the scenes. I’m done.
I ask that if you have questions about specific animals to adopt or rescue, that you go to the shelter or call them. Please continue to hound them until you get the help or questions answered to help the ones in need. I no longer wish to help others do their job that they can’t do because they lack any form of real compassion for these animals.
In all honesty, I may just step away from Facebook on a regular basis and just stick to like a few times during the week. Please do NOT message me about the shelter. Please do not request for us to do interactions. Please do not message our page to ask for assistance in regard to the shelter. I’m sorry if that sounds rude, but I’m not trying to be. I just cannot go through this shit anymore. I can’t.
I will likely just go back to volunteering how I did when I was a teacher. Just go in for a few hours, walk some dogs, possibly help adopters, and go about my way. I hate that, but honestly I’m no longer able to do much more. My help was never truly welcomed or appreciated. I feel like my efforts are going to waste. For what? To feel like this?
I can’t even advocate for people to come volunteer anymore. I want more people to help out, but I don’t want them to get sucked into feeling the way I feel too.
I’ll gladly assist with transport for rescues when I’m available, still going to foster, will still do temp fostering, will still advocate for animals, and still do whatever I can to make them feel loved during my time with them.
Now to the 2 things that have triggered this decision.
One of my favorite shelter dogs, Martha May, was killed yesterday for “aggressive toward animals”. She was at the shelter since November 2018. She sat through medical quarantines when there was a Strep Zoo outbreak, she was labeled as dog aggressive from the beginning. I remember one volunteer went to try and get her out, but felt kind of nervous by her behavior as she would often get very stressed in her kennel. So, I went to get her out myself and she actually did really well with me. In that moment, I felt for her. I felt like it was my calling to take her under my wing from afar to network. Almost each Sunday that I was there, I took her out just to walk her, give her belly rubs and treats. I pushed for her on social media. We had multiple posts on her. I pledged $100 for her to be rescued. Before we got into our new house, I even offered to do a short term foster for a rescue when I got to our new house before transport. Well, then she got adopted finally. I was worried at first. I’m always worried when it comes to particular dogs. There are just some that people give up on because they would rather do that instead of be patient with the dog.
From what I have heard, she was adopted in May and surrendered a few weeks later for attacking another dog. Apparently, the adopter never mentioned another dog nor did they bring the dog to meet Martha at the shelter. Ultimately, that lead to the other dog dying due to injuries. [I plan to pull records on her which I will insert in this post when I receive them to get the full report.]
This placed Martha in the bites pod hell. A few weeks ago, after I realized she was back and alone with barely any human interaction in the pod, I found out that she may be killed. I had to walk to the back parking lot to sob with another dog I had out. I knew that if Martha May was killed, it would be like adding salt to an open wound. I have posted about Gypsy 2 years ago. Her death hurt me like no other. And I felt compelled to save her too, but I didn’t. Every damn day I carry that fucking guilt with me. I know it’s not my fault, but I feel like I should have done more. Now, I feel the same for Martha. She’s gone. I was her advocate and I feel like I failed her and it’s not even my fault.
I’m drained guys. I’ve been at the shelter less. I spend like 2-3 hours on a Sunday walking dogs and sometimes doing a few videos of the ones needing help. But I’m hurting. I don’t want this to be about me, because the fact of the matter it should always be about the animals. That’s why I’m there. That’s why I’ve put myself emotionally through this hell over and over and over again.
If I felt supported, valued, truly appreciated instead of seen as a burden then perhaps this wouldn’t hurt as bad. Perhaps I wouldn’t have a reaction as such. But when you’ve already been beat down emotionally and to know that not a single person in management empathizes with you or feels the level of compassion you feel, it’s tough…
By the way, I’ve attached some insight, photos, videos of Martha May who I do not think was EXTREMELY DOG AGGRESSIVE as the shelter kept throwing around. Yes, she had some issues, but I guarantee you if she were to have been in the right placement or home, she would have gotten past it. She did not need to be killed.
RIP Martha May. I’m sorry I didn’t save you. I’m so sorry so many in charge lack empathy and compassion. I’m sorry our society is filled with uncaring sorry, excuses of a life. I will never forget you. You mattered to me. I saw your potential.
The second trigger to all of this is this damn email…
When this was first attached in the binder by my sign in sheet, I refused to sign it. I don’t like lying. I don’t like signing something I don’t agree with. How could I sign a document that says some of the stupidest bull shit that could ever exist in fucking 2019?????? We have this awesome, free resource of social media. We have this page that has helped so many and the shelter just brushes it off, yet takes all the credit. Don’t worry, they will be sure to shove the “no kill status” numbers down your throat until you’re blue in the face. You’re welcome for the help.
They finally realized I didn’t have this form signed, so they sent it via email. And notice how the email says “VOLUNTEER PRIVILEGES” will be suspended. Really? That’s the problem right there. Our volunteerism is seen as a god damn privilege. The sad thing is, they treat rescues the same way. I have a lot of rescue friends and a lot of people who are involved in various rescue groups. So many of them are fed up with GC because they treat rescues like it’s a privilege to pull from GC. Again, I am not speaking on their behalf, but I have even heard some rescue members state that out their own mouths. Our own GWINNETT labeled rescues and rescues that are run in Gwinnett are pulling from other counties that are further away because of how they are treated at GC.
Thank you so much GC for allowing me to work for free out of the compassion of my heart. Thank you for the depression that I have to live with and fight through every damn day.
So I’m done.
This has been a long time coming and like I said, I hate it…
…and I’m sorry.
Although I’ve suffered way more than what is healthy over this hell hole, I am so damn grateful for a few things I gained through my involvement:
-I met my boyfriend and bonded over something that is extremely important to the both of us
-Our baby girl, Haylee, came from the shelter 2 years ago
-The many lives I have been able to meet, love on, and help save
-The wonderful people who also have cared and worked selflessly behind the scenes. I have made great friends either in person or virtually on Facebook through networking. These are people who I could vent to, count on, cry with, and at least not feel as alone during the painful moments. These people have sacrificed so much, stood up for the animals, and fought for what is morally right. I am so grateful for those relationships.
So even though this isn’t really goodbye, it’s kind of like separating ties in a way. I was telling Hunter last night that I think we are destined for something bigger. I don’t know what it is, but I have had that feeling for years now. I plan to divert this anger, frustration, and pain into something that will be a catalyst for more change.
I am going to leave off with a quote that comes from a speech that I always refer to when I’m in hurting especially in regard to this matter.
“The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of MEN WHO FEAR THE WAY OF HUMAN PROGRESS.
The hate of men will pass and DICTATORS DIE and the power they took from the people, will return to the people and so long as men die liberty will never perish . . .
Soldiers, DON’T GIVE YOURSELF TO BRUTES,
men who DESPISE YOU,
who regiment your lives,
TELL YOU WHAT TO DO,
what to THINK,
or what to FEEL,
who drill you,
treat you like cattle,
USE YOU as cannon fodder.
Don’t give yourselves to these UNNATURAL MEN,
with machine minds,
and MACHINE HEARTS.
You are not machines.
You are not cattle.
You are men.
You have the love of humanity in your hearts.
You don’t hate, ONLY the unloved hate.
The unloved and the unnatural.
Soldiers, don’t fight for slavery…
FIGHT FOR LIBERTY.”