This is a sentence that those of use who work in animal welfare hear regularly when we tell others what it is we do for a living. I generally assume that people mean that it would be so heartbreaking and depressing trying to cope with the sad stories and outcomes, that they wouldn't be able to emotionally handle it.
It is true that it takes a certain personality type to be able to handle some of the things we see -- there are sad stories that we have to cope with. I don't think there's anyone working here at HAWS that hasn't cried over some of the animals that have come through our doors.
But I think what most people who speak this sentence are missing, is that we do it because we feel we truly can make a difference, and because the stories with happy endings far outweigh the sad stories.
We get to see lost animals reunited with worried owners frantic to find them. We see animals with injuries rehabilitated and adopted out to new homes. Animals up for adoption that get passed over for months on end finally find the perfect family.
Recently one animal was surrendered to HAWS that had most of the staff over the moon in love with her. Oscar was surrendered by the daughter of her owner -- a man who was experiencing medical problems and could no longer care for her or give her the time she deserved. Many of us don't have parrot experience, and were suprised at just how much a Cockatoo has to give. As we discovered just how special and affectionate she was, she spent less and less time her her cage. For over a week Oscar could be found snuggling with one of our staff either behind the front desk, or in someone's office.
Oscar liked to have her neck rubbed, and would push her head into your hands when she wanted to ask for it. She loved to sit on shoulders, but even better was if someone was sitting down she'd sit on your lap and lean into your body. Oscar was all about the snuggling.
Although some of us had fantasized about keeping Oscar as an official HAWS mascot, we realized it wouldn't be the right thing for her. She really needed a home without the activity level of our shelter, and without the sounds of crowds on the weekends, and dogs barking. Because we were so taken with her, and because we knew that she required an adopter who understood parrots and how much attention they needed, we were looking for very special people. And we found them. Oscar's new owners has recently lost their Amazon Parrot to cancer and were ready for a new feathered friend. Their vet gave them an extremely high reference, and Oscar really seemed to like them.
We said goodbye to Oscar last week -- happy that she had the perfect home, and knowing that she was making two people very happy as well. That's what working in animal welfare is all about.