"Don't you just want to take them all home?" asked the mother of a girl scout whose troop was taking a tour of HAWS. Our shelter would be well funded if we were given a nickle donation everytime one of our staff is asked that question.
My very fast answer was no, and the woman was a bit taken aback in surprise, before she started chuckling.
The truth is that to be a successful shelter employee you can't want to take them all home. That kind of mind set ends up was the employee being frustrated or, even worse, an animal horder. Burn out is very common in the animal welfare industry and shelter turn-over is generally very high.
One of the problems with working in a shelter is that we see a lot of very heartbreaking cases, and there seems to never be an end to common animal welfare problems. Just when you adopt out a few cats and gain some empty cages someone walks in with a litter of kittens. When the dog that's been living at the shelter for 5 months finally gets a new home, there seems to be another to take his place.
But part of my job as a humane educator is to teach people about taking responsibility for their pets and making good choices. I generally practice what I preach.
I know that I can only afford 2 dogs and still be financially comfortable. I know that I like very (some would say overly) affectionate dogs, and because I enjoy the training process I like very smart dogs. Since I enjoy hiking I want a dog who has enough energy to go long distances several times a week. And due to the fact that I spend a lot of time with other people who also have dogs I need a dog who is going to be very social with both people and other dogs.
I've come to realize that not all animals are going be a good idea for my home. And over the years of working at HAWS I've seen so many success stories of animals that have found fantastic homes, that I don't feel the need to save them by taking them myself.
HAWS is unusual in the animal welfare community in that we don't have a lot of turnover. I've worked with the same people for the most part the last 8 years I've been employed here. I think that's due in part to the fact that our staff really doesn't want to take them all home.