By Jim Tedford, Director of Pet Identification at PetSafe
America’s communities are full of super-heroes! It’s true…they’re all around us and most of us never even notice them, because they’re not leaping tall buildings in a single bound or swinging through city streets on spider webs. Instead, they are working tirelessly to protect property and save lives. If we’re lucky, many of us will never need the services of firefighters, police officers or emergency medical technicians. But, these heroes are there for us when we DO need them.
There is another group of heroes we may never encounter, but should be very glad they are out there. People who work in our nation’s animal shelters deserve our recognition and our praise. These everyday heroes save lives each and every day. That may sound overdramatic, but it is not an overstatement. These folks face unspeakable cruelty and neglect so extreme most people cannot begin to imagine. They repair broken bodies and broken lives every day. And they deal with emotional highs and lows that surround animals and our relationships with them.
Since 1996, The Humane Society of the United States has celebrated National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week each year during the first full week of November. It is very difficult for the people who work in shelters to sing their own praises. They don’t perform their life-saving work for accolades or praise. Selflessly, they perform their life-saving work every day of the year including holidays when animals still need food, water and shelter. The least we can do is take one week out of the year to celebrate their amazing accomplishments.
Having spent 20 years working directly alongside these everyday heroes, I can attest to the fact that they often forget to take care of themselves. They are too invested in caring for the animals and protecting the public health and safety to worry about their own well-being. Their work isn’t about WHAT they do, but more about WHO they are. More than once during my own sheltering career, I remember forcing co-workers to take time off to refuel their bodies and spirits.
I have met thousands of animal shelter workers over the years and don’t recall ever having met one who performs heroic tasks for accolades or praise. Instead, these folks do what they do because they know it MUST be done. Shelter workers often hear the phrase, “I couldn’t do your job.” Shelter heroes should take that as a compliment. They are a rare breed. Very few people could stand up to the emotional and physical toll of this challenging work.
Take some time this week to say thanks to the people in your local animal shelter. Bake them some cookies, drop off a thank-you note, submit a letter of praise and thanks to the editor of your local paper. Sing their praises from the highest hill in whatever way you see fit. But don’t interrupt them for long … there are dogs and cats to be fed, kennels to be cleaned and lives to be saved!
How do you plan to show your appreciation for a local shelter this week? Why are you thankful for them?
If you are a shelter looking for tips on how to promote this week, click here for advice from The Humane Society.
Jim Tedford serves as Director of Pet Identification for PetSafe. Working on the front line of animal welfare for over 20 years, Jim has served as CEO for organizations in New York, Louisiana and Tennessee. Prior to joining PetSafe, Jim provided marketing and fundraising services to animal welfare organizations nationwide. Jim holds a degree in animal science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Jim and his wife Ann share their “empty nest” in the Smoky Mountains with adopted dogs Bodie, Sam, and Lila and a formerly homeless macaw, Gipper.