Hanging around an animal shelter is weird. There is no other place quite like it. I watch people who are incredibly good at their jobs, to whom their work is their whole life, but doing jobs everyone wish didn’t even need to be done. These people get off their shift sometimes covered in poop, or urine, or blood, or all three, from various species, and come back the next day, ready to get dirty again. They get yelled at and threatened by an ungrateful clientele, who wouldn’t trade jobs if they got paid 5 times what these heroes make.
And no one, really, is glad we need them. But we are so, so glad we have them.
They do serious and important work, for obscenely low wages, and they come back for more every day, and work harder (if that is even possible), than the day before. Yet in every other field of work, one of the goals is to stay relevant, to stay needed. “Save the newspapers” “Save the local television stations” “Save the brick and mortar/local stores.” But at a shelter, everyone would be absolutely thrilled to be rendered obsolete. Whether crime statistics are radically lowered or not, we still want and need police, and whether we have lots of fires or not, who doesn’t want plenty of firefighters, just in case? Animal shelter workers are unusual in this way — if we had fewer unwanted or neglected or abused animals, we could actually have fewer animal rescue workers. This is the craziest thing. I watch it happening all the time: people I admire more than any other people I have ever been around, my own real-life heroes, intentionally working toward a goal of making themselves obsolete.
Some days, watching them work, I am reminded of the Jerry Jeff Walker tune, one of my personal favorites, “Trying to Hold the Wind Up With a Sail.” I get tired just watching, exhausted from seeing the passion, and compassion, people muster every day, all the while hoping for, anticipating, even being motivated by the idea that some day, they won’t be needed. I am embarrassed now, to even mention what caused me to think of all this today. It is just a little video I made 6 months ago. I remember I liked the way it came out, and then the dog I made it for was adopted before we got a chance to publish it. Is there a better problem to have? I can’t think of one. That is the goal, after all. So, I forgot all about it, until today when I was cleaning up my YouTube channel. It actually felt great being obsolete for a few minutes while I watched it, and remembered what a nice dog Sam is, and that he found his forever home, thanks to my heroes.