THIS IS WHAT NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT WORKING IN AN ANIMAL SHELTER



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Melissa Fogarty and Bridie (adopted) © Cynthia Raven / Hempstead Town Animal Shelter

Melissa Fogarty: As shelter staffers, we cry, a lot. But resilience becomes a huge describing word for both our characters and the animals we care for. It’s remarkable how much an individual with a big heart can endure and also what these abused and neglected animals can endure.

Shelter animals aren’t broken or bad — they’re misunderstood. Don’t be put off by adopting an adult because they came in as a stray. Stray animals aren’t unpredictable or misbehaved.

My staff works hard, and it really is a thankless job. No one sees the hours we put in and how early or late we come in. We don’t get paid for this extra time. We just do what we have to because it’s what’s best for the animals in our care.


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Melissa Fogarty and Pretty

For all the pain, however, there’s also a lot of joy, like seeing an animal who is so terrified start to open up. Jackie and I once worked with a dog named Cleo who was surrendered by her family. She was terrified and wouldn’t let anyone get near her, so we sat in her kennel, coaxing her towards us with cat food. It took us 45 minutes and a lot of cat food to get her, but she eventually came around.

Cleo was pulled by one of our rescue partners and now lives with kids. I’ve had to do this with a lot of dogs, but she was the first. I’ve lost a lot of pieces of my heart, but this job and these animals have really helped me find myself. I had no direction for a very long time, but this has become my direction.

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