The team at MHS is a very diverse and enjoyable crew. They have all entered the doors of our shelter from very unique walks of life. We have a banker, an accountant and a restaurant manager. Single moms, previous fry cooks and even sons and brothers who have followed in the footsteps of a family member who has also dedicated their lives towards our mission. Some of our staff are young and are just beginning their adult lives while others have carried many positions and many titles but have decided to make MHS their home until they retire. Regardless of their individual paths in life, they all have one common bond. Compassion for animals. Their love and dedication drives them daily towards one primary goal, to save as many lives as they possibly can.
To be employed at the Montgomery Humane Society there are a few qualifications that you must meet. Though some of our employees have advanced educations, we find that these particular traits outweigh specific degrees. I will list a few examples. Do you have what it takes?
You must be able to multi-task.
Every morning when you enter the walls of MHS there will be literally hundreds of animals waiting for you. They will desire your attention. They will need bathroom breaks. They will need their runs, rooms and cages cleaned and sanitized. They will need daily medications and transportation to veterinarians and offsite events. They will need their pictures taken, stories written, baths given and above all, they will need you to give all of these tasks your absolute all. The public will also be waiting on you while you are providing care to the animals. They will need information about an adoptable animal, they will need advice about the welfare of a neighbor’s pet or a place for their beloved pets to seek refuge while escaping an abusive relationship. You must be able to answer the ever ringing phone with a watering can in hand. You must be a master juggler. Everyone is waiting.
You must have good verbal communication skills.
You will be required to educate every single day. Impatient owners will need lessons about house training and destructive behavior. Can you help them maintain their current home? Neighbors, cousins and even the lady in line with you at Target need to know the importance of spay/neuter. If you can spread this message, you can limit the suffering that homelessness brings. Volunteers will need to understand the difference between limited access facilities and open admissions shelters like our own. We need their help and support. Adopters will need unlimited resources in reference to breed traits and adjustment anxiety of animals in a new home. We want this home to be their forever home. Your newer team members will need verbal queuing and advice about how to offer the 5 freedoms of animal welfare to our residents. We are only as strong as our weakest link. Teach them well. Last but not least, you will need to be the voice of the hundreds of animals in your care. These animals do not have a voice. Could you be theirs?
You must be empathetic.
You must not assume that everyone walking through our animal intake doors views their animals as expendable. After several hours of taking in dogs that grew too tall, or cats that weren’t factored into a move, you must keep an open mind. Even though your patience is wearing thin, you will need to cry with the terminal cancer patient who has no other choice. They need to know you understand. You will need to be willing to intervene in the lives of a man and his best friend of 8 years when he points to his rusty truck and shares with you that they’ve called it home for over a month now. They both need our help. You must be willing to hug the neck of an almost hopeless mom who doesn’t think the family dog will be safe in the home of her quickly growing non-verbal autistic son. She has both of their best interests in mind even though it breaks her to her core. Could you understand?
You must be able to provide first aid.
Some animals will walk through our doors ready to move forward into a forever loving home. Unfortunately, these animals will only make up a small percentage of those in need. You will need to remove and treat infected embedded collars, clean bite wounds and offer pain management to discarded senior pets. There will be different forms of mange to treat and daily physical therapy will need to be provided to a small breed with luxating knees. The situations and scenarios will be endless. You will have some support of local veterinarians but the day to day care will be entirely up to you. After washing away the triple antibiotic ointment and fur from your tired hands you’ll need to remember to offer aid to yourself. Your mind will be racing about the new ones entering our doors and you will feel your heart break almost in a literal manner. You’ll need to mend it quickly because around the corner there are hundreds more.
You must have thick skin.
The community you serve will either be your harshest of critics or your most endearing fans. There is rarely an in-between. Some will lay a comforting hand on your shoulder and ask you how you do it every day. You won’t have an answer but you will think to yourself, if not me, then who? You will know you face each day with compassion and for today, that’s enough. Others will not be so kind. They will call you callus, heartless, uncaring and worst of all, they will label you as a murderer. They have no clue that you currently have a litter of kittens in your guest bathroom and a heartworm positive foster in your living room. You are doing all you know to do. They will be oblivious to the fact that you just celebrated your 100th adoption of the week. They won’t realize that even though it’s taken over a month, your project dog just walked on leash. They will not dedicate one single moment to acknowledge all the good that you do. They will type tough on social media and bully you through private messages. They will spread rumors and lies and assume to know your heart, your methods and your intentions. You will lose co-workers who understandably buckle under the weight of it all. You will lose touch with family and friends who easily believe what they have read. You will lose many things, but you must not lose your will to continue to fight the good fight. You must acknowledge that the shortcomings of MHS are a direct product of those in our community that choose to throw stones instead of taking action. Those that do take action are there for you to lean on. Their kindness will come in many forms. They will volunteer, foster and donate. In the moments our skin isn’t nearly thick enough, they will be our shields.
You must be humble.
You will be directly responsible for the precious lives of hundreds everyday. The more compassion you offer, the thinner you will be stretched but you must never lack the compassion our animals deserve. You will need to do your very best to meet all that is required of you with 100% accuracy. A time may come where you could miss a step. You might forget to post the age of an adoptable animal with the picture you posted on Facebook. You may misidentify a breed or forget to call someone on the wishlist about the Yorkshire terrier that just moved into puppy room. You might misread paperwork while in a hurry or fail to notice the hair-loss on the belly of puppy leaving for its forever home. Plain and simple, you may make mistakes. If this happens, be humble. Reevaluate and learn from your mistake. Though the nasty jokes on Facebook and the angry words from the woman who really wants a small breed may be upsetting, do not use them as motivation for change. If you do fail, tuck your tail, take your lumps and modify for the animals that depend on you. As an MHS employee you must believe in accountability. You will hold yourself and those around you to a certain standard. In order to grow, we must be humble.
These are only a few of the many requirements needed to complete a work day at the Montgomery Humane Society. I am honored to have had the opportunity to lead a wonderful group of individuals who do poses these super human qualities. They are compassionate, brave and strong. They battle each day without even the thought of receiving acknowledgement for their hard work. They give their all for our community’s unwanted pets and I am so incredibly proud to fight alongside them. Please know that they find a great comfort in the knowledge that there are wonderful people who stand behind them, with them and if needed, in front of them. I will forever be indebted to your offering of the support they need to fight another day. I am looking forward to watching our organization grow and continue to save the lives of animals in need.