The following article was written by Barbara Yarnell, a volunteer with Brown County Humane Society (BCHS)
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with BCHS shelter manager Caity Friedersdorf. I wanted to know if managing an animal shelter meant playing with fluffy kittens and bouncy puppies all day — or if there is actual work involved in the job.
The day of our meeting started early at BCHS. Overnight one of the shelter dogs delivered eight puppies. Immediately the word went out, a foster home was found and transportation arrangements made.
Finally, after everyone was taken care of, we were able to sit down and I turned on the tape recorder.
QUESTION: What does a shelter manager’s job include?
CAITY: It varies greatly depending on the shelter. Aside from the general management duties like scheduling, payroll and that kind of stuff, a lot of my day is very hands on. Helping customers, talking to adopters, working with the animals, doing vaccines and working with other shelters. Whatever walks in the door, whatever is thrown at you.
QUESTION: What is the best part of your job?
CAITY: It’s hard to identify one thing. If I could make a blanket statement it would be not just the work we do to help animals, but the work we do to help people also. People love their pets. It’s not really just saving animals, but helping the animal/human relationship. That way people can keep the pet in their home, animals don’t have to come here — it’s a win-win.
QUESTION: What is the worst part of your job?
CAITY: Obviously there are stressful parts. We had a kitten pass away a couple weeks ago. No clue why, he was doing fine, and then he wasn’t. We took him to the vet, all the supportive care, and he still passed away.
Or the situations that we just aren’t able to fix. This family has a dog, they love him, they’ve tried all these hundreds of things to make it work but it’s still not working. The times you aren’t able to have a happy ending make it hard. It seems to come in waves. You’ll have a week of horrible news back to back, and you’re thinking this is the worst week ever. Then the next week it’s all good news. Thankfully it balances out.
QUESTION: Were there any surprises about this job?
CAITY: For me, the biggest surprise is the number of people who want to help. We have hundreds of volunteers, some come once or twice a week to help clean cats, to scoop poop. The people are amazing. Some board members spend 40 plus hours a week as volunteers.
I feel pretty lucky to be at this shelter. Bigger municipal shelters face a lot of challenges that we don’t see here.
Of course, I didn’t really believe an animal shelter manager’s day was filled with whiskers and wet noses. Running a “small” shelter takes several staffers, a dedicated board of directors and hundreds of volunteers. And still, there’s more to do. So, thank you, Caity, for spending some of your valuable time with me and giving us some insight into the work you do.