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Coffee Break: Leaving the Sheltering Field and Deciding to Return

Has there been a point when you decided to stop working in the animal sheltering and rescue field? Why? What brought you back? That was the question we asked for this issue’s Coffee Break, and you responded with a slew of stories. In almost every case, your time away impacted your work for the better—fostering new perspectives and fresh outlooks on how you could be more effective in helping animals.

I’d been on the board of Kingdom Animal Shelter for three or four years, and we were having some strife on the board. I was feeling very discouraged and defeated. I resigned, as I was done with the stupid politics and personalities. After several of the people causing the trouble resigned, I was torn on returning. In the end, my desire to make a positive difference for the animals won out. I felt I could do more being in the organization than on my own.

Joyce Littlefield, president, Kingdom Animal Shelter, St. Johnsbury, Vermont

I began volunteering at the Animal Welfare Department’s Eastside Shelter in 1995. I used to walk in on Saturday mornings, before the shelter was open, before the runs had been cleaned, and all I could see were the bodies of animals being humanely euthanized. I knew in my mind that it had to be done … there just weren’t enough homes, but my heart broke. I swallowed the tears, and I told them all they were loved. When the numbness set in, I knew it was time to take a break. … For a while, I used the website to get animals adopted, but refrained from actual contact with them. Somehow that just didn’t satisfy my soul, so back I went to try, try again. Then I lost that one very special dog, and now I concentrate on pulling little rescues. My heart knows I’m making a difference, and no matter what, I’ll keep on keeping on because every homeless animal matters, and they matter more than my hurting heart.

Susan Smith, volunteer, Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department, Eastside Shelter Albuquerque, New Mexico

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