No question, this is a tough “business.”
Those of us working in it confront difficult situations regularly. And sometimes it seems, there’s not much of a breather before the next difficult case lands in our laps.
Thing is, nobody enters into this without knowing how hard it can be. We know of and work with many incredible people doing incredible things across the metro, all of whom have accepted that it’s not going to be easy.
In fact, we shudder to think what would happen to thousands of animals if those people weren’t there doing the tough stuff they do to ease the suffering of our four-legged friends.
“We’re in a tough time right now,” said Pet Resource Center of Kansas City (PRCKC) founder and CEO, Michille Dormady. “Maybe the toughest I’ve ever seen. Shelters are full, rescues are scrambling, cases are coming one after another all day, every day, and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.”
It can take an emotional toll, she says. But, Dormady adds, any time the community has a need, the outpouring of love and support shows how good people are; in reality, it’s only a small fraction of people causing most of the issues.
Most importantly for us is to not judge people before we really understand them or their situations. Being negative or judgmental repels people from doing some of the rescue or advocacy work we need them to do.
”Our approach,” Dormady says, “is to keep everything positive. That alone helps with the emotional toll but also, honestly, it makes it easier to approach and help people who need it. Those of us in animal welfare can gain their trust that way, which opens more doors.”
Case in point: Two summers ago our outreach team was at the KCPP shelter when they met a lady who wanted to relinquish her dog. The dog belonged to her son who had moved out and she was having a hard time taking care of him. Other homeowners in the neighborhood were complaining about the dog, too, and she was at a loss about what to do.
When our team took the time to sit with her and talk openly and honestly about her options, she let her guard down and began working with our staff to solve her problems. She took the dog home and, with a little assistance, continued to care for him.
By working to build a relationship with families, they let us in versus shutting us out. And that helps us accomplish our goal of helping pets.
But what about cruelty or neglect?
“We have zero tolerance for it,” says Kristin Roth, PRCKC director of community engagement. “Those are really hard to deal with. And we completely understand the wear and tear that it has on people. If it’s a situation that seems neglectful, at first we try to provide some education and assistance. Then go from there. If we can turn a situation around then that’s far better than working to get an animal removed and put into the already stressed shelter system.”
Letting the good show
At the end of the day, what we all want is to help the animals in our city have the best care and all the love they want. We believe – firmly – that the best way to do that is to leave our judgments behind and focus on solving problems.
Yes, there are tough days. Even tough weeks. And when the weather is extreme like it has been here lately, that can bring more issues to our attention. Some of them are intractable, which wears on all of us. After all, we’re here to solve problems.
Still, at the end of the day, when we take a moment to be open, to listen without a conclusion upfront before we ever know the full story, well, that’s how we can provide the most assistance. It seems a bit counterintuitive, especially when your first emotion is anger. As long as it’s not cruelty or neglect, taking a little time to understand can change the game.
“We’ve been very open minded with people,” says Dormady. “When we listen, we find out the full story. A lot of times we turn those situations around. That’s why we’re here.”