Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Shelter

As I mentioned the other day, two weeks ago I had no interest in living in the country. Now, it's all I can think about. My change of heart came very abruptly and completely by accident, as a result of a seemingly unrelated event in my life last week. Here's the whole story.

Last Tuesday, I had on my calendar that the Lawrence animal shelter (where I've been volunteering for the last 10.5 years for anyone who doesn't know) was supposed to have a fundraiser at Vermont Street BBQ, where the restaurant would donate a percentage of their proceeds for the evening to the humane society. Since Chad and I didn't have anything at home for dinner and he was on his way back into town from a meeting in KC, I called to see if he wanted to meet me at Vermont Street directly after work. I didn't have the flier though, so I went online to see if I could download it from the shelter's website. The event wasn't listed on the website calendar, so I called the shelter to see if it was still on, thinking that Chad could pick up the flier on his way into town from KC.

So when I called, one of the staff members (who shall remain nameless) answered, and here's how the conversation went:

Me: Hi "R", this is Kim Luce. How are you doing?

"R": Oh, Kim. Petfinder.com.

Me: Uh, what about it?

"R": Sally, Clover, Lei Ah, and Lemon Pie have all been adopted...well, actually they were transferred.

Me: Actually, I know. I've changed their information, but since they are all still available for adoption elsewhere I want to leave them as adoptable so that if people are searching for those breeds they will still be picked up in a search. (Which, by the way, I already told "R" on the day that she told me they were transferred, but I didn't remind her that we'd already talked about this.)

"R": (silence)

Me: I'm not sure what you want me to say about those, since I've left them that way for a reason.

"R": Well, I just know that every time I go to look at Petfinder on Mondays when we need to talk about a dog on the radio, I look at the website and see gone, gone, gone, gone, gone all the way down the list.

Me: Well, every weekend when I'm there I find out who has gone home and who has been put down and I update it generally on Sunday night as soon as I find out.

"R": Well, this week it wasn't as bad, but--

Me: You know what "R", just forget it. (click)

For 10 years I've dedicated virtually every weekend that I was in town to taking pictures of adoptable dogs and uploading them to Petfinder and the LHS website. I've spent, on average, about 6 hours a week maintaining these two websites. Yet, the only time the staff generally bothers to mention Petfinder to me is to complain about something. Now I've certainly never expected some some grand recognition for what I do--I do it for the dogs and for the dogs alone. However, it would have been nice if the staff had at least acted as though they wanted my help.

It's not just their inconsideration that's the problem. There are loads and loads of other problems at the shelter that have frustrated me for years. Mostly, it's about the way they purposely deceive the public about the number of dogs that they euthanize there and why. The fact is that dogs are put down there every week, and yet they are constantly telling people they are a no-kill shelter. It has always made me crazy. I mean, how in the world will our community know they need to change their behaviors and attitudes towards homeless dogs if they have no idea we have a terrible overpopulation problem?

It's not that I fault the shelter for having to put dogs down in the first place--I know there are not enough homes and too many animals. However, I have major issues with the way they almost arbitrarily choose which dogs to put down. They are constantly picking perfectly adoptable dogs that the volunteers know and love and labeling them unadoptable because of "temperament." This can mean anything--barking or jumping in their kennel, nervousness around other dogs, stepping in their own poop too much--whatever. They rarely take the dogs out of their kennels to see what they might be like outside of the stressful shelter environment. They look for the worst in every dog instead of seeing each dog's wonderful potential.

I could go on and on, but basically the conversation above was just the final straw piled onto the massive heap of my long list of frustrations that's grown ridiculously large over the last 10 years. I just cannot deal with the horrible attitudes of the staff, with all the ridiculous lies, with the constant criticism of my help, with the lack of appreciation for my years of service. I've put up with all of it for all this time because I wanted to do everything I could to help those dogs that I love so much. I just don't think I can do it any more. It's so hard to turn my back on those dogs, but I just can't continue to support the organization when I disagree with so many of the decisions and all of the deception.

So last Tuesday when I came home, first I cried to Chad for a while because I just felt like my entire purpose in life had just been taken away from me. I can't imagine not doing something to help homeless animals. I can't imagine seeing all the new little faces at the shelter each week. I also can't imagine having my weekends free to relax and do yardwork and housework! I was completely distraught, and I was at a major crossroads.

So the next day I spent lots of time thinking and trying to figure out how I could continue doing what I'm the most passionate about. I researched all types of animal shelters, rescues and other facilities in the area trying to find someone who could use my services. I've emailed a few to see if I can start volunteering for them, but in the midst of my searching I noticed that the nearby Lecompton area didn't have any sort of shelter or rescue. I started pondering the possibility of actually starting a shelter in the area, which led me to look at available property, which led me to the house, which happened to have a HUGE horse barn, which would be relatively easy to convert to a dog rescue. Suddenly, all I could think of was living in the country so that I could start a rescue of my own.


cw said...

It is ironic that so many people think you actually WORK at the shelter, since their staff has treated you like a employee for so long. Along those lines, if my boss treated me that way - I would have quit a long time ago.

Whether we buy, remodel, or build - I am excited to someday make your rescue dream a reality. I won't mind hunting turkeys in our backyard either! :)

Amanda said...

Ok, this is so odd, I'm teetering on two completely opposing feelings right now... Completely outraged by how you have been treated – you are truly a selfless and loyal volunteer – it is soooo sad they took such advantage of that. They have no idea the impact you have made, but they are about to find out! Idiots! (btw, had NO idea it was a kill shelter!!!) But, on the flip side I'm jumping up and down at the thought of you having your own rescue in whatever form it happens to take! I think all this change is happening for a reason and everything will fall nicely into place!

The Faulkners said...

Kim, that would just be incredible! It's something I have always wanted to do. I can imagine how frustrated you are (and have been). You have done incredible things for those dogs and will do great things in the years to come to, just in a different way!

Erin said...

I got chills just thinking of you running your own shelter. You would do such a good job! They are complete idiots to treat ANY volunteer badly but especially you. I am shocked that they would not be bending over backwards to help you since you do so much for them.

Heather said...

Wow! Unbelievable. They are nuts to lose you. How can they not see all the work that you put in every week?

Country girl, eh? The house is beautiful. Oh! Your dogs would love to be in the country! Shelter....yes! There is so much you can do and you'll do it so well!