The TAPS Kennel Attendants are at the heart of all we do at TAPS. They are our front line in animal care on a day to day basis. The kennel attendants begin their shifts at 7:00 a.m. by walking the dogs each morning. Whether it’s raining, snowing, below freezing, or uncomfortably hot, they take the dogs out for at least a brief walk for a potty break. Then, it’s back into the shelter to start cleaning kennels, feed the dogs and cats, do laundry, and rotate the dogs into outdoor exercise kennels throughout the day. Our cat attendants are busy scooping litter boxes, replenishing food, and making sure the cat rooms are clean and ready for open.
The Kennel Attendant’s jobs are 365 days a year, 7 days a week. We require full staffing on holidays and inclement weather. There is no closing down for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and no snow days at an animal shelter. The position requires a committed individual that is willing to work hard, work with sick or scared animals, and clean up the many messes that animals make. Many people think working at a shelter is playing with dogs and cats. In reality, it is anything but play time. It is hard work to make sure the kennels are kept clean and debris free. You can clean a puppy kennel and as soon as you place a puppy back in it, it can go to the bathroom and roll in it in a matter of an instant.
Our Kennel Attendants are the first to get to know our animals and if they are off-shift when an animal gets adopted, they don’t ever get that opportunity to say good-bye. They attach themselves to our most vulnerable, scared and sick animals. They watch them blossom, and often times, once the animal is adopted, never get to see those animals again. Their hearts break over and over for every new animal that comes into the shelter. For some of those animals, we know it’s the best life they’ve ever seen and that makes it hard. Others have only ever lived as a beloved house pet and they are devastated and terrified by shelter life, and that makes it hard too.
Our Kennel Attendants go home with feces and urine on them, vomit and sometimes blood. They watch a healthy puppy they’ve fiercely cared for deteriorate with parvovirus because they were born in a back yard to a mother that had no vetting, taken away from their mom far too young, passed through multiple shelters before finding their way to TAPS, already exposed and sick with the virus before we can do anything to prevent it from taking over their little bodies. It’s not easy work, and yet they show up day after day.
Their heart again breaks when an animal is returned. An animal they’ve cared for and watched grow, happily leaving with their new family on adoption day, only to see the broken spirited animal walking back through the door when they realize what is happening. It is hard to look someone in the eye and say you understand why you are giving up on an animal when no, we don’t understand, but our Kennel Attendants are there to pick up the pieces of that broken soul that someone else created.
Our Kennel Attendants are the behind the scene heroes that receive little thanks for the hard work they do. They hear the complaints that an animal has pooped yet again, spilled their water, knocked over their food, have a wet blanket, and the list goes on and on. The next time you adopt, volunteer, or visit the shelter again, be sure to thank our Kennel Attendants for their work to care for so many animals in need each and every day.