June 24, 2017
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All About Pets

Mickey Zeldes
All About Pets - Working at the shelter
May 5, 2017

I’ve done a couple of student interviews recently that really had me thinking about my job.  It’s not often that we take the time to think about, not really reflect, on why we are doing the job we are in.  Most of us, I know it’s true for myself, are so busy doing the work, that we don’t think about the “why” of the work and the “how” of the work – as in how did I get to this place to be doing this job.  I’d like to share some of the questions and my answers and you’ll see what I mean.  Ask yourself these questions about your job and see how you answer them.  It’s a good exercise!

Describe your job and what you do on a daily basis?  

  I’m the supervisor of the Shelter (a City-run facility) so I’m the top stop for problems and questions here at the shelter.  Of course I have a boss but he is a commander at Public Safety and has a lot else on his plate, besides not being familiar with shelters or animals (professionally), so most decisions stop at my level.  I don’t have a daily routine; there are just a few repeating things that are scheduled weekly.  Other than those few things every day is different!  I get updates on sick or injured animals to see what needs to be done next, I network animals with various rescue groups to see if I can get them out of the shelter, create adoption specials and other special events, post incoming stray animals on Facebook and Nextdoor, order supplies, submit work requests if things break (or try to fix them myself), train new staff, check in with volunteers, help in the front office if busy, do reports and projects (working right now on rewriting our City’s animal ordinances), etc.  Sometimes I’m thinking long-term about future renovations/projects and sometimes I’m very much in the present - unclogging the sink or restraining a cat for a blood draw. 

Do you enjoy this job? If yes, why? If no, why not?

Most of the time I really enjoy my job.  Of course there are hard parts too.  What I love the most is the variety each day brings.  I love all the people contact that I have - I’m constantly talking with staff, volunteers and the public.  Of course some of those people are not happy or have problems and I have to try to help them and that can be hard since I can’t always give them the answer they want.  I think at animal shelters we see the best in people (those who come in and adopt a senior or special needs animal) and the worst people (animal abusers, or those who surrender their pets for what we think are trivial reasons).  It’s hard not to become cynical and judgmental!

It is definitely not a desk job (although there is a fair amount of paperwork and I’m not directly involved with the care of the animals).  I really like the variety in my job.  One day I may be giving a talk at a club meeting, the next day I may be physically moving bags of donated food.  Then I may go to a meeting and work on ordinances and from there stop to buy some supplies at a store.  I’m constantly trying to post on Facebook and networking with rescues and other shelters - whether it’s to bring in animals when we have space or to find a placement for a special needs animal.  I have to be a “Jane of all trades” - I have to know about computer programs, dog and cat behavior, veterinary issues, human resource-type situations, building maintenance and more!  It is very challenging and I’m always learning.  The down side is some of the ethical and euthanasia decisions that have to be made.  It is hard when a stray dog is impounded and the owner is very poor and can’t really afford the fees to get their pet back.  When is it OK to waive fees and why for this person and not the next?  Do you put up for adoption an obviously old animal that has multiple health issues knowing he may be sick for months?  What if it’s the middle of kitten season and you need the space for all the younger, healthy animals that also need a home?  Different situations constantly come up that I have to make a decision about - and that can be trying and exhausting.  Overall it’s a great job though and I get to go home each day knowing I’ve made a difference.


Upcoming Events:

Registration for our popular Kidz ‘n Critters summer camp program for students in 2nd-7th grades is now open.  $125 per camper/$25 sibling discount for a one-week fun camp experience.  Each session is M-F, 8:30-1:00 and includes a camp T-shirt.  


Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at