Thanks to the Ones Who Keep the Ship Afloat

Gratitude for the animal shelter workers.

Photo by karim_manjra on

There are so many instances when good people do really great work and don’t always get the recognition for it.

I’m reminded of the scene in Titanic where Leo and Kate are running through the boiler room and you see those hard-working guys in front of the coal engines, all grungy and sweaty and looking pretty worn out, shovels full of coal, just doing their job.

When you think about it, in those days, no one would have crossed the Atlantic without those guys. I don’t care if the luxury liner had three tennis courts and four grand staircases — it wasn’t going anywhere without the guys in the boiler room working their hind ends off to power the ship.

The same is true for an animal shelter.

Part of my job at the shelter is talking to folks about what we do — the services we provide, the programs we have, the efforts we make to help homeless animals. I’m out and about. People see me and know me (sometimes whether they want to or not).

However it’s the people who do the day-to-day work that really keep this place going. I’m talking about the folks who come in every day, for not much compensation, who have to answer angry phone calls from people who don’t understand animals, who scoop and clean and rinse and mop the same floors and pans and kennels over and over — they’re the ones who truly allow the shelter’s mission to continue.

They’re the ones in the proverbial boiler room holding the shovels loaded with coal, making sure it’s “full steam ahead.”

I may be the one people see, but they are the ones who keep this ship afloat.

If you want it straight, the truth of the matter is, if I went packing tomorrow, just took off for parts unknown (full disclosure, it would probably be a beach somewhere), do you know what would happen at the shelter? The exact same thing that happened today and yesterday and the day before that and the day before that…you see what I mean.

These animals would get food, water, medicine and clean beds; the laundry would be done, the dishes washed and the floors swept and mopped; phone calls would be answered, adoptions would be processed and strays would be taken in out of the elements; animals waiting for adoption would be spayed and neutered, paperwork would be completed and the place would keep running.

Do you know why? Because of the behind-the-scenes folks who are doing all that as I type these words, who have done it every day since this shelter has been around and who will do it into the future, whether I’m around or not.

These are the folks who are in the trenches, digging through the metaphorical coal bin to care for these animals every day, making sure that even though the pets are homeless, it doesn’t mean they aren’t loved.

And I’m so proud to be able to say I’m even just a small part of that team.

They come in to the same thing, day in and day out, and it’s not easy work. You have to lift and scrub and sweep and mop. You are wiped out when you’re finished. You have to clean stuff that overwhelms the senses — that’s the nicest way I can say it.

And they do it for the four-legged animals in our care.

Recognition is a funny thing. Some folks crave it to the point where it could be detrimental. Some folks search it out to the point where it’s blatantly obvious. Some folks legitimately don’t want it — they let their good deeds stand for themselves. Some folks get it, but truly realize they didn’t receive it alone.

For some people, recognition can be fleeting and not terribly plentiful. For shelter workers, sometimes the only recognition they get is in the photographs of happy pets or in the letters from adopters who never would have met their best friend if it hadn’t been for their help. Sometimes the only “good job” or “thank you” they can hear is found in the grateful eyes of a four-legged baby looking up from a comfy bed in a new, forever home.

Well guys, I hope you’re listening because I want to say thank you and good job. The loyalty and dedication of animal shelter staff continue to amaze and awe me. The bottom line for an animal shelter, the reason to get up in the morning when the alarm goes off, isn’t for a paycheck, isn’t for a pat on the back, isn’t to move up the corporate ladder.

It’s so that one more animal can have a chance. One more sweet, loving pet can finally be free of a kennel and into a warm home.

So we can save. One. More.

To my coworkers, thank you for keeping enough coal in the proverbial boilers to make sure that can happen.

Animal-lover, mind wanderer, extroverted introvert. Director of Communications at Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter, Chambersburg, Pa.

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