Written by Kellyann Cope.
As an Animal Carer I go to work each day wondering what my day will hold. I go to work knowing that no matter what job I will be assigned during the day, it doesn’t have to feel like work because I genuinely love working with animals. I can honestly say that for me, I can go home most days and not feel like I have been to work because my passion for the pets I work with brightens my day beyond all of the hard work, labour, heartache and drama that I may endure on any given day at work – this, I have come to understand is truly a considerably rare occurrence for most people.
Firstly, it is important to understand that “working with animals” is not all playtimes with puppies and cuddles with kittens. Yes there is some of that involved but if that is the reason that you choose this line of work, then you are only setting yourself up for disappointment. Being an Animal Carer makes us responsible for the well-being and welfare of every single animal that is in our care. Imagine your pet at home, all the things that you (and your family) need to do for them every day; feeding, picking up poo, letting them inside/outside, taking them for a walk, a game of fetch – oh and don’t forget all the smaller less significant gestures too, like all the cuddles, pats and social interactions. The list could go on and on, couldn’t it? Now take all of that and multiply it by 200 – can you imagine it? If you can, than you can begin to understand what it would be like to work as an Animal Carer.
Now don’t forget that all of those responsibilities we’re talking about, occur on a daily basis. So every day of the year, rain or shine you will find us Animal Carers on the job! Yes! That includes weekends, public holidays and even days like Christmas Day because I think it goes without saying, it doesn’t matter what day it is – your pets needs don’t just stop, they cannot just be put ‘on hold’ because there is a family BBQ to attend or a party to be had.
During winter, when the days become shorter, I find myself arriving at work in the dark and by the time I arrive home, it is once again dark. During the summer months we may have more light hours in a day however we endure through the high temperatures and harsh climates that the Perth gets hit with. It is these factors combined with the hard and dirtier aspects of the Animal Carer job that I have seen many new staff members struggle with and the reason why I label my job as an “acquired taste”. To put it simply I would sooner liken my job to that of a tradesperson than to any other line of work.
The first mistake people generally make when I talk about my job is that they think I work at a ‘shelter facility’ for animals without homes. While this is a romantic notion and a beautiful thought, the reality of securing yourself a paid job position within one of the few ‘Rescue/Welfare Facilities’ is not as likely nor as easy as you might think. Those facilities are run mainly by “Not for Profit” Organisations which rely heavily upon volunteers to man the facilities.
Once I get past that misunderstanding about my job the next assumption most people make is “you get paid to play with dogs and cats all day, and feed them and stuff?”
Now I could spend hours upon hours explaining how wrong that assumption is but most people just can’t seem to get past the image of “being paid to play with dogs and cats all day”! Believe me when I tell you that the “and feed them and stuff” portion of the job generally takes up a larger portion of our time and efforts as Animal Carers – not to mention, includes a lot of the most important, and vital routine activities to ensure the well-being and welfare of all of the pets in our care. There is a saying that always comes to mind when I think of all the “other stuff” that my job entails – “all the small things can sometimes make all the difference”.
For every day that I ‘work’, for every pet that walks through our doors, as an Animal carer I wear my heart on my sleeve. We open our hearts to every pet with the hope of nurturing a unique bond with each and every client, in turn allowing us to reach above and beyond the expectations that our clients owners have. We willingly do this, we willingly allow bonds and friendships to grow between ourselves and the pets in our care, all the time knowing exactly when each of those beautiful and unique pets of yours will be leaving our care…..and all the time holding the hope that we will see them again. Understand that opening our hearts in such a way, also leaves us open to all the ups, downs and hurdles that each and every one of those pets may face in their lives – regardless of whether they happen to be in our care at the time, or not. Being capable of doing this day in and day out is not easy but it is what makes the difference between a good Animal Carer and a great Animal Carer.
Being an Animal Carer is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting work. For the right person it can however be a highly rewarding job but remember there needs to be the foundation of having a genuine passion for pets. Not sure if your passion is genuine? Or not sure whether you could hack it? Then try dipping your toes in and testing the water first – do some work experience in a kennel or cattery.