I can’t remember from which boss I first heard the phrase, “just get me to yes,” but boy do I remember its impact. The idea that “no” is not an option, that the only option is finding a path forward, resonated for me, particularly as it relates to helping animals and their guardians.
At the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, we have a team that always starts with “yes,” and works backward from there. This means the questions we ask aren’t formed around whether we can save an animal, but rather about what plan is needed to achieve the goal of keeping each animal healthy and happy until an adoptive family materializes, and how to “market” the best qualities of each animal. In addition, we go to great lengths to help animals remain in their homes. That means we will repair fences, provide medical care, along with pet food and training, knowing that the costs are far higher, sometimes deadly, if we don’t.
This philosophy is especially important as it relates to animals that have fewer fans than others. Let me explain. If we were to receive a nonstop stream of poodle puppies, for example, no special thought or effort would be required. People would (and do) line up for an opportunity to adopt. But change that poodle face to a 50-pound, energetic mutt and the pressure to find the right home for the pup becomes intense. Sadly, the majority of dogs relinquished to shelters or those having problems in the home are large breed, unneutered male animals, and our shelter is no exception. More than 65 percent of our shelter population on any given day falls into this category. The cost to care for these animals is enormous if – as we do – we refuse to consider them without value and put them to death. These dogs require hard play and intense training to keep them from losing their minds in a kennel environment, and our extremely talented staff does all that and more.
If we are given the opportunity to intervene before a relationship is severed, we will offer a multitude of approaches to solving in-home problems, as long as the family is willing to participate. We will, as I’ve noted, repair fencing, give training, provide free spay-and-neuter service, and offer affordable full-service veterinary care. We will talk to landlords so that we can mediate and advocate for families with animals. We start at “yes,” and work backward until there is nowhere else to go.
I am proud that the Santa Fe Animal Shelter team has embraced the concept of “yes,” and the challenge of getting to a positive outcome for animals. It is an honor to know each and every individual on this extremely talented and dedicated team. But the most important member of this team is our community.
For us to be successful, for every shelter to be successful, your support is an absolute must. Adopting animals and providing consistent financial assistance tells us what we do is important and allows us to help more and more animals. I ask you to think of your shelter first when you plan to add a companion animal to your family and support our work so we can ensure that what we do to save the lives of each and every animal is never unrealistic or without value. We are there for them, because you are there for us.