You will go home in pain.
Like, a lot of pain.
As in, so much pain your doctor might think you have arthritis. (Yes, that really happened.)
We all know that there is emotional pain involved when you are in rescue...and lots of it. But that's a post in itself - that is not the pain I'm referring to today. What I'm referring to is bruises. Scratches up and down your arms. A swollen lip from an over-exuberant Lab puppy. Aching joints. You get it. Turns out, working with animals is hard work!
Who needs the gym? Kenneling dogs at a shelter was the best exercise I ever got, bar none. (Was that the right phrase? I've never actually used that before in real life.) I had no idea that it could take so much muscle to scrape poop off of a cement floor. Or carry a full bag of dirty kitty litter to the dumpster. Or a bag full of frozen poop-sicles! Those things are heavy! I had sweat pouring down my face more often than not. And I probably had feces on my shirt. Maybe a little on my face too. It wasn't glamorous, and I went home every day not believing the pain I was in. It was the good kind of pain, though - the kind that lets you know you've worked hard :)
It's not arthritis - I just grip the leash too hard. This is an actual phrase I uttered to an actual doctor. After having a couple of days off from work, I realized I was wincing in pain every time I gripped my steering wheel or a doorknob. My wrist and finger joints ached constantly. What the hell? I thought. This isn't normal. So I went to the doctor, and he worried aloud that I might have arthritis. I went to work the next day, slipped a lead around the most energetic dog's neck to take him outside, and felt a familiar pain as he yanked on the leash. Oh my Lord...I realized, not arthritis after all. Just the result of overuse of fingers and the strength of big dogs!
No, I am not a self-harmer or the victim of domestic violence...I just work with animals. Kenneling cats would often leave me with scratches up and down my arms, whether as a result of a fearful feral or a rambunctious kitten. One evening I was sitting down to dinner with my parents after a day at work, and I noticed my mom looking over at my clawed-up wrists. "Are you...okay?" she questioned with concern. "Mom. These are from cats." "Just making sure! I didn't know!" And kenneling large dogs would often leave me with bruises all over various limbs. I bruise very easily, and if a Lab playfully mouthed my arm or a pibble tail whacked my shin too hard, I would be black and blue the next day. Let's just say Jared got a few nasty looks when a cashier rang us up and spotted the bruises on my upper arms!
Sometimes dogs bite, y'all. Who knew? Usually it's a nip through your jeans. Or maybe a snap at your fingers. But sometimes it can be worse. Sometimes it's a dog who you never expected would bite. Who you thought was your buddy. Who used to give you kisses and let you rub his belly!
This was my fault. I leaned over to give him a kiss when a strange (and potentially dangerous) man was holding his leash. He was probably worked up, and I was stupid. My point is, you never know. At the shelter I worked at, bites were rare...but they did happen. This is something you need to be aware of if you want to work with animals.
You've also gotta know...IT'S ALL SO WORTH IT! You will be grinning all the way through the blood, sweat, and tears - trust me! :) No pain, no gain, baby!