From the desk of the Executive Director, Emily Stuart

Recently, I worked an animal care shift at the shelter. We are in the process of filling a vacant animal care position and a couple teammates are taking well-deserved vacations. In solidarity, leadership has been rotating through under-staffed shifts. I arrived at the shelter earlier than usual, and took the dogs out one by one, filling food and water as they enjoyed outside time in the play yard. I flipped through the carefully organized notebook and administered meds. I picked up waste and did cursory cleanings. Our census is comparatively high at the moment, as intake has increased 70 percent over this time last year, and many of our beloved fosters are traveling or returning to the office. After taking care of the dogs on the adoption floor, I moved onto the “cuddle rooms,” the cat room, the isolation room, the other cat room, and the training room. I can now say, with absolute certainty, that the animal care specialists at Gateway Pet Guardians (GPG) have the toughest jobs in the building.   

I am covered in scratches from pups excited to play and cuddle and frolic outside. I somehow wound up with wet cat food in my hair. I was an unwilling participant in a cute but stressful wrestling match with a particularly energetic pup who wanted to visit the kennel next to hers. Her collar and leash somehow both came off and I tipped over her water bowl. A naked wet dog with the wiggles is slippery. One of our isolation kennel doors gets stuck and you have to pull pretty hard. I may have overestimated my own strength and definitely hit myself in the head with the latch. By the end of the two hours, I was dirty, sweaty, and exhausted and so thankful that I didn’t have a full day of work ahead of me. If it weren’t for volunteer Sandhya, who helped walk dogs during this process, I would not have made it.  

As GPG has evolved over the last decade, and added several professional staff positions, there has been less of a need for everyone to pitch in on animal care. In so many ways that indicates a healthy, sustainable, and growing organization with the right people specializing in the right things. That also distances many of us from the daily operation of caring for animals. Being an Executive Director isn’t easy, but it is comfortable, and it is powerful, and it is well-rewarded. I enjoy immense privilege in my position because of other people’s hard work.  

To the many staff who have worked animal care, or who provide backup support, thank you. To the countless volunteers and interns who help walk and care for our animals, thank you. To Kristen and Anna, our dedicated full-time animal care specialists, thank you. Kristen, you joined us during a topsy turvy week and immediately exhibited calm and thoughtful leadership.  Anna, you are reliable and steadfast, hilarious and humble. I am so grateful for everything you do at GPG, and for who you are.  

Please contact Emily Stuart | emily@gatewaypets.org