Did you know the Dumb Friends League has a shelter location in Castle Rock, Colo.? With a staff of just 18 and 261 volunteers, the compassionate team at the Buddy Center cares for more than 3,500 homeless pets each year. Even when you add in the help of a dedicated group of volunteers, it’s an incredible feat.
As the only full-service animal shelter in Douglas County, the Buddy Center serves a vital role in the community by reuniting owners with lost pets and finding loving homes for adoptable cats, dogs and small mammals. It’s hard to imagine how one shelter can have such a huge impact.
Instead of imagining it, here is a glimpse into what a “typical” day at the Buddy Center looks like. And here’s the first thing you’ll learn—there is no such thing as a “typical” day!
“Every day is different, and there is always a lot to do, so the days go by fast.” –Masih, Buddy Center Pet Admissions Associate
Your first thought may be, “what is pet admissions?” This is the department that welcomes every animal to our shelter, making each one feel as comfortable and safe as possible when walking through our doors. This includes lost and stray pets, animals relinquished by owners who can no longer care for them and pets who have reached the end of their lives; we turn no animals away. This is also where people are reunited with lost pets. As you can imagine, each day can bring a wide range of emotions and situations—with none identical to the next.
It should come as no surprise that people who work in the pet admissions department do much more than welcome pets to the shelter. They evaluate animals to determine if there are any behavior or medical needs, vaccinate pets and provide medication to pets in our care.
Masih is a pet admissions associate and has worked at the Buddy Center for three years. He starts his 10-hour work day by checking the night kennels, which are available for people to utilize should they find a lost dog at 10 p.m. and need a safe place to take him after-hours, for example. Today there are no animals in the night kennels, so Masih enters the day’s appointments into the computer to prepare for the day ahead. “It’s going to be busy. We have more appointments than usual today.”A volunteer from veterinary services has taken care of administering medication to animals who require it, so next we check on a German shepherd who is reported to have wounds on her back. Remember that part about every day being different? This dog arrived at the Buddy Center with another dog. The pair had been abandoned, were very thin and didn’t trust people. Additionally, they didn’t know how to walk on leashes. So Masih provides special care to get Arya to an exam room.
Masih, another member of the pet admissions team, a supervisor and volunteer all work together to examine the frightened dog. The team speaks softly and gently to Arya, calming her while they examine, shave and treat the affected area. We return Arya to the kennel and move on to vaccinations. We vaccinate a few dogs and a cat then begin to evaluate animals who have recently arrived at the shelter.
We start with Freyja, a beautiful Belgian Malinois. Freyja walks great on the leash as Masih escorts her to the evaluation room. Here, they check her weight, overall health including teeth and evaluate her behavior. This is done to determine if the pet needs additional veterinary care or behavior training before becoming available for adoption. They also scan for a microchip, vaccinate, give heartworm preventative and dewormer. Last, they snap a photo to keep on file and enter in any notes from the evaluation. They continue evaluating animals throughout the day as new pets arrive. (Fun fact: the Dumb Friends League receives more than 20,000 homeless pets each year, and every single pet goes through this process to ensure they are healthy and safe for the community before they can become available for adoption. Whew! That’s a lot of evaluations!)
In addition to all of these duties, the pet admissions team works with patrons who are surrendering pets, making necessary end-of-life decisions about their beloved pets, bringing in stray pets, being reunited with lost pets and many other situations that happen to pop up. And these are just a few of the services the Buddy Center provides to the pets and people of Douglas County.
“Interacting with the animals always makes any day better.” Kasea, Buddy Center Adoptions Associate
Much like the pet admissions team at the Buddy Center, the adoptions team wears many hats. In addition to matching pets with people, adoptions associates are responsible for things like cleaning kennels, doing laundry, washing dishes and restocking rooms, so essentially, she pulls double-duty as an animal care staff member. (Click here to learn more about what it’s like to work in animal care at the Quebec Street Shelter.)
Kasea has been working at the Buddy Center for five years and has held several roles in that time. In her current position, she works as an adoptions associate and trains new employees hired to work in her current and previous roles.
Today she’s cleaning cat kennels before the shelter opens. Even though she has dozens of kennels to clean, Kasea takes time to give each cat gentle chin scratches or pets, that is, if they want the attention. (Pro tip from Kasea: if you ever need to clean or do something around the house and your cat has tendency of “helping,” try doing it around the time she is normally fed. Give her canned food to distract her for a few minutes, so you can complete your work. This tip even worked with a kennel full of curious kittens!)
The Buddy Center opens to the public soon, and Kasea still has more kennels to clean. When she finishes up, she’ll head up to adoptions lobby and begin to help patrons look for new pets.
“I like recommending a pet to people. It’s fun trying to find the right animal to fit in with a family.” Sam, Buddy Center Adoptions Associate
It’s 11 a.m. and the doors are open to the public. Already, the Buddy Center’s lobby is filling up. Some people are simply browsing adoptable pets, while others know exactly which pets they want to meet. (Fun fact: you can get in line to meet pets at the Buddy Center before you even get there! When you visit the adoption page, click on a pet you are interested in and click where it says “Skip the line at the shelter! Sign in now!” It’s easy and tells you how long the wait time is, so you can save time.)
Sam has only been working at the Buddy Center for about a year, but she’s not new to the shelter. She volunteered for six years before deciding she loved it so much she wanted to work there full time. Sam enjoys getting to know the animals so she can help people find the perfect pet.
Throughout the day she works with everyone from experienced pet-owners to first-time adopters looking to open their homes to kittens, puppies, cats, dogs or small pets like bunnies, rats and guinea pigs. Whether she’s working with a young, active family with a resident pet or a couple getting ready to move into an assisted living facility, she asks questions to understand each situation and make thoughtful recommendations.
While the actual adoption process is relatively simple, selecting the right pet takes time. After gathering information about what kind of pet the adopters are looking for, Sam reviews the pets they are interested in meeting. She goes over the history we have on file and tells them everything we know—the good and not so good—about each pet. Once patrons have heard all the details, she’ll ask if they are still interested in meeting the animal. If it’s a no, she’ll work with them and make recommendations about other pets available for adoption. If it’s a yes, she’ll bring the pet to the adopters.
“I like to give them some time alone so they can interact with the pet, discuss all the information I shared about the animal and decide if this is the one for them.” After 10 to 15 minutes, Sam checks in to see if they have a decision yet. If they need more time, she happily gives it to them since adopting a pet is a big commitment, and she wants adopters to be sure about their decision.
Once someone has decided to adopt, they’re given information about the pet’s medical and vaccination history, advised on how to take advantage of a free wellness visit with a participating veterinarian, given any relevant behavior handouts, and finally, they sign the paperwork and pay the adoption fee. Sam, and every adoptions associate, stays with adopters through each step, so it’s like having a personal shopper when you adopt from the Buddy Center.
“I think that this is the best job I’ve ever had. I work with compassionate people who are great at what they do.” Sam, Buddy Center Adoptions Associate
The Dumb Friends League Buddy Center’s compassionate and dedicated staff helps homeless pets from the moment they arrive at the shelter to the moment they go home with happy adopters. So next time you’re thinking about adopting a pet, looking for your lost pet, wondering where to take a stray pet, or needing to relinquish a pet, think of the Buddy Center, Douglas County’s only full-service animal shelter.
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