When looking back at 2021, we all began the year with such hope. The year transformed into a roller coaster of events and emotions with so many twists and turns.
At the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter, the staff experienced the daily task of taking care of too many animals with too little staff due to a challenging hiring market and COVID-19 exposures and cases. At the same time, we challenged ourselves to expand programs that aided animals in the community. And last February, they also responded when called to help during a weather emergency. Through every single challenge, they stepped forward to do their best.
The building blocks of an organization are not the buildings or the programs. What makes an organization great are the individual staff members – and in our case, the individual volunteers and fosters, too. An organization’s greatness is based on what happens within its walls and its programs. The decisions made. The committed cooperation. The tasks completed for the greater good of the animals living in Williamson County.
As the 2021 challenges continued to roll in, the staff maintained their commitment to the animals and each other with teamwork and unity. During the historic winter freeze, a quick strategic plan was made to minimize staff members driving on the treacherous roads and ensure the animals would be cared for as best as possible. Teams of staff members were picked up by members of the sheriff’s office and dropped off at the shelter. Those staff members worked that day and then spent the night sleeping on cots in the dog medical workup room. The next day, they completed another shift of work and then finally went home with the help of volunteers skilled in driving in the ice and snow. Then, a new team of staff members arrived. After the announcement of this plan, staff members were volunteering to be on these teams.
At the shelter, the staff members slept on cots in the dog medical workup room and ate the food and treats they packed or that was prepared and delivered by generous volunteers. When they couldn’t sleep, they did chores around the shelter, such as washing and folding laundry. Even when the shelter lost water due to bursting pipes, everyone was committed to providing a clean kennel and drinking water for the animals. Volunteers and staff members shoveled ice into buckets so it could melt and become usable water. A load of drinking water was delivered to the shelter from another county department. A water tank was even deployed to help staff clean the kennels. With a skeleton crew of staff, and a few volunteers, much scrubbing and scooping was needed to accomplish this goal.
At the end of the exhausting day, they wished they could have done more. One staff member apologized that the kennels were not as clean as she would have liked.
But the truth is, I was far from disappointed. I was extremely proud of how the team came together, acknowledged the challenges, made creative plans to care for the animals, and then executed those plans with hard work, commitment and a level of integrity that was inspiring.
The animals of Williamson County are extremely lucky to have these individuals, these creative, dedicated and inspiring professionals, invested in their well-being. Many professions are upheld for their commitment to their cause and the gifts that they bring the community. They are seen as “community helpers” and rightfully so. Years like 2021, and events like that historic freeze, prove that animal shelter caregivers fit that category as well. These essential personnel do not shy from action when needed. They eagerly raise their hands to help and bring their best talents to give compassionate care no matter the emergency.
Misty Valenta is the animal services director of the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Williamson County animal shelter: During freeze, staff showed their mettle in helping animals