I was going to write about COVID- 19 and our construction project and what a crazy year it has been.  But when I sat down to reflect,  I realized that at the very heart of our work, 2020 was no different than all the other years this agency has been helping vulnerable animals in our community.   Don’t get me wrong,  2020 was a tough year.  Like everyone else, we needed to adapt quickly to a situation that seemed to be changing daily.     To keep our essential staff safe, we closed to public visitors, suspended our volunteer program, and shifted to a virtual adoption method. Many of our programs remain shut down due to safety precautions.

But even as we shifted and sometimes turned in circles – one thing anchored us.   We never stopped taking in animals that needed help, not for a single day.

When you work with animals, change is constant.  Animals come in and out of our care daily.  Every circumstance is different, every animal unique. You must learn to adjust, or else you can quickly become overwhelmed.

I’ve worked at the shelter for many years and through many challenging situations.  Like all my coworkers, I came to work at the New Hampshire SPCA because I love animals and want to help as many as I can.

But in my time here, I’ve been witness to the things that make this work so difficult and draining.

I’ve seen unspeakable cruelty, animals who have suffered at the hands of humans.

I’ve held cats and dogs in my arms that are critically ill or injured.

I’ve comforted animals while they took their last breath.

I’ve felt deep despair as our legal system failed to protect animals over and over again.

I’ve watched owners hand us a leash and not look back.   And I’ve seen heart-wrenching surrenders where pets are hugged goodbye so thoroughly their fur is soaked by human tears.

And now, I’ve worked through a global pandemic and watched my coworkers come to work on the front lines each day and put themselves at risk so that animals have a place to turn when needed.

Animal rescue is emotional work. There are many days that are difficult to bear, and weeks that are harder than others—and years that seem so challenging, we do not know how we’ve managed to accomplish all we do for the animals that need us.

But ultimately, it’s the hard stuff that matters the most.  Instead of turning away, we lean right into it.  The struggle is real, but so is the gratitude.     For every desperate animal that turns to us, I am profoundly grateful that they have a safe place to go.    They will receive the love and care all animals deserve and a fresh start.

I practice yoga, and one thing I’ve learned is that to remain flexible, you must have a strong foundation.  At the core of this agency is the generosity of our donors.  Your support allows us to stay flexible and adapt to the immense challenges that happen every day in this work.    We are only able to lean into the hard days, months, or years- because of your dedication and your kindness.

I speak for every staff member here when I say thank you.  Your support means everything.

Courtney Vavra, Annual Fund and Digital Marketing Manager