Someone I hadn’t seen in many years recently contacted me and asked if I was happy with my work with animals. Anyone who works in animal welfare knows that’s not an easy question to answer. Most people who work with animals do so because they have an undeniable passion, a calling in life that can’t be ignored. So, in that regard, working with animals is fulfilling. It silences the cries of your soul. It’s impossible to be happy when you ignore what’s in your heart.

Here’s the conflict, though. Animal welfare work is emotionally draining. In order to help animals, we are consistently exposed to the horrific things that people do to them and deal with the reality that there is a constant stream of unwanted animals needing our help. It’s easy to get depressed and burned out. The word “happy” often escapes us. 

There clearly are happy moments:  when a hard-to-place pet finds a new home, when a veterinarian donates his or her services to treat an injured animal, when more people volunteer to be foster homes, when someone tells you that they decided to adopt an older pet instead of buying a puppy or kitten at a pet store or off of the Internet, watching a family walk to their car with their new pet. These moments keep us coming back, realizing that there are more people who care about animals than not. Each animal saved is a happy moment.

Being happy is truly in the way you look at the world. If we choose to focus on the upsetting things, then we will be sad. But when we choose to look at the good things around us, happiness is there in the face of the animal who needs our help.