The one thing everyone wanted to talk to me about at Expo
Earlier this month I went to New Orleans for Animal Care Expo.
It was my first time presenting in person in 4 years and it was great to connect with people in real life again!
That’s the professional version.
Here’s what really happened:
I got on a plane for the first time since 2019, afterwards, I put on a pair of slacks (that’s right, slacks) which I'd had professionally hemmed, experienced multiple socially awkward hermit attacks inside a massive convention center, racked up 30,000 steps a day (many of those steps were to and from the bathroom, natch), stood in front of hundreds of human beings who were smiling and/or yawning at me, proceeded to say the words “shit sandwich” multiple times while being recorded, and then spent my evenings having sudden flashes of all the smart things I wish I’d said when answering your questions.
Look, leaving the house is hard.
I’m deeply grateful that I got to connect with you!
It was a joy to hear your stories and hug you and slap you on the knee while telling you to please make time for your annual pap smear.
Along the way, nearly all of the questions and conversations I had with folks were related to a single theme:
Supporting staff when they are struggling with euthanasia decisions AND holding them accountable for harmful or unproductive behaviors at the same time.
In particular, how do we make room for staff to share dissenting opinions without greenlighting disrespectful behavior toward the individuals tasked with making euthanasia decisions?
And also, how do we respond compassionately when individuals have a hard time processing a euthanasia without allowing them to leave early or call out on a regular basis?
In other words, euthanasia is unavoidably painful.
But the way we behave towards one another, in relation to euthanasia, is what’s causing a lot of avoidable suffering.
What do we do about that?
In our conversations (shout out to that first roundtable crew!) you shared your strategies for guiding staff through these difficult conversations, including how you make room for respectful dissent, and how you support staff who may be struggling after a euthanasia.
I want to hear more!
If you work in an animal shelter, I’d love to know what’s working regarding euthanasia decision-making discussions and how those decisions are communicated to staff and volunteers.
To be clear: This isn’t a survey about euthanasia philosophies, ethical issues, techniques, or numbers.
I’m only interested in hearing how you effectively discuss your decisions and communicate with staff about euthanasia and how you offer support afterward.
If you have something to share, please take a few minutes to fill out the survey!
“Rare is the sudden and unexpected emotional explosion that wasn’t preceded by a lengthy period of tortured silence.” – Crucial Confrontations
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