Animal Welfare Professionals

 View Only

Animal welfare staff - emotions and mental health

  • 1.  Animal welfare staff - emotions and mental health

    Posted 12-13-2022 09:16 AM

    The Mdzananda Animal Clinic in Khayelitsha has been serving the community through our animal clinic and shelter, in the toughest of impoverished communities for 25 years. Staff work tirelessly to help the animals in need, but burnout is a real topic and often avoided in the animal welfare field. We would love to hear your experiences on the topic.

    Below is an inspiring story by our senior veterinarian who is currently tired and experiencing burnout, but who never stops to strive for the best for the animals in need.

    From Dr Brian Bergman, Senior Veterinarian -

    I had such a beautiful experience at the clinic today - I got to see first-hand the love that is generated in the bond between dog and human.

    I'd been back at the clinic for a week after hiking in the Outeniqua forest. On the trail, some friends had mentioned that they were considering getting another dog - a hiking friend for their current dog and a companion for their children. I told them to contact me when they were ready and I'd hook them up. Knowing how many dogs we have looking for good homes, I'm pretty shameless about partnering hounds with humans.

    The busyness and intensity of the clinic had been weighing heavy on my shoulders. It's just never quiet anymore. Another very busy and turbulent year for Mdzananda has passed and I'm tired, all our staff are tired, but carrying on for the animals.

    The clinic operates under very tough conditions, as you can imagine. This year we went from having 14 670 animal admissions in FY2021 to 19 730 in FY2022. How nuts is that!

    We would need at least four other Mdzananda's to even begin to cater for the need out there and I'm so grateful that this place exists and that it is supported by so many caring individuals! The invisible arm supporting us. We do the best we can.

    I was doing the morning rounds and I noticed in one of the cages the cutest little puppy staring at me. A two-month old, tan-coloured Canis Africanas - the best breed in all of Africa. I picked him up for a cuddle, a hit of puppy love. His name was "Harry". And then I just knew that this was the dog my friends needed.

    I took two pictures of "Harry" and sent them to my friend. A message came back from him: "Ooo Brian. Those eyes! He looks like such a happy chap. Not sure we are ready for another one. What's his background?" I only knew he arrived at us 4 weeks ago as a little pup, so was replying this info when I got another message from him. "Uh, I think we are ready…" I laughed. He had showed the picture to his children. There was no turning back. Harry had a home!

    I finished the rounds earlier than usual so I gave Harry his pre-adoption health check. He got his second vaccination, a pedicure, was microchipped and dewormed. Then I took him to the basin where I usually scrub my hands for surgery and gave him a warm bath. It was so nice using the basin for something other than scrubbing up to fix a broken bone or other.

    He was totally chilled. I could feel his sweet nature. Everything about this cute quiet pup and the home I was now going to take him to was a trumpeting heavenly 'YES!' in my heart.

    I arrived at their home and dropped Harry off. Each member of the family, including their two other dogs and cat, greeted Harry so warmly. He immediately started playing and taking comfort in their arms and company. He had effectively landed his skinny little butt in the butter.

    What I also saw when I dropped him off is a warm loving family welcoming in a new member. I could see the relationship each of the two legged and four legged's were going to develop with this new guy. And dogs have enough love to love everyone! Everyone will be richer for it. In fact it might lead one of the kids to veterinary school. Having a dog growing up is what inspired me to study to be a vet.

    It made me so happy to see this lucky guy get such a good life. I can't wait to see his personality come out as he grows more and more into his body and his new life.

    And so today, in the service to our companions on the road, I felt blessed. What my eyes got to see and my heart got to feel. It brought a tear to my eyes – the good kind though – which was nice because there are lots of the other kind in this work too. It renewed me. A good day. Grace filled.

    - Dr Brian Bergman, Senior Veterinarian, Mdzananda Animal Clinic, Khayelitsha


    Marcelle du Plessis
    Fundraising and Communications Executive
    Mdzananda Animal Clinic