A Fond Farewell

IMG_0358I’ve never been very good at saying goodbye, especially to someone I really like.  So when I heard that one of my very favorite staff members at the animal shelter where I volunteer was planning to retire this month, I didn’t react well.

First I tried to convince her to stay.  When that didn’t work, I tried to convince management that she wasn’t really old enough to retire yet.  Sadly, I never did figure out how to forge a fake birth certificate that would back up my claim, so that didn’t work either.  All I had to fall back on was denial, but as the day of her actual retirement crept closer, that stopped working as well.  You can’t help plan someone’s retirement celebration without also recognizing that they actually are going to retire.

I know my friend deserves to retire and that she is ready for this new phase of her life, and I also know I need to support her in this decision.  That’s what friends do.  But the problem is that knowing she won’t be at the animal shelter anymore just makes me incredibly sad, and even a little bit lost.

She taught the volunteer orientation class I took when I first started at the shelter over fifteen years ago, and I still remember what a great job she did of preparing us for the realities of volunteering in an open-admission animal shelter.  It wasn’t long before I, along with most of the other volunteers, learned that she was an excellent source of advice, guidance and support when we needed it.  I saw how protective she was of the animals in her care, and how compassionate she was towards the people she worked with, and how helpful and patient she was with people who came in to adopt a new pet.

Lots of people are good at their jobs, but my friend was one of those who always went the extra mile, both for the animals and for the people around her.  She sent regular texts and emails, letting volunteers know that a favorite dog had finally been adopted so we could celebrate the good news even when we weren’t at the shelter.  She listened to us when we needed a sympathetic ear, and cheered us up when we were down, and was rather well known for her habit of breaking into an impressive “happy dance” when she thought the situation called for it.

My friend was a fixture at the animal shelter and her departure is going to be felt deeply by all those who worked with her.  I suppose our grief over her retirement is the proof of what a terrific job she did during her time there and what a wonderful friend she was to all, of both the two-footed and the four-footed variety.   We only miss what, and who, we truly value.  And we will miss her very much.

I still can’t quite imagine what the shelter will be like without my friend, and I know that the next few weeks are going to be a major adjustment for many of us.  But we will continue our volunteer work, doing our best to help the animals, celebrating the successes, and offering support to each other when we need it.  And I can’t think of any better way to honor my friend’s legacy than that.

79 thoughts on “A Fond Farewell

    • We had her party yesterday, but she follows my blog, so I know she has read this. It took me awhile to get my thoughts and emotions together enough to write it. But you are so right, we do need to let the people we admire and love know how we feel, and why. And she does! Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What a lovely tribute, Ann, to a friend who most certainly sounds like she deserves your support EVEN THO’ you don’t want her to go (I wouldn’t either). I’ll bet you a dollar to a dog biscuit she’ll be paying visits ‘ere long – especially if one of the volunteers (ahem!) drops by to play taxi to and from!

    Happy Thanksgiving – even if you don’t celebrate, this coming Thursday would be a super day to remind yourself (and her) of how grateful you are for her guidance, support and friendship.

    My puppy TinkerToy sends his woofs and wants me to be sure to say thank YOU for volunteering to take care of his fur-friends who are waiting for their forever homes.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!

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  2. Aw.bless you! Your friend and colleague has had a positive impact on y’all and at shelter,and everything will be a bit richer as you take her legacy and move forward. You’ll be perfectly fine,and enjoy sending her emails about the shelter!

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  3. What a beautifully written post. As I read it, I could imagine what your friend looked like and the way she sounded–especially during your training sessions years ago. Now I guess she’s passing the baton. I’m sure both you and all the animals will miss her. At the same time, I’m certain the animals are most grateful you’re still there. I passed an animal shelter the other day and noticed a young volunteer reading a Dr. Seuss book to two cats. Touched my heart.

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  4. This is a terrific tribute to Sherry. I’m assuming you will send it to her, and I’ll bet she’ll read it again and again. Very sweet of you to use your time and especially your talent to write this.

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    • She doesn’t live very close, but I am hoping that she will meet with us now and then for coffee or lunch. Meanwhile, we stay in touch via social media, texts and emails. And I am so grateful for that: I would have to lose her completely!

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    • I knew what you meant! And she has touched so many. The animals shelter put a notice of her retirement on its facebook page and asked people to post a pic of a pet that she helped them adopt. And so many people responded! She is literally responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of homeless animals finding a good, forever home.

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  5. That’s a beautiful tribute to what sounds like a wonderful friend and person. It’s always hardest on those left behind. I know the feeling all too well of coworkers who I was very close to, leaving for another job, coming in that Monday morning and not seeing them there. It’s a difficult adjustment but as a wise person once said, don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened. Easier said than done of course but sometimes that thought helps..:)
    PS… Make sure you meet her for lunch on occasion…:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • As usual, you went right to the heart of the matter! As much as I will miss her, instead of being sad that she’s leaving, I’m trying very hard to focus on being glad that I knew her and got to work with her at all. I honestly don’t think I would have lasted fifteen years at the shelter without her, and now she is gone, but I still know that she is counting on me and the others to stay there and carry on her good work.
      And I hope to stay in touch with her for sure!!!

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  6. Retirement is a wonderful opportunity, which often disappoints. The key would seem to be to recognize all the subtleties that contribute to the prior working environment that one is leaving, and then decide how to replace them in this new phase of life. Your newly departing/departed staff member will be looking for rewarding projects to “complete” her new life… and working with animals, albeit in a very different capacity, may well be in her future. You never know, she may just soon be applying for a volunteer position with you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I have a feeling once the novelty wears off she will fine new ways to help animals. I’d love it if she came back to the shelter as a volunteer! But whatever she decides, I’ll support her. Thanks for the comments, Colin!

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  7. Someone who likes critters as much as your friend is likely to continue to hang around ’em in some capacity. That’s one of the nice things about volunteering at a shelter, you can often sleep in if you want and still help them out. And if you should happen to run into her on the dog paths, all the better!

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    • Yes, I would love it if she came back as a volunteer! I don’t know if that would work for her, but it would be wonderful for the rest of us. Sadly, she shares her home with several dogs so she might just get her dog fix from them… But one way or another, I’m sure she will continue to help animals in need!

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  8. Your friend obviously has given you a great legacy to follow and you have, I’m sure, picked up some good qualities from her example. She may be retiring from the job but that only means she can enjoy the fruits of her labor and will probably be more than glad to share some retirement hours with you as you seem to be a good friend. You’ll see, the feeling of her presence will linger on the job through everyone’s interactions with her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re absolutely right! I was worried what it would be like at the shelter this week with her gone, but her presence was still there. She taught us a lot that we will always remember, and she did earn her retirement. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and affirming comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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