Jul 29, 2014

I'm Only 6 1/2 in Dog Years, But...

Scott Delucchi reflects back on his 14 years working for the Peninsula Humane Society/SPCA, and how much the organization has changed, for the better.

I'm Only 6 1/2 in Dog Years, But...

I'm closer to 50 than 40 by exactly one day.

On Saturday, I turned 45. Until this weekend, I could get away with claiming I wasn't middle aged, but there's no denying it now. 

I don't wear glasses and I don't have a trick knee or any other cranky joints (thanks to Burlingame Chiropractic). I have no paunch and weigh less than I did decades ago, which does NOT sit well with my wife, a former chef. 

I have decent hair, I don't wear Dockers and I have two young kids (one in diapers), which gives me common ground with much younger people.

The older of our two kids asked what those lines were on my forehead. 

"They are wrinkles, and you put them there."

I can wear trendy jeans and tell stories about the baby keeping me up all night, but I'm still probably seen as one of the "old guys" at work.  I joined PHS/SPCA in '98, which makes me number five - of 100 total employees - on our seniority list.

And, wow, has the organization grown and changed since then, in both obvious and not-so-obvious ways. 

When I was being interviewed by a small panel of PHS/SPCA staff in October, 1998, they asked about my thoughts on the Internet; specifically, PHS/SPCA's efforts to establish a website. I remember my answer. 

"I think the Internet is here to stay, so I'd say a website is no longer a luxury for a nonprofit, but a necessity." 

Ok, no one was confusing me with Steve Jobs, but I did see some heads nodding as if they were thinking, "Yeah, he gets it."

I had other profundities - and whipped out a photo of my dog - which helped me land this gig, but I won't bore you.

Back in 1998, we had an old building, no executive director and three members of our Board of Directors. If two showed up for a meeting, that was a quorum!

Our wildlife rehabilitation work, for reasons I don't understand, was this area's best-kept secret. I understood why the actual work needed to happen in a quiet space, but a golden rule for nonprofits is that you do good, meaningful work and talk about it to as many audiences as possible, since more support leads to a greater ability to expand and improve.

In 1998, we had two staff veterinarians and no behaviorists to address shelter animals’ behavioral challenges.  We taxed officers with finding time to prepare animal cruelty cases for our District Attorney’s Office, which meant even the very best officers might not be able to complete the case work for a month or longer.  We had an outstanding Spay/Neuter Clinic (and still do!), but missed folks who wanted to do the right thing, but had no funds or transportation.

In the Adoption Department, we were overly protective of the animals and our counseling sessions seemed more like interrogations; the community's take was that we made adopting a pet more difficult than getting a home loan.  And, even worse, those interrogations started at a high-counter, inside lobby which had the charm and warmth of a DMV.

Despite all this, we did good by the animals. We had camaraderie. We had some characters. Some swagger, but not much of a rudder.

Today’s Peninsula Humane Society has no problem talking about its good work. Our new Center is an amazing place. Warm and inviting are the words we hear most often from visitors.

We have five staff veterinarians, a number of registered vet techs and vet assistants, and three full-time animal behaviorists. Each month, they help make 175 to 200 animals who arrive with physical or behavioral challenges well again.

Our officers can focus on field rescue work since the cruelty cases are now handled by full-time, highly-trained investigators. In addition to the 6,000 or so spay/neuter surgeries performed in our on-site clinic, we reach another 1,000 people annually through our mobile spay/neuter clinic; this “” visits targeted neighborhoods six times per month, offering free fixes for pet owners.

Our adoption counselors find ways to say yes to potential adopters; education has replaced interrogation.  And, most importantly, in every year since 2003, we’ve found homes for 100 percent of the healthy dogs and cats in our care - we were close to perfect in the late ‘90s through 2002.

As a middle-aged, 14-year veteran, I think mostly about how lucky I am to have work that is challenging  and meaningful, to be surrounded by fabulous co-workers and volunteers and to be part of an organization that saves lives and touches people daily. 

This is a good thing. With those two kids nowhere where near college-age, I’ll be here a while!

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