Gonna be a read more because this is long, but you should still read it.
Contains some “graphic” images? I guess.
Please, please, please: If you know only the basics about a few types of animals, you think 50%+ of the job is playing with animals, or you like working with animals and you’re using that as your basis for believing you’d do a hell of a job: Turn back now.
Working the pet care department is demanding, exhausting, emotionally depleting, nerve-wracking, and, sometimes, rewarding in small ways that no one will ever recognize but you, or possibly an attentive manager. You will be shit and pissed on (literally and figuratively) by animals (literally) and customers (figuratively…hopefully) alike; not to mention bitten, scratched, sliced, smacked, bruised, etc. The animals do not know that you are their friend, and unless you are like the few of us that really can do an excellent job and are naturals with animals, they never will. Working at PetSmart does not involve “playing” with animals. Yes, you get to meet dogs, and then you usually get to clean up after them. There are a large variety of small pets, reptiles, and birds that you can interact with, but policy says you can’t have these animals out on the floor unless you’re attempting to adopt one out, and you have two or three hours to open in the morning when you can spend a bit more time with them. That’s it. You are not playing with the animals all day. It is not standing at a podium, talking to fun, happy, intelligent people who care. It’s more so cleaning out dirty tanks, handling nasty bird water, being bitten by rebellious hamsters, feeding pinkies to snakes, getting crickets for people, and attempting to drive information into the brains of people who are getting a animal on a whim.
You will run into people who don’t give a rat’s ass about the care of their pet, and you to be assertive and aggressive with these people. You have to be an advocate for the animal. If you can’t do that, PLEASE go away. PetSmart doesn’t need anymore half-assing employees. Unfortunately, we have enough of those.
If you don’t know anything more than the basics about a few animals, don’t even apply. Those of us who have to train you are already having to train every single ignorant customer that walks through the door. It’s really not fair if we have to worry about you telling someone wrong information just because you didn’t know. If you don’t know anything and you do get hired- ask. us. questions. We probably know more than you. We’d rather be interrupted than to have you essentially misinform someone, which can result in sickness or death for the poor animal they’re keeping.
Here’s a list of animals that you may possibly run into:
And that’s just what I know from MY store. Now, here’s a list of animals that you’re not required to know care of, but will most likely be questioned about by a customer who is dreadfully unaware of the existence of Google:
Now, this second list, you can obviously say “I’m not trained to have experience with those animals”, but with the first list, you’re expected to know. You should know feeding habits, PROPER diet, proper housing, what can live with them and what can’t, what can hurt them, how to tell males apart from females, their life expectancies, and, if they’re on your sales floor, you should be able to hear or see symptoms and be able to discern whether or not they just need to be isolated and observed, or whether or not they need vet attention. If you look at a guinea pig or a hamster and can’t figure out it has a URI, or upper respiratory infection, you probably will not make a good pet care team member. If you’re not willing to learn, you definitely won’t and you should just walk away. If you can’t notice when something looks skinny, when it’s acting “off”, or when it’s just plain not feeling good, you’d probably be better suited as a cashier. Almost every single animal we sell is a prey animal, which means that they do not want to show any symptoms of being sick, ever, because a predator would pick up on that and eat them. In this case, we’re the predators- we’re just really, really smart with excellent observation skills and the means to help them with modern medicine and a whole lot of TLC.
Some of them will die. Sometimes it’s not your fault, but if you’re not careful, sometimes it will be. Half-assing leads to accidental neglect, which leads to a whole host of problems. There’s a new guy on my team and even though he’s funny and “cool”, he sucks and I hate his work ethic because he came from a store that’s known for their mistreatment and is trying to bring that here. Because he overlooked something simple- the number of hamsters in one cage- I came in the following morning to three injured hamsters and one dead. The dead one had her face literally eaten off.
The next thing he overlooked caused a guinea pig to suffer throughout the night and finally die while having a seizure as I was cradling her in a towel against my chest.
This is a picture of her- ignore the chameleon for now. I’ll get to him in a moment.
Now, I’ve had guinea pigs for almost fourteen years, which gives me a bit of an advantage. I can spot anything and I correctly diagnose literally 99% of the time. If my manager calls the vet and says that I think it’s such and such, she assumes it’s such and such and gives directions on how to treat it.
I wasn’t at work when that guinea pig came in, but I was told what happened the next morning by the manager who was on duty. The woman who owned the guinea pig dropped her off with a dirty cage, no food, and no water, and said she was “done” with guinea pigs. At the time she was taken into isolation, she was too weak to stand and was having difficult breathing.
Incorrect steps were taken immediately. This pet care associate tried force-feeding her water, which she promptly aspirated because she couldn’t breath, thus worsening what was most likely pneumonia. A small amount of water was then sitting in her lungs, on top on phlegm and whatever fluid was there. He put her in a small habitat with a water bottle and food, wrote up her isolation form, and left her there. It was possible he checked on her once or twice before he left. What he didn’t check, however, was the water bottles, which notoriously leak.
When I found her the next morning, she was straining for air, on her side, lying in a puddle of water where the water bottle had leaked out. Her fur was thin and rough; her back was humped; her spine, ribs, and hips were protruding; her lips and toes were blue; mucus had crusted around her mouth, nose, and eyes; her upper abdomen was distended; one entire side of her was completely soaked with water; and she was seizing. She had four small, possibly separate seizures while I was holding her. She died about six or seven minutes after I wrapped her up. I kept her to my chest to try and warm her up.
I was disgusted and I sobbed. It was horrible.
Now, this guinea pig did likely come in dehydrated and malnourished with either a severe URI or pneumonia, and definitely with scurvy from a lack of vitamin C/fresh fruits and vegetables in her diet. All of that was the fault of her owner, who I personally think deserves an equally awful death. What could have been prevented, however, was further suffering. Had the water bottle been checked, she wouldn’t have been lying in water, chilled the bone. Had the associate not assumed the emergency vet was closed, he could have called her and, at the very least, she could have been humanely euthanized. The exotic vet was not closed. I’ve ran pigs to her myself at later times than 7 p.m. on a Friday.
An animal died a terrible death because someone who sees working with living things as “just another job” half-assed everything.
I found the chameleon yesterday morning, acting lethargic and bleeding (some was dried, other fresh) from his mouth. The hip joint on his left side also appeared to be swollen- sort of like if someone dropped him, although I can’t be sure of that. His habitat was at “desert” humidity (each reptile habitat has a hygrometer), he had no water, and apparently hadn’t been eating the previous day/night. I immediately called my pet care manager, who has on his way in, and he took him to the exotic/emergency vet within about ten minutes of getting into work. He brought the chameleon back about two hours later with a chlorhexidine rinse for what the vet believed was a superficial mouth wound, and an appointment for a second vet visit this Monday. I set him up in isolation with a bigger habitat, smaller crickets, and all the water/humidity he could want. I checked on him every hour and a half, and every time that habitat required me to spray it down again because both a heat lamp and a UVB bulb were in place.
I came in this morning and he was dead in his cage. The note from the person who had closed said he was on the floor of the cage with his mouth opened and his eyes closed. Their mouths being open is usually a sign of distress. His water had evaporated out, and the hygrometer was in “desert” again. He had been given his medicine, but no note was made about the habitat being misted down. We’ll never know what happened.
My point with all of this is that when mistakes are made, animals die. When you don’t want to do your job 100%, animals get hurt. Their lives are in our hands, and if someone is too busy texting or chatting or messing around to be thorough, they can suffer terribly. At least a couple of animals die every week, and we have a pretty low pet loss for our district.
Parts of the job can be rewarding, but a lot of it isn’t. If you have an interview soon, or you’re thinking about applying, please think it through and make sure you’re willing to put in the effort and work that’s actually required. Be ready to learn if you don’t know something, and actively learn if you want to be really good. Don’t go in thinking “Oh, this is just another job”. This is not baseline retail. You can’t kill a shirt or maim a shoe or a comforter or fabric. They might not be high-end designer decor or jewelry, but they really do deserve to be treated with respect and they deserve to be given quality care while in our hands. The great thing about PetSmart is that they pay for animals to see the vet- utilize that.
So, yeah. MAKE ME PROUD.