Could Work Actually Not Suck Sometimes? – Part 2: Spoilers! It Can’t!

(Part One)

Sad Hill Cemetery, from the movie The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good

It’s hardest to start with the good, so let’s begin there.

I’ve had some moments of euphoria with my job where I wonder: Do I really get to work with dogs for a living?! And the answer is yes and that (sometimes) fills me with wonder. These moments are far and few these days after working at the pet resort for a few months but the fact that they still happen is telling.

I have a co-worker that I really appreciate and like seeing. They’re a really nice person who has their own share of issues but has been very nice and supportive to me as a co-worker. I admit I also have a crush on them but I have been trying to keep a lid on that and keep things friendly and professional.

My schedule lately has been more of what I wanted from the beginning: 20 hours or thereabouts, later shifts (closing and overnight) and getting out on time more often. Waking up in the mornings was never fun (more on this soon) but I felt like if I worked later shifts I would be able to do the job a bit better and I think I was right. It’s certainly more bearable.

My partner still deserves awards for their amazing support in getting me to and from work most times. And when they cannot I can rely on their mother, or the bus system, other friends or Uber to help me out. Thankfully those alternatives are almost always unnecessary and I generally get the easiest choice.

Although I do not necessarily feel value for my work (again,more on this soon), I value the work I’m doing and see it as important. I am helping dogs and their owners both have better lives than they may have had otherwise. I am enabling people to go on vacations and for their dogs to still be cared for in crate-free environments with other dogs.

Many of the dogs there are lovely and I have so many wonderful pictures and videos of dogs!

During the closing shifts and overnight shifts there are less people and often less work to do. I can usually do things on my own terms or so close that it doesn’t matter. The overnight shift even allows for some sleep! As such, there’s an element of freedom in how I handle my shifts, even if the activities themselves are predictable.

Although the sounds of many dogs barking is not a pleasant one, it’s still better than the pop music that retail stores put on repeat. Sometimes people put on their own music but often there’s no music at all or I get to listen to my own ,music which tends to be jazz or something easy-going, it helps me focus when I clean and is relaxing after a long day of work.

I’ve been able to balance my college life and my work life reasonably okay. At least to the point that one does not affect the other in a serious way. Though, as y’all may have noticed, I’ve had to seriously cut down on my writing.

Which brings me to…

The Bad

It’s been exactly three months since I wrote part one and much has changed, and sadly not for the better. And not being able to write has been slowly killing me. Of course, I am able to write at college so that has been staving off any feelings of inadequacy but I have stilled missed writing. I am able to write this today because of the upcoming Thanksgiving break.

The first bad thing to note, is that my pay is $9 an hour, which is not horrible (it isn’t a pay cut from my previous job) but it is not what I should be paid either. My last job recently started paying their employees $11 an hour which feels like a smack in the face to me. But I still don’t think I would ever go back, even if it was easy to slack off at.

The opportunity to slack off is there but it is risky because you need to focus on the dogs. When the dogs are laying down or taking it easy and playing nicely it’s OK to look at your phone (kind of) and be elsewhere for a few minutes or so. But sometimes being elsewhere means a dog gets into trouble easier and are all of the sudden tearing up the place.

So slacking off has been harder for me and I feel a sense of obligation to keep a semi-watchful eye on the dogs (which I generally do, for the record). But sometimes the job gets boring or the dogs are too overwhelming for me in terms of my sensory experience and I need to turn off for a bit. Unfortunately, in a lot of ways, this job makes that difficult.

Waking up early in the morning is never fun. Sometimes it seems like the hours go by quicker though maybe that’s just because a few co-workers have told me that. Whatever the case, any day I have to wake up early in the morning (we’re talking 6:30 to 7 AM) is a bad time and I’m never happy about it. Too much noise too early in the morning for one thing.

I hate being so reliant on my partner for transportation. As much as I appreciate them doing it and helping me out, I feel like I am a drain on their gas funds. It is not a very far ride from my house (or theirs) so I think this is me having trouble accepting kindness, which is not unusual for me.

Besides the one co-worker I have not really made many connections. Everyone knows my name (Dory/Doreen, mostly Dory) but most people still see me as a guy or do not know about my pronouns. That’s partially on me because I do not clarify what my pronouns are out of social anxiety and general fear of transphobia. That’s probably overstated though.

Although many of the dogs are wonderful there are still dogs who I could go without. I understand the resort is a business and needs to think about financial stability but at a certain point some of the dogs just need to stop coming here if they have serious anxiety issues or attack other dogs constantly. It’s simply not a safe experience for anyone.

I feel very mixed about the resort manager. She has listened to me and my concerns and I often only have to say them once or twice (or three times…) but eventually things do happen? But it can also be a frustrating experience and I have recently heard much worse experiences from some of my co-workers about her (guess what? more on this soon!).

While none of my co-workers are fine I’ve yet to make any great connections and the one good connection I’ve had so far feels very tenuous at best.

And that’s because of…

The Ugly

There’s no way around it: The pet resort I work at is poorly managed, we are overworked and underpaid, often begged to come in through messages because we are chronically understaffed and most employees do not feel respected by management. Most of the equipment is in disrepair or broken to boot!

There’s so much to say here.

Poorly managed: In my almost 3 months of working at this pet resort I almost never see the actual owner of it (who is suspiciously young, makes me think they come from old money) and only barely see the resort manager. The resort manager either does not take messages when they are not there or only loosely responds at best.

Multiple people are not happy with the management, including myself. Many people have let that known by simply not showing up to work (no-call, no-show) but others have quit. In the past 2 months or so we’ve lost two assistant managers and I could not even tell you how many co-workers I have seen come and go.

How this place got such good reviews is beyond me and how it made some lists in the state is also beyond me.

But really, it isn’t.

Most of the activities with the dogs happens behind closed doors which I found suspicious at first but then persuaded myself it didn’t matter. But it totally does. If the owners could see how cramped and gross the rooms can get sometimes, I bet they would not be handing out 5 star reviews. If only they could see how perpetually understaffed we are.

And most of our chronic under-staffing can be swept under the rug when there are only a few people that need to be at the front area/receptionist area to get the dog and log them into the system. In this way there is no real way for customers to see that we are chronically understaffed which means they have no complaints about it.

This, in turn, means the resort manager and the owner likely feel less pressure than they should to have better conditions for us as employees. I also could not tell you how many chairs have broken because of the dogs, how many times the mop buckets do not work or cleaning supplies have been empty or broken. Not to mention the amount of broken doors.

The upkeep on the building is awful and we barely have the employees on a given day to competently keep up with the challenges of cleaning the place. I can understand on a certain level that we are accepting a lot of dogs and this requires a lot of consistent and competent work, but honestly, if they want cleaning crews, they should really outsource.

That’s part of why I say we’re underpaid. Because the pet resort I work for not only wants me to work with dogs but clean up after them in time-intensive ways. It usually takes a half-hour to an hour to clean up at the end of the day and that’s coming from a person who mostly phones it in at this point. I don’t really care about cleaning, it isn’t what I want to do.

Cleaning is more of a “bad” thing of itself, it isn’t terribly hard but it is boring and not what I want to do. But combine it with chronic burnout from other co-workers (and soon to be former co-workers in many cases) and it puts a lot more of the cleaning on you. For example, I’m OK (not happy) with cleaning the room I was in all day, that makes sense.

But cleaning the room across the hall and around the corner makes very little sense to me. I wasn’t ever there and I was not responsible for the mess. If someone could help me do it, okay. I understand everyone having to do their part, but ideally their part should be their part, not someone else’s.

Overworked and underpaid: The burnout is so bad I thought I was playing a classic racing game, except it’s awful and I crash every single race course. The tracks are on fire and you usually spin out and die before you ever really start. Does this sound over-dramatic? Well, that’s because I’m being over-dramatic for the sake of a weird video game based pun.

In any case while I got plenty of hours in the beginning of my jobs I never wanted plenty. I specifically asked for something like 15-20 hours and have almost never gotten 15. Heck, I’ve almost never gotten 20. It’s usually less than 25 these days which is an upgrade from the 30 hours I used to work. The good thing in all of this is that I’m fairly ahead of my bills, rent, costs of living, etc. and I’ve been able to afford “luxuries” (conventions, concerts, video games, etc.).

But having all of that puts things like my medical benefits in jeopardy as well as the free food I get from pantries. And all because the management at the pet resort is so poor. They often do not even let us argue with the schedules after a change or two, it’s atrocious and as you might imagine, we have very little bargaining power.

I’ve recently heard a co-worker (the one who I think is great) that they tried to discuss with the resort manager a pay raise they were promised. Only for the manager to tell them they were not allowed to discuss wages (this is false and illegal!) but when pressed about another employee getting the raise, they suggested it because of time and training.

But the time frame for both of these individuals entering the place was very similar (same month) and when asked if she could do the same training so she could get more money, the manager again insisted my co-worker could not be discussing this with her and that she could be fired for doing so (also illegal FYI!).

All of this, especially me getting out 20-30 minutes later than I want at times (which my partner also happens to think is the worst feature of my job) makes me feel devalued as an employee. And the circular nature of burnouts at the company and the turnstile approach to employment makes me feel used and disposable at the same time. Ugly stuff.

So as you can tell, it’s a heck of a mixed bag. There’s much more to say about this place but I’ve said enough to give you a picture. Whether I’ll stay here or indeed the place itself will stay here, only time will tell.

Can work ever not suck?

Unlikely.

So long as capitalism and the state exist, none are free!

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