That dream for Bobbi Anderson has been to be the manager of an animal shelter.
It came true for her when on April 1 she took the reins of the SPCA of Bradley County’s pet adoption center, which also serves as the county’s animal shelter.
“I have always loved animals and always had animals growing up,” Anderson said.
She decided she wanted to start working with the Humane Society because of her passion for animals, and “because I was just naturally good at it.”
“When it comes to working with animals, you either have it or you don’t have it,” she said. “It is a gift and a passion. So, I started it and I loved it.”
Anderson said she always wanted to run her own shelter.
“Always,” she repeats reinforcing the notion.
“It was always my dream. I didn’t know how it was going to happen,” Anderson said. “But, it did and I’m loving it. This is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
Because she worked with Dr. Ashley Eisenbach, DVM, that put her on a direct road to Bradley County.
“She was moving to Johnson City and this job had been offered to her,” Anderson recalled. “That’s how I found out about the job and one day a vet came in to get a health certificate and Ashley was just looking at me and giving me the eye and I said, ‘OK, do you know I could do that kind of stuff?’ and right away, she contacted the SPCA here.”
Anderson said she did not really know about all of the political drama that had surrounded the shelter coming into place, but she did know “this was something I wanted to do my whole life. It was my dream to run a shelter.”
She was impressed with much that had been set up, but a lot had not been put into place.
“We’re still making up paperwork for fosters with intent to adopt, rescues ... everybody has to do an application for everything now,” Anderson said. “When I first got here, that wasn’t happening.”
She said they are now “putting stuff into place that needed to be put into place already.”
“I kind of look at it as a fresh start right now,” Anderson said.
Starting fresh is not unappealing to Anderson.
“I kind of like this better, because I can adapt it to what I know is best from past jobs at shelters. That has been a good thing,” she said.
Those pieces are slowly coming together with new coats of paint and a new “sick room” where animals with illnesses can be quarantined from the other population.
Anderson is energy in a bottle when it comes to her care for the local animals, and the joy is tangible when she embraces one of the dogs or cats in the shelter.
That’s where the hard part of running the shelter comes in.
“The hardest part of running the shelter is the attachment and then they have to leave,” Anderson said.
The other hard part she says is “there’s never enough time to get things done.”
“I tried to take two days off last weekend because my boys were in for the summer, but it didn’t work,” she said. “I was in here half days for both days.”
She said she was going to have a full day off on Sunday, and was told by SPCA volunteers and staff that if she pulled in, “We are making you leave.”
She said she is feeling the support of the SPCA board, volunteers and County Commission.
“They have all been wonderful,” Anderson said.
Much of that either came to fruition or was cemented after June 11.
Anderson could not have imagined her dream being abruptly interrupted by the most nightmarish of scenarios an animal lover could encounter.
The nightmare occurred June 11, when Anderson saw the indescribable conditions in which more than 240 dogs were being kept, and it was a trial by fire.
The dogs, with the help of the Humane Society of America and other organizations, have now been taken to safe places where they have better hopes of adoption.
“I really wanted to adopt some of the dogs out of here ourselves. They were all ‘our dogs,’” Anderson said. “But, the Humane Society suggested they go to places where they have vets on staff. I just thought I shouldn’t be selfish because I want to adopt them out personally. They will be better there.”
She said that event may have been a turning point for the shelter and the SPCA and it may have actually turned into a positive.
“I think a lot of good is going to come out of that,” Anderson said. “It was very educational and from the git-go we didn’t know what to do. Nobody in Cleveland that I know has ever handled a situation like that.”
She said the good of what happened is if something similar should ever occur again, “We know how to handle it better.
“We do make mistakes. We’re not perfect. We’re brand new, and we learn from those mistakes and get better,” she said.
Anderson said as for the goals she has for the shelter, it may be at 30 percent of where she wants it to go.
But, despite the long hours and the emotional nature of the job, she keep it very much in perspective.
“This is a labor of love, and for awhile I did feel like I was burning out,” Anderson said. “When it comes to something like this, you just have to remember your dreams and your focus and what’s really important. You have to remember there will be roadblocks along the way, but that just makes us better.”