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  • PACC employee gets up-close look at the lives of shelter pet

    You think you have trouble sleeping sometimes? Michele Figueroa, director of internal operations at Pima Animal Care Center, had insomnia on steroids earlier this month.

    It’s because Figueroa spent five nights in one of the kennels at PACC during the week of Valentine’s Day. She wasn’t alone. She had a roommate named Tessa, a sweet pup who had been at the shelter off and on since October. 

    Pima County FYI did a little post-mortem with Figueroa, who said she learned a lot from the experience, mostly that pets belong in a home and not the shelter.

    How did you feel after not getting rest?

    I was experiencing irritability and finding myself unable to focus on my work, and as each day passed this increased. While in the kennel I didn’t feel much of an urge to eat, but that urge did come over me when I exited the kennel each day to shower and work. This led me to start thinking about why some animals do not have normal appetites when they first enter the shelter. 

    When people would walk by your kennel, what was that like? 

    First, I experienced this panic feeling of not being able to see people but could hear them talking. Then, as they passed by directly in front of my kennel, it was a feeling of relief that maybe someone would stop and chat and be interested in Tessa. However, when that did not happen, it was a feeling of rejection. 

What was Tessa like during the week? 
    Tessa is very well behaved and is a cuddle bug. She is housebroken and snores like a train at night. She suffers from allergies but with someone who is strict on her diet this potentially could be easily manageable. She prefers dogs that are her size but we still encourage a meet and greet with any new potential brother or sister. 
    Michelle Figueroa and Tessa

    Favorite moment? 

    There were a few of them, and I have chuckled out loud with each. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be when Tessa showcased her singing chops. I was shocked and blown away by her voive but then someone told her she had a voice of an angel.  And then, well, what can I say? She got very bigheaded about it.

    Least-favorite moment? 

    I’m not sure I can single one event out. There were many moments and each had a different impact on me. 

    What did you learn? 

    My take away from this experience is that we need to get creative on getting our animals placed in fosters or adoptions. PACC is great at providing different stages of enrichment but we will be looking at additional ways of helping animals be more comfortable while in our care.

    What do you want other people to learn from your experience? 

    The importance of adopting and fostering and how they could change a pet’s life immediately. 

    How can people help? 

    I encourage everyone to come down and adopt, foster, or even take an animal on a day trip. Even the smallest amount of time away from the shelter is extremely beneficial for them. It allows them the break in all of the whirlwind of emotions that they experience while in the kennel. 

    Would you do this again? 

    Yes, without hesitation. I want to draw as much attention to our shelter animals and how a shelter environment is not a place for an animal to live for any amount of time. 

    Anything you would do differently?  

    I would like to say I would prepare myself for this journey, but in all reality there is nothing that could prepare someone for this. Your emotions are running high, and what you know to be your true self is conflicting with what you’re experiencing at that moment. 

    Update: Tessa was adopted Feb. 25 after someone saw all the coverage about her time with Figueroa. If you would like to be a hero to a shelter animal, sign up to be a foster. If you can’t adopt or foster, PACC could always use donations to the foster program at
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