Monday, June 13, 2011

The Challenge of Balancing Your Career & Caring for Companion Animals

I was recently presented with an opportunity to work abroad with an attorney in India for several weeks this summer. As a busy law student pursuing a career in international animal law, I couldn’t have dreamed of a better chance to get hands-on experience at my dream job. My first reaction: Yes! I’ll do it! Perfect! Excited!

And then reality struck: What on earth will I do with my three companion animals while I’m gone for an entire summer?! Not only do I have two dogs and one cat (a large number by typical law student standards), but each has their own issues that may make him or her hard to place. My cat, Kitten, is FeLV positive. My dog, Ajay, has dog aggression issues. My other dog, Hershey, needs large amounts of exercise to keep her energy level under control. How will I ever find other people willing to take on less-than-perfect companions for the summer?

As I started to face the task of finding temporary foster homes, I realized that so many of us are faced with a similar challenge: how do we choose between our companion animals and our career?

Obviously for most of us, we’re in the animal law field (law students, attorneys, advocates, etc.) because we like animals. I’m sure a lot of us really love animals. For many of us, that love of animals extends to our own companion animals. We are tasked with dividing our time between working for the greater good of animals and maintaining healthy, positive relationships with our own.

Whether it’s deciding to put in extra hours at the office or traveling away from home for days, weeks, or months on end, finding balance is a challenge to which those of us with companion animals can relate.

Personally, I try to “make up” for lost quality time. If I know I’ll be putting in some extra hours at the law library in the coming week, I try to make an extra effort to take Ajay and Hershey on runs and car rides (their favorite activities) or spend some extra snuggle time with Kitten. Doing this helps me feel slightly less guilty when I head out the door for what is surely going to be a long day away from home.

I got incredibly lucky by finding three wonderful people to care for my animals while I’m gone. Kitten gets to stay in my apartment for the summer and live with the woman, Anne, subletting it. Ajay, the troublemaker, will be living in a large house with a series of gates keeping him separated from the other dogs in the home until he feels comfortable enough to make friends with them. Hershey, my bundle of energy, will be hanging out with two other energetic dogs and will enjoy daily trips to the dog park.

Through my search for caretakers, I realized that I couldn’t take care of my three animals without the help of my wonderful network of family and friends. They are the ones that help me find and maintain a balance between working for animals in general and caring for my own. There will hopefully be numerous times throughout my career when I have the opportunity to travel abroad and now I know that I’ll be able to take advantage of those opportunities thanks to my network of support.

So, to Anne, Lily, and Karen, the amazing people who will be caring for and loving my companion animals for the entire summer, I express to you my deepest gratitude. And to my friends and family who help me daily, whether by letting my dogs out if I can’t make it home or understanding if I need to leave an engagement early, I also send you big thanks.

I wrote this on the airplane on my way to India for a three month stay. I’ll send lots more updates of my travels and am looking forward to expanding my knowledge of international animal law.

Claire Czajkowski
J.D. Candidate 2013
Lewis & Clark Law School

Claire & Ajay

Just Ajay

Hershey & Kitten

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