Getting to know you: Animal shelter job filled with rewards and heartaches

Some people say a picture is worth a thousand words. In Carrie Lane's case, pictures foretold her future. In nearly every photograph of Lane as a child, there is an animal in her arms.

Some people say a picture is worth a thousand words. In Carrie Lane's case, pictures foretold her future. In nearly every photograph of Lane as a child, there is an animal in her arms.

"I think I always knew I was gonna work with animals," said Lane, the lead worker at Duluth's animal shelter. "When I would visit my grandparents in Iowa for the summer, I would make Grandpa drop me off at this tiny little animal shelter, and I would do whatever they let me: comb matts out of cats' hair, give the dogs a bath, whatever."

Life wasn't so straightforward in the end. Lane actually got a degree from University of Minnesota Duluth in linguistics and anthropology. After graduating, she worked as a parent educator.

"Then I saw this ad in the newspaper. It said, 'Animal shelter technician wanted.' So I applied," she said.

Long story short, Lane got hired.


She wasn't very excited at first -- being "the dog catcher" wasn't her idea of a great job working with animals. But she decided to give it a try.

It wasn't an easy job for an animal lover.

"In the beginning, it was every bit as bad as I thought it would be," Lane said. "I filled my house with animals; I wanted to save every one. I was spending half my pay to spay and neuter, then I would find them a home."

It got easier to leave work behind after Lane took over as lead shelter worker almost 10 years ago. She immediately implemented a number of changes, starting with the

disposal of the old carbon monoxide gas chamber used for euthanizing animals. Now shelter workers put the animals to sleep using an injection.

"Euthanasia means 'good death,'" she said. "That's what we try to provide for them.

"The carbon monoxide chamber wasn't that."

Making that change helped her personally.


"We do have to euthanize some animals here; it's the worst part of the job. But it's only half as bad when you're doing it humanely," she said.

Other things that have changed during Lane's tenure at the shelter follow:

  • Shelter workers began giving animals limited medical care.
  • She increased the number of cat cages in the shelter dramatically.
  • Policies changed too. Instead of letting anyone with $10 walk away with a pet, Lane devised an application process, started temperment testing the dogs, and she invited Animal Allies to assume a larger role at the shelter. Now Animal Allies staff handle all of the adoptions.

But what about the Lane who has a life outside of being the animal shelter lady, the one who has fostered close to 40 children, has a grown son in the military and an adopted daughter in kindergarten?
Let's find out:

Budgeteer: What is your favorite thing about living in the Northland?

Lane: Summer. I love the summers here, I really do. And the lake. I love Lake Superior: sitting by it, swimming in it, just seeing it on my way to work. It's a treasure we have. And it looks different every day. And ... it's not salty and it doesn't have sharks.

Budgeteer: What's your least favorite thing about living in the Northland?

Lane: The cold, absolutely. I wear long underwear from the time it gets below 40 degrees. You'd think I'd be used to it by now. (Lane has lived in Duluth since 1982.)

Budgeteer: If you won $1 million and had to donate half to a cause or organization of your choice, where would you direct the money?


Lane: I would donate one-fourth to public spay/neuter assistance. With the other money I would buy a place for teen moms, all teen parents actually, to live with their babies and learn how to parent and bond with their child.

Budgeteer: If you had more "you-time," what would you do with it?

Lane: Travel. World traveling. Anywhere, anytime, anyhow.

Budgeteer: Do you have a motto and what is it?

Lane: I always just think: Be grateful for what I have. Recognize what I have and be grateful for it.

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