Going to the Dogs
It’s four o’clock and the dogs are howling on River St. Phil Nichols is looking for a quiet space in the Toronto Humane Society (THS) shelter to have a conversation.
The truth is, Phil prefers animals to people – they are simpler, he says – but he graciously agrees to an interview. The Veterinary Technician grad landed his first job at THS in 2010, during a period of transition and rebuilding. In just four years he has become Director of Operations. He oversees everything from intake, adoptions, vaccines, spay/neuter clinics and subsidized public care to what he calls, “all the fun stuff that goes with that, including budgets and planning.”
The dogs are still barking and Phil is so attuned to their needs, even when he’s spent the day in meetings, he knows it’s getting close to feeding time. He’d rather be with them than with paper and pen.
“Growing up, animals were one of the few things that were consistent for me and I was able to rely on,” says Phil. “That’s very important to me. I really enjoy that I can spend my professional career being able to give back to them and provide compassion and support when they were able to provide that for me.”
Doing that means making human connections too. “We understand that we really can’t help animals without helping people,” Phil says, describing an industry-wide shift to provide services that allow people to provide appropriate care, “so that the animals never need to enter a shelter facility and risk euthanasia.”
Phil’s commitment to animal care is rivalled only by his faith in the skills of Seneca grads. The Humane Society could host a satellite alumni association with more than a dozen Vet Tech grads working for the organization. Phil knows their hands-on training.
“It’s still one of a few programs that has large and small animal care to provide training under the supervision of teachers, rather than through a placement program.”
In addition, Phil says, the co-op program provides a good grounding and opportunities to see the diversity of possibilities in the field including work in shelters, private practices, and pharmaceuticals. The shelter is where he wants to be.
It’s suddenly silent. The dogs have stopped barking. They have their food. It is as simple as that.