Bite your lip until it hurts. Swallow that huge lump in your throat. Cough and clear your throat to explain away your wet eyes. Stuff the feelings somewhere, anywhere, until the pounding in your head goes away and the anger and frustration and sadness fade. You cannot bring emotion into this job. It will only get worse. And it doesn’t belong in a crime scene. It interferes with perspective and judgment and decision-making and besides, you are stronger than this. You are tough, so suck it up, or you won’t survive in this field.
At least, that is what I tell myself. That is what I have to do when I see what I see; the cruelty, the lack of caring, the disregard, the violence and neglect. The fact that others don’t see things like I do. That animal life just doesn’t matter to some. That they are dispensable. Disposable. Nuisances. When I see the blank stares of the people being threatened with citations for their actions. When I sense their antipathy. Their impatience at being bothered with something so trivial.
That’s when I get angry. When I fight to stay in control. When I look for reasons where maybe there are none. I’m always able to stay focused in the heat of the moment; on a call, or in an investigation. It’s the downtime afterward when I feel the knot in my stomach; that hole in my chest that started forming with the dog in the bathtub. When I watch my own dog sleep (and snore) or run on the beach and wonder why they all can’t have what they deserve. Why some people just can’t be bothered to follow the rules and regulations that were put into place for the animal’s (and their own) safety and protection.
The other officers struggle too. But they are better at coping. They’ve had years of exposure to steel their nerves. And they all have their own ways of escaping. But it never really goes away.
People are different. They grow up with divergent values. They have unique experiences. Some just weren’t raised to care. I understand all that. But it doesn’t stop my impatience, my anger, or my disgust. The only thing I can do is help where I can, and learn all I can, from my professors, my advisors, the officers training me, and the professionals already in this field. And then apply it. Seek justice for those who cannot speak. Bring attention to crimes where the only victims or witnesses can’t communicate. And hopefully, with each life saved, the knot in my stomach and the hole in my chest will become a little easier to accept.