Devoted to animals

Goodbye is the goal

30 August 2019 | Education

Mariselle Stofberg

Anatole France once said that until one has truly loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. Hanna Rhodin has unequivocally unlocked that part of her soul with her devotion to animal welfare.

Rhodin is the general manager at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and animals have always been a part of her life.

She was born in Kuwait and grew up with her mother and brother in the north of Sweden.

“Many of my memories from childhood involve animals. In fact, my earliest memory does too. I was about two years old and tried petting a hedgehog. As you can imagine, it did not work out that well and I was soon in tears after being pricked by the hedgehog’s spikes. Other memories involve galloping on horses across summer fields.”

Rhodin has always loved animals, but never really thought there were many opportunities to directly work with animals other than the veterinary field.

“As a teenager I would help and work in some of the bigger stables during specific projects. Animal shelters are virtually non-existent in Sweden and so animal welfare was not a field I was very exposed to. That all changed when I moved to Kuwait in my twenties.”

She started volunteering at a local animal shelter and after a few months they offered her a position there, overseeing the equine, wild, and exotic animals.

Rhodin has a bachelor’s degree in organisational development and ethnology and a master’s degree in communication for development.

“I slipped into animal welfare on a banana peel. After first accepting the position in Kuwait I was offered the shelter manager position a couple months later. I am extremely grateful that I had a great mentor who guided me through the ins and outs of animal sheltering and setting high standards.”

After five years working in Kuwait she moved to the United States and did some volunteering, finished her degree and joined a medium-sized animal welfare organisation.

“I have worked with anything from adoptions, surrenders, rescues, wildlife and animal behavioural assessments, to programme development, staff, volunteer and foster management.”

Four years later she moved to Namibia and even though the countries differ, they share many similarities too.

“What I have found by working with animals in a few different countries is that there are more similarities than there are differences. People surrender animals for the same reasons and people adopt animals because they believe in giving animals a second chance.”

Rhodin hopes to change the way people think about animal welfare and to provide the necessary education to ensure we have informed and responsible pet owners.

“Animal welfare has been around for hundreds of years in some places, and I believe that we do not need to reinvent the wheel, but rather learn from others and tailor it to our individual organisation, community and animal population.”

This passionate and driven woman gets her inspiration from those around her and by doing things that make her happy. “Inspiration seeps into my life through the individuals I meet, the roads I have travelled, and the books I read. I grew up around horses and going for a trail ride always makes my heart happy. I love the problem solving of rock-climbing and the feeling of mastering a difficult route.”

Working in animal welfare sometimes exposes one to the greatest moments, but forces you to confront the helplessness of animals in pain.

“Animal welfare has a high rate of compassion fatigue, which is similar to hospital, fire, and emergency personnel. We all get involved in not only this work, but the way of life because we are compassionate individuals trying to better the lives of animals.

“In an emergency involving an animal, you do not have time for feelings and you need to have a clear head so that you can make swift decisions to ensure that each animal gets the best care possible. Volunteers and staff may get attached to individual animals and saying bye can be bittersweet, but ‘goodbye is the goal’. We want to see these animals in loving forever homes. An animal shelter is only a short-term solution for these animals.”

Five facts about her that not everyone might know:

1. Her first pet was a caramel-coloured guinea pig. They would take naps together.

2. She has a soft spot for sea otters.

3. She loves hiking, being immersed in nature, and berries.

4. She is a pescatarian (vegetarian that occasionally eats seafood).

5. Their SPCA dog Bernie has a name that was auto-generated by a computer. Her husband insisted that they keep the name when they adopted him.

Caption

Hanna Rhodin has devoted herself to being a voice for those who cannot speak. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

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