By ABBY BELDEN
Working at an animal shelter involves more than just brushing dogs or petting cats.
Sure, being an animal lover helps, but it takes determination and a big heart -- and maybe a decent lint brush.
For Jessica Walters, a love of animals is second nature.
"I was that kid who brought home everything when I was little," she said. "I remember being really young and saying I wanted to be a vet and all that, and then as I got older, I steered other ways and when I got in college I thought it would be a really good job to have. And I ended up just falling in love with it and couldn't leave it."
Walters began working at Humane Society of the High Plains in 2007 as a kennel cleaner during her freshman year at Fort Hays State University.
Walters has worked part- and full-time in a number of roles at the humane society, from doing the dirty jobs of cleaning kennels, to working with the customers. In August, she was named the assistant manager of the shelter.
Since she began working at the shelter, Walters has had to learn discipline.
"I've got two cats and a dog, and my boyfriend's got a dog," she said. "And one of the dogs and one of the cats have come from the shelter. So, we had to learn to control ourselves. Everyone takes home at least one."
There is never a dull moment at the shelter either, not with five cats and a dog running around up front, wanting attention throughout the day.
"You learn to work around them, like with this one," she said as Kimba, a cat who lives at the shelter, plopped down on her desk. "He wants to be in your lap while you're doing paperwork, and he also wants you to pet him at the same time. So you've got to one-hand-it on the computer."
While there is a mix of happy and heartbreaking times at the shelter, there was also one traumatizing moment for Walters a few years ago.
Walters was working at the shelter alone, as the other workers were out running errands or had finished up and left for the day.
"I went to let my dogs back in, and one of the dogs got loose and he started a fight," she said. "When I tried to pull him away, he turned on me, and I was bitten about five or six times, just full attack and had to get him off of me and pen him up and get out."
Walters got away from the dog by running into an empty kennel and eventually getting the dog in a kennel while she ran for the door to the shelter.
She was able to return to work about a week and half later, after receiving 20 to 30 stitches.
She said the hardest part was going back to work and overcoming the fear that took root.
She has her moments, she said, but has come a long way through the years.
"Its just something you've got to kind of work through. ... I stuck around, and a lot of people asked me, 'Why didn't you quit your job?' " she said. "I just couldn't do it, knowing that this is what I really want to do. I went to school for communications ... but I prefer to work with animals."