Working With a Champion: Todd Powell
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Jim Harvey and Todd Powell

Todd Powell has worked at Fulton County Animal Services for over 20 years. Fulton County Animal Services Officer Jim Harvey sat down with Todd to reflect on Todd's journey in animal welfare: from showing dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club to showing dogs in the shelter to potential adopters. "From a personal standpoint, as an animal control officer who rescues dogs from the streets on a daily basis, it is comforting to know that I am delivering them into loving hands. Though Todd may no longer show champion dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club, he is truly a champion to us in every sense of the word."

 

On any given morning, well before the Fulton County Animal Shelter opens to the public, dedicated kennel workers perform a cleaning ballet to the deafening chorus of hundreds of barking dogs. Hosing down dog runs and wiping out cages, these workers are the backbone of the shelter, the unsung heroes of Fulton County Animal Services and LifeLine Animal Project.

On a recent Spring day, I sat down with one of these individuals, Todd Powell, to learn more about him and his almost 30 years of service as a kennel attendant at the Fulton County Animal Shelter. Though I learned many interesting things about him, I never imagined that the man I have witnessed tirelessly cleaning cages and dog runs has also shown dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club. More on that later.

At 6’2” and as lean as the day is long, Todd Powell is a humble, unassuming man with long flowing hair that he neatly sports in a ponytail. His path to Fulton County Animal Services began in 1987 in the small, industrial town of Marion, Indiana, a town of few people and even fewer jobs. Despite a degree in Management from Ball State, jobs were scarce and the local economy was sputtering. Seeking better opportunities, he and his wife, Jenny, packed up the car and set out for Atlanta.

As Todd reflects back on those early days in Georgia, he says, with a smile, that it did not take him long to realize that a career in retail management was not for him. So, on an impulse, he applied for a job at a local animal boarding facility. When days went by and he heard nothing back, he persistently called them about the job. With a smile, he tells how they finally relented to his phone campaign and awarded him the job. It has been 33 years since that introduction into the animal care world and he has clearly made helping animals his career and mission.

In 1993, Todd’s journey took him to the Fulton County Animal Shelter and he has not looked back. Though he proudly boasts of the “no kill” status that the shelter has achieved under LifeLine’s leadership, he sadly recalls the pre-LifeLine days when euthanasia was the rule, not the exception. As he softly reflects on those times, I can detect the pain in his voice. For a man dedicated to the goal of “making a difference” in the animal community, it is clear that the days of mass euthanasia took a huge emotional toll on him. In those days, he recalled, public adoption of animals through the shelter was not even an option. Large numbers of dogs came into the shelter, both as a result of the “see dog, pickup dog” mentality associated with animal control at that time, as well as the huge number of owner surrenders. As he softly laments on the limited options available back in the day, his eyes light up when we discuss how far we have come since then.

Compassion Fatigue affects many workers in the animal world and Todd was wise to establish positive diversions in his life. Though his devotion to Christianity has always been a source of peace, he balanced his shelter work with a highly successful run with show dogs, even showing his dogs at the acclaimed Westminster Kennel Club. With multiple champions at various shows, he fondly recalls also showing dogs for wealthy owners who would whisk him across the country in private jets. When I asked him if he was still working with show dogs, he laughs and explains that those days ended soon after he and Jenny adopted their two beautiful children. More specifically, he quips, “I found it tough to keep dogs in show coats when you have two kids in diapers and a wife that travels.”

In 2012, Todd’s world was turned upside down with a cancer diagnosis. Rather than allowing it to defeat or define him, he fought hard and not only survived the challenge, he used the experience as an inspiration in his life. Today, he is thriving, running obstacle courses and training for his first marathon.

So, the next time you think of LifeLine Animal Project and Fulton County Animal Services, think of all the devoted staff and kennel attendants like Todd Powell. They are truly the heartbeat of the shelter. It is with their dedication and perseverance that LifeLine has achieved so many positive milestones in 7 short years of running the shelter. From a personal standpoint, as an animal control officer who rescues dogs from the streets on a daily basis, it is comforting to know that I am delivering them into loving hands. Though Todd may no longer show champion dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club, he is truly a champion to us in every sense of the word.

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LifeLine Animal Project

Founded in 2002 and now managing DeKalb and Fulton County Animal Services, LifeLine Animal Project is the leading non-profit organization working to end the euthanasia of healthy and treatable dogs and cats in metro Atlanta shelters. Together, we will make Atlanta a no-kill community.

LifeLine Animal Project is an IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and all donations are tax-deductible.

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