Jess Cytron graduated from Colorado State University in 2013 with a degree in zoology from the College of Natural Sciences and a passion for helping animals. She’s managed to turn that passion into a successful and rewarding career in animal welfare. Cytron is now shelter manager at Fort Collins’ Animal House Rescue and Grooming.

“Animal House serves as a second chance facility for dogs that have run out of time at other rescue groups or shelters,” said Cytron. The facility aims to decrease the euthanasia rate of adoptable dogs by providing the individual space, environment, special care and audience of adopters for each and every dog that comes their way.

Beyond the degree

Working in animal welfare can be challenging. Cytron notes that that her time at CSU helped to prepare her by giving her the tools necessary to tackle the demands of the career. “Getting through some of the hardest classes that I’ll probably ever take helped me realize that when I put my mind to something, I can do it, even if there are obstacles in my way,” said Cytron. “I found organization, time management and this really intense willpower that I honestly didn’t know I had.”

Although Cytron learned many important lessons in lecture halls, she also believes that her education didn’t stop when class did. “This job can come with a lot of stress and a lot of emotional heartache, so you have to make sure to balance that with a lot of self-care,” said Cytron. “I had to do that in school too because of health issues, so I really had to learn how to take care of myself while getting a very big job done.”

CSU continues to play a part in Cytron’s life through Animal House’s participation in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Saving Animals in Shelters by Teaching Program.

Who saves whom?

Cytron finds meaning in every aspect of her job at Animal House. “Saving dogs is incredible, and that’s really why we are all here,” she notes. “But another aspect of this that I find rewarding is that when we save a dog and match them with a family, we are kind of completing a family.”

Cytron has also enjoyed helping people help dogs through Animal House’s foster program. “My husband and I have fostered 44 dogs in almost four years, so having that experience has really helped me find a lot of joy in supporting other foster families,” said Cytron.

Not for everyone

Cytron knew she was destined to work with animals while growing up in St. Louis, Missouri. She realized her passion for animal welfare specifically during a high school internship with a local veterinarian, when a volunteer from a local puppy mill rescue brought in dogs in need of surgery.

Cytron’s advice for students looking to turn their passion for helping animals into a meaningful career is something she has to remind herself every day. “Take care of yourself, because if you aren’t well cared for you won’t be able to give your whole heart, soul, passion and work ethic to the position, and that’s what work like this requires,” said Cytron. “I think maintaining a really good balance is super important – and also recognizing when you need to step back and when you feel like you have the gumption to step forward. It’s so important to be able to ask for help, too. And take naps. Take your days off seriously.”

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