Walking through the doors of the freshly cleaned animal shelter, Allison Andrukonis’ ears filled with barking dogs. Passing dogs row by row, she selected the one lucky dog of the day. Today, a trip to the ice cream shop was on the menu for this special pup.
Andrukonis grew up in Fairfax, Virginia, where she received her undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech. Then she made her way to Lubbock, Texas, where she received her master’s degree in animal science at Texas Tech University in May of 2018. Currently, Andrukonis is a doctoral candidate in the department of Animal and Food Sciences at Texas Tech.
“My study focus is compassion fatigue and moral injury in animal care workers,” Adrukonis said.
Through her doctoral program, Andrukonis is accomplishing her childhood dream of helping animals. Andrukonis said she knew from a young age that she had a calling to help animals.
“I knew I had to dedicate my life to help the animals that helped me, Andrukonis said. I believe shelter animals are the ones who need it the most because none of them have homes.”
Andrukonis is working with the Lubbock Animal Shelter and Adoption Center where she is studying the mental effects on humans that care for and subsequently euthanize the same animals.
For Andrukonis’s research, she performs a variety of tests such as, physiology measures, heart rate variability, salivary cortisol and blood pressure before, during and after euthanasia to compare to the caring-killing paradox. The paradox showing quantitative investigation of the psychological ramifications of euthanasia‐related work that results in stress on all aspects of life.
“I research animal shelter employees who euthanize regularly, animal shelter employees who do not euthanize regularly, pet hotel employees, university personnel who harvest livestock, and veterinarians,” Andrukonis said.
Andrukonis says she could not have made it this far with her research without the help of others.
Steven Greene, Lubbock Animal Services Director, said Andrukonis had been a valuable volunteer outside of her research. She helped create the shelter’s vaccination program, writing her own grant for the city that was approved, and taking out the dogs for ice cream every Thursday.
“She has been a wealth of knowledge in shelter management,” Greene said.
Andrukonis believes through all the adversity in life, pets are always there for you and that is why she feels like she needs to help animals through her research and volunteer work.
“It is like a dream, I get to play with puppies all day,” Andrukonis said.