Don't ever think that Betsie Puffer doesn't care about animals.
"People say -- and this boggles my mind -- people say, 'I couldn't do your job because I love animals too much,'" said Puffer, the cruelty investigator and euthanasia technician for the Central New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "I don't understand that logic. You have to love animals to do this job."
Puffer has been with the SPCA nearly a quarter of a century, having started there in the summer of 1984 as a caretaker in the kennels. She moved into the position of cruelty investigator that November when her predecessor left the organization. In that time, Puffer has seen the best and the worst in people, and, out of necessity, she's developed ways to deal with it.
"You have to be realistic in this job," Puffer said. "Not everybody takes care of their pets like I do or maybe you do. Everybody's different. You have to be compassionate, not just for the animals, but also for the people you're investigating. Sometimes you have to step outside the box and let your personal feelings go by the wayside."
That doesn't mean it's easy. At the end of the day, when cases are too much, Puffer said she does have outlets for the emotions she experiences.
"I have stuff at home," she said. "I have two cats and a dog of my own. I do crafts. I write poems and stories. That's kind of a release for me. If I'm particularly upset about a case, I'll write about it and put it in our newsletter."
Still, Puffer said, it's a tough job.
"A lot of people don't understand," she said. "You have to abide by the laws and enforce them as they're written. It can be extremely frustrating."