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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I Cannot Do It All...

In animal rescue, we discover a lot about ourselves.  But we also discover a lot about the world, much of which, we dislike and learn to resent. 

We realize that the rights of animals are low on the list of priorities for those people who possess the ability to protect them, such as police, lawyers and prosecutors, politicians, owners.  Many laws that are meant to protect animals, are shoved onto the back burner and other "more important" ones are pushed ahead.  In some ways, I understand this, as we all make decisions and prioritize things in our lives.  But animal care requirements are still in the dark ages.  For instance, the laws of Texas, and I believe they are the first to make such a change, no longer consider dogs personal property with no intrinsic value. "Dogs have finally moved up in legal standing from just “personal property” with no additional value, to personal property with recognized intrinsic or sentimental value. It took 120 years, but the law finally figured out that people value their dogs more than your average inanimate household item. Dogs now are in the same category as irreplaceable family pictures, heirlooms, and other personal property with sentimental value."  Dogs are still considered objects, with no credit given to their ability to have feelings or feel pain, but this legal precedent at least recognizes the fact that we have feelings for them, at least as much as that photograph of Grandma holding the new baby of the family...  Our question, "why is it taking so long to progress?"

We realize that some people just don't care about animals, as impossible as that may sound to us.  How they can look into the eyes of an animal and not see their soul, not see that they can love, and feel pain...  It is unfathomable to me and many, but it is the truth. These people can go about their day, and not bother themselves with reading my blog or visiting my office.  I like to think they are dedicated to correcting other injustices in the world, as there are many out there.

We also realize that there are millions of people who do care about animals, treat them as family, yet do nothing about the injustice that is served upon them.  "I could never do what you do" is my LEAST favorite quotation from fellow animal lovers, yet I hear it so often.  This is a big source of frustration, and I have addressed it many times in my blog.  Here is one of them: "Help Your Local Animal Shelter While On a Budget"

But the biggest thing we face is burnout.  We submit ourselves every day to seeing things that hurt us.  Animals abandoned, animals hurt, animals being treated like trash.  We hear owners say the most repulsive things about why they need to "get rid of" this pet.  We get yelled at when we have no room to take in an unwanted pet, or stray.  They yell even louder when we request financial help with the intake of that unwanted pet.  We are always expected to do it all for free and with a smile on our face.  We watch as those we try to protect, get no protection from those who have the ability to make the necessary changes.  We cry happy tears at adoptions and sad tears at our losses.  We get tired, hurt, exhausted. 

Until one day we struggle.  We struggle to the point of needing a break, yet rarely do we take one, because if we do, who will fill in where we are needed?

I struggled as the death of my cousin was treated as insignificant.  In the same state where a young man is facing felony charges for beating a squirrel with a hockey stick, my cousin's death is left unpunished, with no answers, and no punishment for inadequate investigation.  I wondered why I fight for animals when there are so many injustices for people as well.

I struggled when a friend felt comfortable enough with me to reveal her past abuse, the likes of which have made me again question why I am helping animals when people also suffer.  I am so grateful for her honesty and trust, and would not want her to take those words back.  The point is that it opened my eyes to yet another injustice I have heard about, but I have never been a witness to until now, and it rocked me at the core.  I recognize now that while I cannot change the past, I can be there for her when she needs me.  I hope I am a strong enough person to do so.

So, why am I helping animals when at times the injustice of people creates so much pain in me that I could run in circles for days trying to outrun the tears?

I think I now know why.  It is where my confidence lies.  It is where my background is concentrated.  I cannot fix everything.  I cannot change the world.  But if I can inspire one person, then I have made a difference.  Perhaps I have made that difference and inspired one person, but now I need to inspire person number two!

I have to leave the other missions to those who can prioritize them into their lives, and hope they step up to make the necessary changes.  I cannot bring my cousin back.  I cannot change the past of those I love.  But I can and will be there for those I love when they need me, or at least I will try my best to do so.  I am human, after all.

I realize I have to focus on the fact that my training makes animal care my specialty.  If my life had led me down a different path, I do believe the intensity of my passion would be focused on whatever endeavor I took on.  But in this lifetime, this is where I can make the biggest difference.  Even when the difference I am making seems futile, and too small in the grand scheme of things.

When someone asks, "Why do you help animals when children/environment/elderly/poor suffer?", I have to say because this is who I am.  This is what I know.  This is what I have chosen.  Or perhaps this is what has chosen me.  If I could do it all, I would... (perhaps I should buy a lottery ticket so I can do it all? :)  But I can't do it all.  And if you are asking that question of me, you better be doing your share in whatever mission inspires you.

I guess I am saying something to all of you that have followed my blog, and noticed my absence.  I am saying...

I am back... so brace yourselves!   :)


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24 comments:

Average Jane said...

Thanks for this post! I've struggled with some of the same thoughts and you've done a great job articulating them.

I actually volunteer with both animal and people charities, but my heart is much more with the animal work. I have to set strict limits for myself, though, because the burnout always looms.

It's good to have a reminder that each life you help is a little victory.

Maine Kitties said...

What an excellent message. I volunteer for my local cat shelter and some days its really hard but I LOVE doing it....the kitties need me, so I keep going back.

Sweetie Bean said...

"We realize that some people just don't care about animals, as impossible as that may sound to us. How they can look into the eyes of an animal and not see their soul, not see that they can love, and feel pain... It is unfathomable to me and many, but it is the truth."

This is why I'm vegan. I looked into my cat's eyes, and couldn't stand thinking of testing on his or a rabbit's eyes. I work very hard to save dogs and cats - how could I kill a cow or chicken for food? I look into their eyes and know they have a soul, feel pain, feel love and all kinds of emotions - how could I harm them? I have to be consistent in my treatment of ALL animals.

Thanks for all you do!

Cindy Dukes Manning said...

I'm glad you're back. . .

Amy Haas-Gray said...

Another great blog after a long wait...but well worth it!!! All i can say is 'Thank Dog'!!!

Lisa Kuehl said...

Ditto that, Amy!

Maggie Hess said...

glad to have you back!

Katie said...

I've struggled with the same questions. I've also come to a similar conclusion: it makes me come alive. And if I can help people through their pets (and vice versa), then that's a great thing.

Burnout is always on my mind and it's so hard to set boundaries sometimes when I just want to jump in and do everything! The Humane Society of the US published a book called "Compassion Fatigue in the Animal Care COmmunity" that, at the very least, validates those feelings that come up once in a while. The book also offers some solutions and preventative measures.

Thanks for sharing and thanks for doing what you do. It's important and it's valuable.

Camp Stanhope Happenings said...

I'm very grateful for people who can be caregivers in ANY capacity (that I know I'm not equipped to handle)! Thanks for ALL you do, and for HOW MUCH you care.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're back too...

George Grossman said...

Lisa, what you do every day makes you one of my heroes! Total admiration! I am glad you are back!

Cindy Khalsa said...

I think you sell yourself way to short, you are my hero , a vet that cares enough to help with her time and herself to help with the suffering of animals who cannot speak for themselves . Alll I can say is you are one person , if you can look yourself in the mirror and say I have made a difference for at least one soul on this planet, then I believe we are doing the right thing in our lives. Also you never know when just a kind word or a smile changes another person's day , I have had this happen in my own life , just one person when I was at my most rock bottom point to say to me I love you , rocked my world , so stop selling yourself short , you do count and I appreciate what you do for the animals more than you will ever know , keep up the good work , and when you need a break take one without gilt , thankyou for being you ,

Karen Schroeder said...

So glad you're back, Lisa. I DID miss your blog, but realize you are sometimes busy and those priorities come first. What you do IS appreciated, a lot, by both animals and humans.



I have one question: dogs in Texas have "finally moved up in legal standing from just 'personal property' - what about cats? horses? etc.? They have feelings and can suffer just as much pain as dogs - are all animals covered under their new law? Just curious.



Thanks.

Carol Koundakjian (and Daisy) said...

This is to encourage you and let you know that what you do has tremendous value in the lives of animals and the humans who love them. I too was involved in the veterinary world in what seems a 100 years ago! I was an animal nurse in England in the 1960's and 70's. So many times my heart would break when seeing the needless cruelty and neglect, and I too would wonder why I was involved in that profession. The Lord gave me a love and compassion for animals at an early age, and I never wanted to do anything else but find a career that would help them. The animal nursing program was brand new when I started, in fact my number when I graduated was 112. It has gone on to develop into a sophisticated program with different specialty fields. I was just a humble RANA (Registered Animal Nursing Auxillary). I have continued to care for and try to help animals of all varieties even after marriage and children took me away from a full time career.

I was privileged to adopt a puppy from you in the summer of 2009. We were looking for a mature dog to be a companion to our lonely Chihuahua, but ended up with a Pomeranian puppy you called Bambi. She is now our beautiful Daisy, and every day I am thankful that you were there to take her out of a horrible situation where she would probably have ended up bearing litter after litter of puppies and being confined in a cage most of her life. She is now spoiled rotten and a delight to us. She is so funny and keeps us entertained and active. Thank you for your work. We cannot save them all unfortunately, just as those involved in other ministries cannot save them all. We are just responsible for those the Lord brings to our door - and you are going above and beyond that.

With gratitude,

Gayla Huisman said...

love this!!

Dian Hardy said...

I absolutely adore this blog. Her struggle is so very human as she tries to set and keep her priorities and her compassion is enormous and remarkable.

Anonymous said...

My family has said the same to me... why not help children, etc.

I said look I can take in 3 dogs and care for them and love them, I can't take in 3 children at this point in my life. I do not have the means. So I help where I can.

I have worked at emergency shelters on my "days off" and have been exhausted... but the little furry faces fueled me each day. Those in need don't ask much and no matter how much time they "take" if I come home exhausted with a smile it's a good day.

Many people appreciate you and what you do. You rock!!! It's hard and it's a choice and decisions, but it's a helpful one.

Margie D said...

Thank you for all you do! I try to give either my time or my money (although I never have enough of either of those two) to most of my local no-kill shelters. I've also worked in the nonprofit world, serving humans. Like you, I feel better about myself when I'm helping animals. I wish more people would show compassion towards all animals.

Jessica said...

When you help these animals you are helping the people that adopt them because without you, they may have never had the chance to find their best friend.

Donna said...

This is a common complaint from non-animal lovers. You have said it very well. It is where our pssion lies. Like those who help people, that where their passions lie.

I work with a local dog rescue, Hopeful Hearts Dog Rescue. They do incredible work. People ask them why we take dogs from outside the country when there are so many here in Canada? We take each dog on its own merit. We cannot save them all but work hard with the ones we do take in. We specialize in seniors and special needs.

You obviously do incredible work and I thank you for it. I know Roz of HH faces those questions all the time. I feel that those who have no compassion for animals do not have any for humans. I may be wrong.

I'm glad you're back!

Debbie said...

I love this..and this is soooo true. I have tears in my eyes. you keep doing what you were meant to do..someone has to. and then there are others that have a calling to help people..and they will be there to help them as well. i think any living creature deserves the right for someone to fight for them..however that may be. God Bless!!!!

Loretta Harnarine said...

I just want you to know that when I read your blog, I cried my eyes out. It must be so hard to do what you do, but you must keep it up.

The animals need you. We need you. I pray each and every night for people like you to find the strength and courage to do this very difficult job that you do.

You are appreciated, believe me. Be proud of yourself, you are special and a Saint for the animals.



Please respect, enjoy and protect all the beautiful creatures that share this wonderful planet with us.

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