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Friday, April 3, 2015

Existential Crisis? Compassion Fatigue? Complicated Grief?

Existential crisis.  Compassion fatigue. Complicated grief.

When my Mother passed away, I was devastated.  Who was I going to call when I did something exciting?  Who was I going to call when I was upset?  Who was going to say they were proud of me?  Who would worry about me when I was sick?  Who would tell me to be careful when I went to do something adventurous like rock climbing or scuba diving?  Who was I going to make proud?

I would see a two year old giggling with her mom in a store and think, "Someday that little girl is going to feel the pain I feel now after losing my Mom."  I could not see the happy years between the girl of two years old and the girl who lost her mother.

I agreed to move to Iowa...from Rhode Island.  There were too many things back home that would remind me of my Mom anyway, so perhaps I was meant to move on. perhaps this was where I was meant to go?

I opened a small animal clinic in a small town.  My intention was to build a small animal hospital that would eventually make a profit.  What I found was that our entire county lacked any humane animal facility for homeless strays or owner relinquished pets.  AHA!  A new life purpose?  Something that was meant to be? Fate?  Destiny?  Is this where I was meant to go, my life's challenge?  Was my Mother looking down and smiling?

I ran my for profit clinic as an animal shelter and low cost spay neuter clinic for twelve years, without collecting a paycheck for myself.  Twelve years.  I payed my staff, sadly I had to pay them poorly, but they seemed to be as dedicated as I was to making a change to benefit the animals that needed our help.  I assisted rescues and shelters with animals in need.  Let's just say that I have an inability to say no, even when I should.

I participated in a hoarding "rescue" after my assistance was requested.  I was denied the ability to save the number of animals for which I had rescue commitment.  Most were euthanized as "unsaveable".  I was horrified that as a group, our rescues could have helped more cats and kittens than we were allowed.  I was horrified that euthanasia was preferred to entrusting them to a  colleague with the same degree who was willing to at least try to save them, and pass them on to licensed shelters and rescues that were already holding spots for them. I was horrified.

I participated in another hoarding rescue.  I enlisted the help of another and together we had a state approved temporary shelter in place, I enlisted the help of Animal Protection and Education to get fifty cats spayed and neutered, vaccinated, tested for leukemia and FIV, microchipped, and treated for fleas and worms within one week of their removal from the house. My partner in this rescue managed to get the funds to have this effort completely paid in full. We received donations of food and litter, cleaning supplies, The cats were ready for adoption! Success!

We asked rescues and shelters for help taking in some of the cats, and several of them did and for those rescues we are eternally grateful.  But several others did nothing but criticize our efforts, and refused to take in any cats.  They called me at my home and told me I did it all wrong.  We had fifty cats breathing clean air, eating healthy food, in a safe place, COMPLETELY vetted, and ready for adoption or rescue transfer... but we did it ALL wrong.  These were the same people who sympathized with me over the previous hoarding situation.  The same people who said those cats should not have been euthanized were now refusing to help us relocate these cats because we did it wrong in their opinion.  I thought they would help these cats and we could prove as a dispersed team made up of individual rescues and rescuers that these situations don't require the death sentence. What a statement that would have made!

I have watched for years as people bring me stray cats or kittens found in their yard or relinquish their own pets, for me to rescue, vet, and rehome.  Those same people continued to go to another local vet with their pets, but when they needed help, their vet was not willing.  I have dedicated years to helping a community, to helping animals, to helping people, to helping rescues, believing I was doing the right thing.  I was led by my heart.

The bad thing about being led by your heart is that it leaves your heart extremely vulnerable.

Years of financial struggling and lack of support from the layperson was hard enough.  Being taunted by other rescuers, rejected by former employees and friends, makes the surmountable become insurmountable.

Allowing my heart to lead my way was my legacy for my children.  Do what your heart loves, not what lines your pockets. Now I fear that I believe that being led by your heart is naive and doomed to fail.  

I want nothing more than to talk to my Mother, who would probably say "Why do you care what other people think?".  But when those who think against you, or worse, those who neglect to think about you are stacked so HIGH, it becomes overwhelmingly hurtful.

I have lived my life trying to make a difference, and while I didn't do it for recognition or gratitude, my brain is telling my heart to STOP!

I posted this image on my facebook page...

Read this blogs:

It is a Google Earth satellite image of my clinic and the small park we built and dubbed "Pooch Park" with the landscaped paw print made of brick and stones.

As long as this paw print is there, I will think of it as my reminder of the mark I wanted to make on this world.  It is my symbol of hope and love for those who need to feel hopeful or to feel loved, both animal and human.  It is my symbol of hope, hope that I will not give up and a symbol to remind me that there are those who love me, and perhaps it is time to focus on them.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Dear Former Adopter...

Dear Former Adopter,

I wanted to share a brief update sent to our rescue group by Fluffy's adopted family after you returned her with only a few short days in your home:

"Fluffy is doing great! The whole family loves her. This is a picture of her giving my granddaughter kisses. She gets along with our other dog just fine and the cat tolerates her, Fluffy wants to play and she doesn't. I am so happy I found her."

While I am grateful that you wanted to incorporate a rescue dog into your home, and grateful that when it did not work out with this particular dog you returned her to us rather than take her to a local shelter or rescue, I feel your reference to her as being "vicious" is unwarranted.

I apologize for the delay in sending your "refund" check.  On the adoption contract you signed at the time of adoption, you agreed that your adoption fee is considered a donation to assist in the rescue of other animals in need and aid with the expenses of the homeless animals currently in our care. You did not "buy" a dog that day.  You made a donation to a non-profit organization that saves animals lives in a county where there is NO OTHER animal welfare organization. Your donation saves animals lives.  It provides them with their necessary medical care, and provides them with food and shelter until their forever family is fortunate enough to find them and provide for them a loving home for the rest of their lives.

I will bet it is safe to say that you have never argued so vehemently with any other non profit organization to get your donation back.  I cannot imagine anyone arguing so aggressively with the Red Cross or American Heart Association or even the HSUS or ASPCA.  Unlike these groups, we get no governmental funds, no large scale donors, no large grants.  We rely on a small group of dedicated employees, and a small number of volunteers and donors that I can probably count on one hand.  We exist in a town of only 1200 residents.  We are a small town group trying to make a difference and lend a hand to animals and people with no other humane options. 

I am not naïve enough to expect every adoption to go perfectly, and I know that not every animal will fit into every home.  But when you commit to a rescue pet, and sign a contract, you are committing to a rescue pet and signing a contract.  You should be proud to have made a donation as it is a thank you for our efforts. Some days any form of thank you is few or far between.  Your commitment to rescuing a pet means that even if one is not quite right for your family, that you will consider another rescued pet and save the life of the animal that is meant to be with your family despite your struggle to find him/her. There is always trial and error in life.  You likely did not marry the first person you dated. Imagine a world where if a first date did not go well you could get a refund from the restaurant and movie theater for the epic fail.  There is no guarantee of success when you go in for a medical procedure, but everyone hopes for the best possible result.  If the procedure fails or needs to be repeated, the hospital does not issue a refund for the first attempt, and certainly does not perform the second procedure for free.

We no longer take in dogs for adoption.  We will assist animals into other rescues, but Fluffy was one of the last.  Paying clinic staff to care for homeless rescue dogs over weekends and holidays has become too much.  Operating in such a small town has many benefits, but funds are tight, volunteers are cherished but few, and donors are dedicated but limited.

Enjoy your "refund"  I understand you needed  it to place a deposit on a new puppy.  I sincerely hope things go well with your family and that puppy.  If by any chance it does not, I worry.

I worry that if that puppy came from another rescue/shelter that you are going to place the same demands on them regarding your adoption fee should that dog not be the right one for your family. 

I worry that if you went to a pet store or breeder for this puppy, that you may be dealing with a commercial breeder or puppy mill. Iowa is second only to Missouri in the number of large commercial dog breeders, also referred to as puppy mills. I hope you researched any breeder from whom you considered purchasing any puppy.  These facilities routinely do not offer "refund" checks.  They usually require returning your "faulty" puppy for a replacement puppy.  Should this happen, I hope you won't spend too much time wondering where your first puppy went after it was returned.  Google Iowa Puppy Mills and read all about them. You can help Iowa Puppy Mill dogs by joining in the fight against them with the Iowa Friends of Companion Animals.  Read more about puppy mills at Bailing Out Benji.  Visit either website for more information.

If you have researched your breeder well, and they are a small scale, reputable breeder who raises their puppies as part of their family, you will sign a contract with them as well.  They will often take their puppies back to rehome, but again, "refund" checks would be rare as this is a for profit business endeavor. 

I wish you luck with your new family member.  I hope she/he is everything you expect and more... for her/his sake.

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