The UN-Happy Tails of Rescue

There are so many blessings I see as a self-titled “rescuer.”

Whether it’s an animal defying the odds or a human meeting their furry soul mate, there are many moments of happiness and love.

That said, most animal rescuers also share a common experience known as compassion fatigue. This doesn’t apply to just animal rescuers, but many professionals where care taking and life/death is a daily reality. In my opinion, this is because most rescuers and caretakers are also empaths. It’s their best trait as well as their worst.

What’s an empath you may ask? Well, according to the dictionary, an empath is “a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.” In layman’s terms, it means us rescuers FEEL DEEPLY AND TO OUR CORE. Not just as in “awww I feel bad for that dog/person,” as in “I’m physically gutted and my heart is throbbing in pain as I watch that dog stare out its kennel knowing that nobody is coming back for them.” And while non empaths may feel a version of this and then move on to their next daily task, empaths are HAUNTED by it. It affects our sleep, social life, and basic function as a human being.

So why am I writing this….? Well because I’ve noticed that many rescuers are becoming overwhelmed and shutting down. It’s a scary theme and I want others to have the chance to understand it and have compassion for it.

Us rescuers see the worst in humanity on a daily basis. We see the unthinkable abuse humans inflict on innocent souls time and time again. We see the justice system failing those in need every single day. We see humans treating other beings as mere commodities and possessions that don’t deserve integrity, honesty and grace. Worst of all- these problems aren’t getting better.

As time goes on, us “rescuers/care takers” can only see/hear/feel so much sadness, depression and hopelessness before it gets the best of us. And unfortunately, it makes us want to crumble to the floor more days than not. The scariest part about this is that we NEED these rescuers/caretakers for our society to EVER have the chance to do better. We NEED them to keep fighting this fight. We NEED them to maintain hope. We NEED them to speak for the voiceless. Because if they stop….who will?

Last week I spoke with a local shelter director who expressed how much physical and mental pain she’s in everyday when she walks through her animal shelter. The fact that they are so over crowded, dogs are being stuffed into kennels in large groups (which is very dangerous), physically pains her. The fact that she has to interact with humans each day that are only making the problem worse (while holding back her tongue because it’s her job) haunts her at night.

It’s basically like trying to dig yourself out of a ditch of quicksand. Even if you’re able to make a little headway, a trailer comes by and dumps another ton of quicksand on top of you. It’s a revolving door and until we TRULY fix the problem from the BOTTOM UP…we’re always going to be chasing our tail (pun intended).

So PLEASE remember this…the next time you go to an animal shelter or come across an animal rescuer, please thank them.

Please remember that you’re not the only person they’ve dealt with that day and have patience. Please remember that they’re usually working with no money or very little money/resources, so please have understanding. And please, please remember that THEY are not the problem (unless the shelter system you’re dealing with is corrupt) … they are merely trying to fix the mess that irresponsible pet breeders and owners have created.

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