Friday, August 7, 2009

Rescue: The good, The Bad, The Tired

Something horrific happened recently to a fellow blogger involving an animal and rescue. My heart goes out to her and particularly to the poor animal. An animal rescue came under fire and it sounds like it should have and could have handled the situation better. But today I'd like to chat about the other side of the coin for rescue groups in general.

Like any other organization rescue has unscrupulous, dishonest people in it.

There are also folks with absolutely no people skills and they don't give a rats rear end how they come across to other people. These volunteers will be the first to tell you, they don't like people and would take an animal over another human being any day and they treat folks accordingly. And though they help the animals, they don't help the cause.

But the majority of rescue folks falls into the bone tired category. Physically. Emotionally. Worn out body and soul. These folks are overworked, have no life, get no pay, are accosted by strangers on the street that have a situation that they expect this volunteer to do something about because they belong to a group that rescues animals. My response was always, "You seem very passionate about animals. Join us. Help us." The whole tone of the conversation would change at that point, but I never got any takers.

Most folks that do rescue burn out. Because there's such a shortage they are expected to do the work of five people and instead of taking care of one animal, they're given several. Several cats peeing all over their house or several dogs tearing up their furniture. They deal as long as they can then throw up their hands and quit.

And the decisions that have to be made are heart breaking. Some simplified examples:

Your organization has exactly one thousand dollars that has come in through donations or fundraisers. With that money, you have two options: you can save two healthy dogs and five healthy cats that are highly adoptable or you can save one poor cat or dog that's been hit by a car and can be saved but it will take every single penny in the coffer and then some. You can't do both. You have to make the decision. What are you going to do? You and you alone will be the one tossing and turning at night because of the animal/animals you didn't save.

Maybe you're the volunteer that answers the phones. Someone calls and tells you their cat or dog just had a litter and they can't keep them. You're full up. If you have a facility, there's no spare cages. And if you don't have a facility, there's no available foster. And the person on the other end of the phone is telling you, "If you don't take them, I'll take them to the pound where they'll be gassed and it will be your fault they died." Sound extreme? Its not. It happens all the time. Or you have room and can take them but this person isn't willing to get his animal spayed, so the cycle will continue and he'll be calling you every spring expecting you to take responsibility for his apathy.
Or you get a call about a cat that's starving, living out of garbage cans and someone has threatened to shoot it. It takes you hours maybe days to find someone to take in that cat and by then its too late.

Maybe you're the volunteer that pulls from the kill-shelter. You only have room for one in your rescue. Here's your choice: There's two seniors, four adults, and fifteen kittens that are on death row. Some looking at you with hope filled eyes, pleading with you to be their savior. The rest are looking at you out of dull, lack lustre eyes devoid of all hope, smelling the death and fear of those who have gone before them. You pick out the one animal you're going to save, and turn your back on the rest, knowing the eyes of those left behind will haunt you the rest of your life.

To survive, volunteers often get desensitized. I imagine its very similar to doctors and soldiers that deal with death daily. Its not the way they started out, its not the way they planned to end up but it happened.

Unfortunately, when you rescue an animal there's a real possibility you'll have to go it alone, because there's not enough funds, not enough volunteers and not enough space.

What can we do about this plight? First and foremost spay and neuter our animals. Secondly volunteer or make donations to our local rescue(s). Together we can make a difference.


  1. Very wise, factual words from a woman who knows. Thanks for clarifying Sandra

  2. I can only imagine the heartbreak the volunteers have to face. I wish more people would take responsibility and spay and nueter their pets too. I also wish more people would be willing to adopt animals. A lot of people I know turn up their nose and want pure bred animals, which I just don't understand.

  3. Sandra thanks for showing the other side of the coin. I know you are passionate about animal rescue and that you have devoted your life to it, and I think the whole point is that you care!

    Just like doctors or soldiers, who do their jobs and still care about what they do, their capacity to care and love helps them with those really tough decisions.

    I personally think, however, that if you can't handle people, and don't care enough about a dying animal to offer suggestions, to lend a hand in any way, or to give that person a little advice, maybe you should stop doing what you're doing and move on.

    Like any job, when you start hating what you do, it shows, and you should just move on because all you do is make those around you miserable.

    I've picked up animals off the street, out of snowstorms, rescued abused horses, and fed them, loved them, and helped them recover.

    I've taken them to other shelters and never been treated the way I was treated that night.

    Still, I'll never walk away from an animal or human in need. I'm just that type of person. People who have no hearts, don't understand that, and can make cold observations with their cold empty hearts, but they'll just never 'get' it. That's okay, because I do not care one damned bit about their approval. All I need is my own.

    Bless you, Sandra


  4. Thank you for presenting the rescue side in a compassionate explanation.

  5. Durn it, I cried through my tears as I read what you wrote. Having foster cared for so many cats and dogs myself, I went back in time when I felt overwhelmed and thought nobody else cared. I was emotionally drained and cried a lot. I snapped at my husband and friends and got on my soap box, about how no one seemed to get the true picture - neutering and being responsible owners. Your compassionate nature is showing Sandra!

  6. This breaks my heart. I want to do more to help. I have two dogs and five cats of my own which already tear our house too much. I'm short on funds at the moment, but when I can, I'll definitely donate $ and see how I can donate time.