Sunday, June 23, 2013

When You Can't Save Them All

In rescue you hear the phrase, "You can't save them all, but you can save some."  It's more easily uttered when the life you're trying to save is more of an abstract idea, perhaps a kitten you'd like to donate to but you've never met. You say it to express the reality of your human limitations.  But that same phrase is much crueler when it comes through tears and ragged breaths as you look at the life literally on your doorstep.

A friend has found an animal. Can I help? I direct them to the resources I know. But there is no room at my inn, my budget is stretched to the max, and my heart is with the refugees at work who I see day in and day out and the 10 family members who I feel I never get enough time with.

I literally am with animals 24/7, and I can't feel it all, because I would go crazy. You have to maintain some amount of detachment. There are the ones who tug your heartstrings, the ones you get close to, but then there are the ones who you give a quick pat to and off they go to a new home. But sometimes I want to feel it all. Someone should miss that nameless hound that was dropped off after being overbred for years and is now no longer profitable in the way that heartless humans define profit. The hound that's going to be euthanized in 5 days because it looks just like all the other hounds who have been brought to the over-loaded county shelter. And I don't even like to use the term euthanasia in this instance because it means "good death" and there is nothing good about dying because no one wants you.

I can't save them all, and that phrase is not some form of comfort. It is a statement of surrender. Against the tide of human cupidity, stupidity, cruelty, narrowmindedness, and neglect, I raise a white flag. I can't save them all. But oh God, I wish I could. 

I think of the people I know who are rescuers. Not people who fell into a job at a shelter by happenstance and will go another way in time. I mean the people who live and die each day for animals, even if they're not paid employees at a shelter. If they were given a million dollars, hell, a hundred thousand dollars, most if not all of that money would go to help more animals. But rescuers are usually not rich in the conventional sense, and I can't wait around for my fairy godmother to drop big money in my lap. I only have the resources I have. I can budget better, spend my time more wisely, trade that Starbucks latte for $5 donated to pulling another kitten from the shelter, but I will always be limited. And I can't strip my life of all the niceties and pleasures that make life worth living either. No rescuer can live a life that's 100% rescue, with no leisure, sleep, good food, friends, hobbies or treats. That's a quick ticket to burnout and a nervous breakdown. I've met some of those people, and they've saved a lot of lives but at the expense of their own. I rescue because life is worth living.

So I can probably guess at what you may want to tell me. You might want to say, "But look how much you've done!" I've been the direct cause of 15 animals not meeting an early death, and the indirect cause for dozens of others. At this point I've cared for a little more than a thousand animals that have come through the door at our shelter. And I'm happy that I've been able to do it. But I hate, and I am allowed to hate, that I can't do even more. I hate, and I am allowed to hate, that this situation exists. It is normal for this to make me angry. It is normal for this to make me sad. It is okay to have these emotions and to work through them, write through them, cry through them. I am not a robot, and animal rescue rests on the foundation that humans have empathy and understanding for them, so yes, I feel. A lot. It is okay to grieve this situation; someone has to, after all. This situation exists because people aren't grieving for these animals. Grief is healthy. Stuffing down your feelings is what will kill you.

But for the sake of those same animals, I can't wallow in the fury and helplessness that sometimes courses through my veins. I have to scoop one more litterbox, fill one more bowl, give one more pill, donate one more dollar, open my heart a little wider, in order to turn this tide. But for all the eyes I look into that I cannot help, I am sorry. I am trying. For your sake, I will channel that rage into something tangible for those that I can help. And for your sake, there is no way I will ever give up.

1 comment:

  1. Thankyou.i want to share this so people will hopefully better understand me