Dog rescue is an emotionally draining activity. (Oh, come on. The least you can do is act surprised). Not just because of the cruelty (rescuers see more of it, and on a much more regular basis, than the average person sees in their entire lifetime), or because of the tough decisions, the cases so far gone that your only hope for restoring quality of life is to offer a dignified end surrounded by a few humans who care.
No. What gets you—all of us, sooner or later—is the immensity of the problem.
At some point in every dog rescuer’s life comes a moment when you realize you can’t save all the dogs. You can’t even save the majority. In fact, you and all the rescuers of the world are engaged in the deranged task of emptying an endless, ever-growing ocean—and you’re doing it with freakin’ eyedroppers.
The day that moment happens is… well, not a pretty day.
So… should you quit? Avoid getting involved from the outset? But you want to help, you lose sleep over that skinny dog you saw in an empty lot yesterday. At your core, you’re a dog rescuer. Denying it will make you miserable.
What you need to do, then, is figure out a way to keep this immensity from taking over, from tainting all your rescues, from filling your life with helplessness.
How does a dog rescuer keep despair at bay?
- Forget about the big picture. Narrow your focus to this dog, the one you’re chasing. The one you can help, right now.
- Celebrate every victory, no matter how small, no matter what else went wrong. In every rescue (in everything) there’s good and bad. Learn from the bad, celebrate the good. Whatever it is.
- Collect—in a journal, in photos, on Pinterest, on a blog (ahem)—the rescue stories that make your heart sing. Go back to them often, even when you’re happy and don’t think you need a boost. (You do. Plus, if you only revisit these stories when you’re down, eventually you’ll associate them with feeling low—and their magic will wear off.)
- Hang out with action-oriented people; avoid the complainers.
- Don’t be a complainer yourself. Your last rescue went completely wrong? Don’t go looking for commiseration. Don’t wallow. (Seriously.)
- Take responsibility for your mistakes. You failed the dog, yes. Maybe it’s your first time, but it certainly won’t be the last. Learn from it. Self-pity helps no one—especially not your next rescue.
- Recharge your emotional batteries often; don’t wait until you’re feeling weighed down. Figure out what it is that recharges you: music, friends, alone time, a particular writer, exercise… anything that makes your brain go into serotonin-and-endorphins mode.
|Please don't give up. I need you.|
In order for rescue to work, it needs to come from a place of light, from positive emotions. Rescue is about hope. It's about kindness, about doing the right thing—not for you, but for a helpless, voiceless animal. It's about selflessness. It's about love.
For those of you involved in dog rescue, how do you keep your spirits up? What works, or doesn't work? I'd love to know :)
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My apologies for the late post. Last week we had the Curaçao film festival here, and—because it's the only serious-film event of the year—we practically moved into the movie theater. (And, of course, this post wasn't pre-written or scheduled... *Sigh*) I'll do better. And tomorrow, for J, we're in for a much-overdue lightening of the mood around here. Thanks for sticking with me!