Struggling with Burnout

dog_portrait_d.jpgToday has been difficult.  I think that is putting it mildly.  I wanted to quit.  I wanted to run and leave the mess for someone else to clean.  But I didn’t.  Instead, I remembered Joey.

I’d like to say that rescue is fun, its rewarding and it gives me a sense of purpose.  And I guess, in all honesty, I can say that.  But I also have to add that it’s hard, it’s painful and sometimes incredibly lonely.

I knew nothing about animal rescue when I thrust my husband and myself into in it in April of 2008.  Our knowledge was limited to this:  there was a puppymill where 69 shih tzus were seized from deplorable conditions and all 69 were set to be destroyed.

My husband and I sat on our comfortable couch in our clean, quiet house and said, like everyone else in town, “Oh, no.  How sad.”  But unlike everyone else in this town Michael and I lamented over it.  How could you destroy 69 beautiful souls who had known nothing in their lives but pain and sadness.  We thought they deserved a second chance.  And that was all it took.  I started making phone calls and NONE of the local rescues would help.  Michael went online and did some research and reading and found a national rescue.  He emailed and they responded.  We were welcomed into the overwhelming, awe-inspiring, dirty, stinky but soul saving world of rescue.  We worked with Shih Tzu and Furbabies Rescue out of St. Mary’s, Georgia and we saved them all!

I remember every aspect about that month in my life.  I was literally dog tired but it felt so good to do something so important.  I remember volunteering at the shelter for the first time.  One of the few times I was in the back alone,  I was shaving down  (another thing I had never done before) a shih tzu to offer it some comfort from the filth that was matted in its fur.  I was working away thinking to myself how great this was.   I was saving this animal’s life.  It gave me such a rewarding feeling.  I heard some chaos from outside the door of the grooming room.  Next thing I knew this beautiful, young yellow lab came bounding towards me.  He jumped up on me with all his weight and covered my face with kisses.  He was trembling.  A minute later one of the shelter workers came in to get him.  He placed the choke leash over his head and began dragging my new friend out of the room.  He looked like a Joey to me.  I was horrified to watch as they drug Joey away from me.  He was so scared.  He defecated and urinated all the way out the door.  I put the shih tzu I was working on in a kennel and got up to clean Joey’s accident. Afterwards, I walked out into the hall where they had taken Joey.  Joey had just come into the shelter that morning.  He was leaving the processing room so I assumed he was going to his kennel.  I was so naive.  As I walked down the hall, I approached the euthanasia room.  There is a small, long window in that door.  I allowed myself to look in and there was Joey, head dropping.  They were checking for a pulse.  Joey was dead.  The shelter worker picked up Joey by his back legs.  Joey’s head hung down to floor as the shelter worker callously threw  Joey’s lifeless body into a wheel-barrel filled with other dead dogs.

I cried so hard, I couldn’t breath.  Joey had come to me for help and I didn’t save him.  Joey knew they were going to kill him and he wanted to live. I didn’t know that day that not every dog that goes to the shelter gets a chance to be adopted.  If an owner surrenders a dog to the shelter and the shelter is full, that dog must die.  I will NEVER forget not saving Joey that day and it was then that I pledged to do something.  I had to be a part of putting an end to the senseless destruction of thousands of beautiful living creatures.  I have been devoted to rescue ever since.

It’s hard.  And its days like today that I want to runaway.  It’s heart wrenching to watch these animals suffer because they have become an inconvenience to the people in their lives.  Instead of training these animals or learning how to communicate with them, people just throw them away and they don’t care if they die.  As an animal lover in rural West Texas, I’m outnumbered.  And it’s a lonely, exhausting fight.  And there are days where I just don’t think I can do it anymore.

But then I think of how I failed Joey and how I promised I would not stop fighting.  I owe him.  So, tonight, I’ll go home.  I’ll draw a hot bath and I’ll cry.  My tears will be for the ones I can’t save…..and it hurts because there are so many.  And my tears will also be for myself.  I’ve sacrificed things in my own life so I could be involved in rescue.  I’ll also cry because rescue is a painful and lonely place.  Far too few people understand me, what I do or why I do it.  But fortunately, I have a husband who loves me, and cherishes the lives of cats and dogs like I do.  Our house is full of fur and love and for that I am grateful.  So, I pull myself up and I’ll regroup, refocus and be back tomorrow to fight for Joey.

15 Comments

  1. Melonie P. Morris July 11, 2013 9:18 pm Reply

    I am sitting at my desk at work crying, for Joey and for you. I, too, would have been devastated. I volunteer for a rural shelter in central Virginia, where there are too few volunteers and fosterers, but we are no-kill and we are a group of people who though we tire, never stop. I never thought I’d be able to do this sort of “work,” that I’d quit from the depression shortly after I started 4 years ago, but there was always one more cat or kitten, situation or crises, and once people found out, I became a “go to.” Thank you for hanging in there and for remembering Joey, which I will now do as well.

    • Bev Swenson July 18, 2013 6:29 pm Reply

      I just read Jenie’s story,,, how devastating to see poor Joey like that. How can we allow shelters to kill these beautiful innocent creatures??? They are living, breathing beautiful creatures with feelings and life,,, how can someone just take their life like that???? It is so heartless and cruel, I wish that somehow we could outlaw euthanization. IT IS SENSELESS and horrible. I thank all of you who work in no kill shelters, and rescues for all your dedication and hard work, I know it is not easy. But the rewards are and will be so worth is, until then we need to work on getting all these beautiful, healthy creatures away from death’s door.

      https://www.facebook.com/bev.swenson.3

  2. Leslie Leavitt July 12, 2013 5:26 pm Reply

    Thank you for being in rescue work. It’s all too true, many times it is heartbreaking work. But what a joy when you do save an animal. What is your rescue’s name?

  3. Paige Satcher July 12, 2013 8:08 pm Reply

    Your blog posts are wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Your work may be unappreciated by some, but for those who know what true horrors go on every day in the animal world, we appreciate you and every other true animal rescuer who is doing it right. Thank you. My heart breaks for Joey and the millions of others like him. I just wish people would open their eyes and see the consequences of their actions.

    http://www.facebook.com/jpbonner216

  4. Jyll Latham July 16, 2013 3:01 pm Reply

    Like Melonie, I am sitting at my desk at work, having read this and crying my eyes out. So many people just dont GET it. They don’t GET me. And I’ve always been okay with that because I know that there is always a dog willing to show me love when nobody else will. I have looked into the eyes of a dying dog – dying because of someone else’s selfishness or stupidity and just hoped they would feel a little bit of peace by being shown some kindness at the last moment of their life. I know that my dogs will always love me more than any human has and that’s why I invest my love back into them. I cry for Joey and for unknown, untold millions who suffered his same fate. Rarely do we get any thanks for the hard, dirty, unpaid work we do. But watching a once-defeated animal show love and leave for his or her new furever home is thanks enough most days. Dog Bless. <3

    https://www.facebook.com/SavedSooie

  5. Cheryl July 16, 2013 5:56 pm Reply

    Thankful that you will keep going!

  6. doreen livermore July 17, 2013 3:20 pm Reply

    I’m crying to. Thank you for all you do. God bless you! I have adopted a rescue and he’s the best thing that ever happened to us.

  7. jami July 17, 2013 3:24 pm Reply

    Wow did your story hit me, literally, I had a dog named Joey that I rescued, and he was a yellow lab

  8. Donna M. Elliott July 17, 2013 3:26 pm Reply

    Thank you for all you do! I have 2 rescue dogs and 2 rescue cats. I am thankful to the people that saved them every day.

  9. Doylestown, PA July 17, 2013 6:04 pm Reply

    I do not think I will ever forget what you wrote here, and how grateful I am to those of you who have committed your life to rescue. We have adopted two rescued Labs, either of which who could have been your Joey, had it not been for angels like yourself. I hope some day I will be in a place to foster or rescue to help save more of them.

  10. Amy Donaldson July 17, 2013 6:41 pm Reply

    I really just wish I could give you a big hug. I am so thankful for the work you do, the lives you save, the kindness you share. I am also very thankful for your beautiful words- they have me reaching for the Kleenex, but also feeling stronger than I have in months. I have my own Joey, a sweet guy named Lito. I keep telling myself that God saves the hardest battles for his toughest soldiers, but today it will be your words, Joey and Lito that get me through. Thank you!

  11. Kim Purcell July 18, 2013 1:54 am Reply

    I can never understand how the human race can be so cruel to its own plus all living creatures. I will never in my life understand it. But thank you and to all of those who have saved a Joey or many Joey’s, It is you the rescuers who are the real hero’s in this world and give many of us hope, in the human race. Thank you!

  12. Chuck Michelson July 18, 2013 1:59 pm Reply

    Those of us who know feel that pain every day. We all have Joey stories. We all have witnessed the cruelty mankind inflicts on the only creature on earth naive enough to depend on us. We have to give them someone to depend on. What they give in return far outstrips the “inconveniences” we have to deal with. Thank you, thank all of you for what you do.

    http://Facebook

    • Bev Swenson July 18, 2013 6:41 pm Reply

      Chuck,, that was well put. Beautiful creatures depending on us and loving us unconditionally and they get drug down a hallway into a euthanasia room where some heartless cruel “person” takes their little life when all they wanted to do was to be loved and wanted….. I too thank the rescues for those they are able to save from this fate. It just sickens me to think about the healthy beautiful creatures whose lives are taken daily. I wish there were something I could do to stop this sadistic murder…….

      https://www.facebook.com/bev.swenson.3

  13. Donna Freeman July 25, 2013 4:26 pm Reply

    Bless you rescue friend! This is an amazing story of why we must not give up! Last Monday the group I work with saved 50 of 60 dogs on death row that day at our shelter… it felt good, though it wasn’t enough. The rest of the week has been really hard. But I will never give up no matter how looney people think I am! Love and peace to you and your family!

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