Us humans could be called experts when it comes to judging. Whoever has never judged in their life, please raise their hand. I am guilty of it myself.
Concerning my voluntary work for animal welfare, I have been misunderstood for more than 20 years. For two decades I have been hearing “Christine just loves animals so much”, “Christine likes animals more than the average person.” Only a few weeks ago, a friend of mine introduced me to someone with the following words: “She loves animals so much it’s ridiculous.”
We judge when we don’t know much, and although this friend knows me quite well, when it comes to animals he has never known me at all.
I have seen things that are so terrible that I needed counseling to work through it. Suffering is not limited to humans, which is something most of us know well. Animals feel pain. Even science has proven it, although for many of us there was no need for scientists to prove that fact. We already knew that.
My friend doesn’t know that years ago I spent hours with a puppy who was screaming in pain for hours on end in the middle of the night; it was suffering from hepatitis. No vet was available. When a vet finally arrived, it was too late to save it and we had to put it down. This happened many years ago, and today it still provokes tears in me.
Until the Last Breath
Few people know how many times I chose to remain with an animal in its last moments on Earth, because I didn’t want them to die alone, I wanted them to know love in those very last moments. As excruciating as it was for me, I did it for them, every single time, to give them the love they had never or had hardly known during life. I have seen death so often … I lost count.
Most people shrink from death. There are people who cannot bear to stay with their dog or cat in their last moments on Earth after having spent a lifetime with them. It is, however, the one time your animal truly needs you to be there for them, this one last goodbye …
I always chose to accompany animals I barely even knew in their last moments in this physical world, and without exception, their eyes always shone with love and gratitude.
My friend doesn’t know about the Pit Bull I rescued and fell in love with, and who died due to the fosters’ willful negligence, because they intended to hurt me. When I tried to make it known to the public I was ridiculed, and only few people who knew those girls personally and had their own experiences with them believed me.
Seared in my Heart
- The dog who shrank back in fear when I removed my belt while undressing and whom I taught to never fear belts again
- The cat who came to my home with wounds so deep I could see straight to the tissues and bone (he survived)
- The dog I found at the side of the road who was so ill his blood was white and who could not be saved
- The countless puppies and kittens I bottle fed
- The two puppies who were terrified in their own home and who always came to my door to literally beg me to adopt them (and whose owners I convinced – after many months – to surrender them to me)
- The dog I found at a gas station, hit by cars three times and her jaw shattered in hundreds of pieces, making it impossible for her to eat
- The painful cries of a puppy who was dying of hepatitis
- The shrieks of pain and fear
- Their eyes, windows to their broken souls
- Dogs so ridden with mange that all that remained were hairless, skeletal shadows of their former selves
- Puppies who feared humans due to abuse they had known
- The dog who had been beaten so hard, most of the bones in her body were broken
- The kitty whose eyes were blinded by infection and whose tail was shredded by an infected wound
- The dog who had spent her life chained to a tree, giving birth to litter after litter and who had lost most of her teeth by the age of five
- And so many more …
The petitions I signed to demand justice for dogs who were locked in cages and burned alive, hung by a noose, and I could go on … I often fear to open my email, because I can’t deal with all the cruelty, but I also cannot unsubscribe, because I need to help with my signatures. Only by demanding justice for the victims and punishments for the perpetrators can we accomplish some small improvements but also great victories, hopefully …
What kept me going? The happy endings I often achieved, the furever homes we found with help of many other volunteers who looked for families who were willing to adopt these scarred souls. The dog whose jaw was shattered received reconstructive surgery and she found a beautiful, loving home. The puppies who begged me to adopt them are also living in wonderful homes.
The kitty that had infected eyes and the shredded tail received treatment, and once the infection cleared, she could see again. Her tail could not be saved and it had to be amputated, a little stump was left. That kitty became good friends with a rescued puppy and they got so close that I asked for them to be adopted together. They are now living in Canada, very happy and always sleeping and playing together.
The dog that was chained to a tree was surrendered to me. She found a beautiful, loving home in Canada as well.
Despite the many horrors that I witnessed there were also many beautiful endings. They always gave me hope. They motivated me go on.
When I suffered burnout in 2016, I stopped rescuing, I continued fostering the animals I had with me until they found homes, and I did not rescue again until I healed from burnout. Although I have healed, I still have not picked up any dogs or cats, but a few years ago I organized a spay and neuter clinic for the animals of the village where I moved to, and I adopted a friend’s cat after she left Mexico and could not take her cat with her.
So, when I hear, “Christine just loves animals so much”, “I like animals, but not as exaggerated as you,” I bite my tongue.
You know how 12-year-olds hate it when you say that they are so cute? They do not want to hear it; it may sound belittling to them, and they want to be taken seriously. Well, that is more or less how I feel when people tell me or say to others in my presence: “Christine looooves animals”. It never sounds like I am being taken seriously, it sounds belittling, and it shows a lack of knowledge and understanding of what I have been doing for the last 20 years. When these words come from a friend, it doesn’t feel that great, but I learned to ignore it. What’s the point?
I have argued with some people that compassion should not be limited to certain species. You cannot discriminate when it comes to compassion. You cannot say “I will help you, but not him.” That is just my opinion.
There are times when you really cannot do anything, due to lack of money or burnout, or other reasons, and I understand that completely. Nonetheless, selective compassion is something I have little comprehension for, and I believe that it is one of the reasons why there is so much cruelty in this world.
This post was written, not to tell you “hey, get up and do something.” Far from that. No one has the right to tell you what to do and how to do it. There are three reasons for this article:
- I think it fits in my When Helping Others Helps Yourself blog series.
- My friends’ comments made me realize how easily we judge without having all the information.
- Compassion should not be selective.
And I am going to add a fourth point 🙂 Maybe next time you are thinking of getting a companion animal, perhaps you could make a trip to your local animal shelter or a local rescuer and adopt a dog or cat. You would help a lost soul find a home and at the same time your new furry family addition will smother you with love and gratitude. I have sometimes heard from families, telling me that the animals they adopted ended up rescuing them 🙂
There are many rescuers who face abuse, ignorance, horror, and death, day after day, month after month, year after year. Animal rescue knows no holidays, it goes on 365 days a year.
One battle after another.
None of us do it because “we love animals so much”. I wish we didn’t have to do it. I wish no one kicked their dog out on the street because it had gotten pregnant or old. I wish no one hurt them. I wish we didn’t have to pick them up and scrape together all our savings to help them, because there are not enough donations.
Many people always begin conversations with me about animals, but that is the last topic I want to talk about. I don’t want to talk about dogs or cats. Rescuing them has been part of my life for so long that I can’t hear any more stories of how your neighbor or your ex hurt your pet. I just can’t.
I never watched Marley and Me. I don’t watch any dog or cat movie, because I can’t cry any more than I have already cried for the animals I lost in real life to diseases and death. The only dog movies I have ever watched were Homeward Bound, 101 Dalmatians, and the Lady and the Tramp. And that will be it. You will never get me to watch Marley and Me or any other tear jerkers like that.
I do not know how many dogs and cats I saved. The number is in the hundreds. I do, however, remember every single face of them, of the ones that didn’t make it and the ones that lived and found homes. I remember the love I shared with every single one of them and the fierceness and awe with which they clung to that love they had never had before.
Human or animal, we all know suffering and we all deserve help. Someone who rescues animals doesn’t do it because he or she loves animals so much. We do it because most people don’t love them enough.