Dog Cat Rescue – When Compassion is Misunderstood

Dog Cat Rescue - When Compassion is MisunderstoodUs 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.

Untold Memories

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.

paw
Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

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.

crying

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 BIlly
  • 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 Lucas
  • 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 …

Hope

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.

Jenny

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.

Sunny

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?

rescues and my dogs

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.

Apollo

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:

  1. I think it fits in my When Helping Others Helps Yourself blog series.
  2. My friends’ comments made me realize how easily we judge without having all the information.
  3. Compassion should not be selective.

And I am going to add a fourth point πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

ROSA ON HER WAY TO THE AIRPORT

Final Thoughts

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.

save money

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.

Harley

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.

 

11 thoughts on “Dog Cat Rescue – When Compassion is Misunderstood”

  1. Your post inspired me on so many different levels, and I can’t thank you enough for that. I’ve been an animal rescuer my entire life, and I’m looking forward to spreading love and teaching others how to be more compassionate and follow in my footsteps.

    Thank you so much! <3

    Reply
  2. Christine, I feel you. 

    I work as a vet and I have my fair share of compassion fatigue too. On so many occasions, I’ve been labeled as “Cathy works all the time, she must really like her job.” Well, initially I do until pet cruelty and negligence cases bombard my workload. There’s always this tiny voice in my head that says “You can do something about this” and that’s what keeps me going but wear me out most of the time. 

    It’s a challenging profession especially when everyone expects you to be the tough and smart one to offer solutions, care, and love all at the same time. Just like you, I’m also planning to take a break to recover from the burnout, emotionally and physically, but it’s easier said than done.

    Reply
    • Hi Cathy,

      I understand, It is hard to turn away from cruelty and negligence. We always want to do something, help, make a diffference, knowing that we can make a difference in their lives, but at the same time it wears us out, it is mentally exhausting. It’s perfectly understandable and necessary to take a break. We should recover emotionally and physically if we want to continue helping. 

      Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  3. Hi, this is a great post for anybody who loves animals. We see so many videos on animals’ behavior and it’s bad to do such things to pets. The only thing they ask for and give is love and they will give more than you can expect. Animals are loyal and don’t deserve to be treated badly.
    Thank you for sharing

    Reply
  4. Hi Christine, I understand (I think) why you regard it as belittling when people say you just love animals. Could it also be they mean it for all the right reasons? Not because they think it’s stupid that you rescue the animals, but because they admire you for it?

    I never had pets due to my allergies, my son has. At the moment he only has 1 dog, he used to have 3. It’s clear that 2 of those dogs have been abused before they found their home at my son’s place. It’s my impression dogs never get over this experience, what do you think?

    I hate it people can be so cruel. I think I have told you before, that some people treat their pet – but specifically their dog – really bad over here in Spain. So there are lifelines from here to the Netherlands. Some kennels send the dogs to trusted families over there.

    Reply
    • Hi Hannie,

      Yes, I realize that in some cases people mean well when they say those things. This is why I often do not react to it. In some cases, though, it was different; a friend once introduced me to his acquaintance like this “She loves animals so much it is ridiculous.” … That one didn’t go down well, as you can imagine. It all depends how things are said, don’t they? I can see your point, though, and I agree with it, depending on the tone of voice that is used, I suppose, πŸ˜‰ .

      I read about Spain’s cruelty to animals … it is heartbreaking. There are so many horror stories about what is done to Spanish galgos, it makes me cry … I am glad that rescue organizations are helping animals in Spain.

      Reply
  5. At a point, I was unable to go on reading, tears filled my eyes.
    Too many memories emerged from the past, some sad and some nice, with a happy ending. And it was so through my whole life, even as a little child.
    We were well-known for adopting and helping any animal that crossed our way. Very often, my Mum came in with a new kitten that was put into our yard through the fence.
    We, children would try to keep each and every one of them, but our older dog wouldn’t stand any, so Mum and Dad always managed to find a suitable home for them amongst friends.
    We had dogs, waiting for us in front of our gate and every now and then we brought home a puppy that we found abandoned in a carton box somewhere, coming from school.
    At the end of the street a very nice vetenerian lived, who always helped as much as he could. He broke our hearts when he said it is too late and we can do nothing to save the sparrow we found injured under the bush. I held him in my hands while life was leaving his body.
    I can’t say I am an active member of any rescue service or team, but…Ever since then, there was not an animal, whatever it was, dog, cat, rabbit, hamster, bird…that I came across and I didn’t help if needed.
    However, I still can cry. Sometimes of sadness, sometimes of happiness, when I get news from their new homes and new, loving owners. I appreciate that they don’t forget to share their great moments together – with me.

    Reply
    • Hi Kerryanne,

      You made a difference in so many lives, and hearing from adoptive families how well your rescues are doing is always heartwarming. It is wonderful when new owners share those beautiful moments with their furry adoptions with you, either by sending photos or sharing a post on social media. I know the feeling πŸ™‚
      Like you, I also have tears of sadness but also happiness.
      Thank you for your comment, and for everything you have done for our furry and feathery companions!

      Reply
  6. Hi Christine,

    I absolutely loved this article. There is absolutely nothing wrong to love of animals and I can say I definitely love animals more than some people. They are fragile, dependent and they rely on us to take care of them and love them.

    I think you are doing an amazing job and I admire you for how much you have been helping animals during all these years. You are amazing and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

    Kind regards,
    Yoana

    Reply

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