Friday, July 17, 2009

The 4 Phases of Animal Rescue

This came in my e-mail today, and I had to share... I believe it came from the HSUS site, but was unable to locate it.

The Four Phases of Rescue
by Douglas Fakkema

Those of us who work on behalf of and who dedicate our lives to animals go
through four phases in our career evolution. As we are unique, so are our
individual stories, but we all go through a similar process, and if we
survive that process go on to understand that we have achieved what we wanted
in the first place.


Red hot and raring to go, we are out to change the world. We are high on
life. We know we can make a difference, that our efforts on behalf of animals
will ease their plight. We work what seems like 25-hour days yet are
energized. Our enthusiasm overflows, our capacity for challenges is limitless.
We eat, sleep and live in the cause for animals. Our friends don't
understand our obsession and turn away or just fade away, and we let them for we
meet new ones. Some of us though don't make new friends, we're too busy
working for animals.

Some of us become loners with only our canine or feline companions to keep
us from total isolation but we're content because we have a cause. In our
zeal, we tend to affix simple solutions to complex problems - every animal
should be sterilized or no animal should be euthanized. We're often late
because we try to rescue animals from highways and streets. We think we
understand the problem and we know we can fix it if only people would get out of
our way.


Our phase one enthusiasm has turned sour, the bubble bursts and we crash
and burn. We see the same people coming into the shelter with yet another
litter -they haven't heard our message. We continue to euthanize, there seems
no end to it. Even our friends - those we still have left - don't
understand us. We can't seem to reach anyone.

Animals are still abused and neglected, their plight seems unchanged
despite all our efforts. We've lost the boundless energy that characterizes
Phase One. We no longer wish to talk about work, don't even want to admit where
we work. We're tired all the time. We go home from work, lock the doors,
turn out the lights, turn off the answering machine and close the window
blinds. We're too exhausted to cook so we scarf fast food, pizza, potato chips
or chocolate.

Some of us buy useless objects we can't afford. Some of us turn to alcohol
for it takes away our feelings of hopelessness. We ignore our families and
even our pets get less attention than we know is right. We seem powerless
to affect any of the changes that drove us to such ecstasies of dedication
in Phase One. We have become horrified by the work we have to do. Even our
dreams are filled with the horror. Every animal we take in, every animal we
euthanize is yet another nail in our coffin of defeat. Somehow we're to
blame for all our failure and it's destroying us. Raise the shields Scotty,
the Klingons are on our tail!

Our shield gets thicker and thicker. It blocks the pain and the sadness
and makes our life somehow tolerable. We continue on because every now and
then we get a spark of Phase One energy.


Our phase two depression has turned outward and we're mad as hell.
Hopelessness turns to rage. We begin to hate people, any people and all people
unless, like our co-workers, they dedicate their lives to animals the way we
do. We even hate our co-workers if they dare question us - especially about
euthanasia. It occurs to us, let's euthanize the owners, not the pets.
Let's take everyone who abuses an animal or even surrenders an animal and
euthanize them instead. Our rage expands to our out-of-work life. That guy in
front of us on the highway, the one who's in our way, euthanize him too. We
rage at politicians, television, newspapers, our family. Everyone is a
target for our anger, scorn and derision. We have lost our perspective and

We're unable to connect with life. Even the animals we come in contact
with seem somehow distant and unreal. Anger is the only bridge to our
humanness. It's the only thing that penetrates our shield.


Gradually, and over time, the depression of Phase Two and the anger of
Phase Three become replaced with a new determination and understanding of what
our mission really is. It is big picture time. We realize that we have
been effective - locally and in some cases regionally and even nationally. So
we haven't solved the problem - who could - but we have made a difference
with dozens, even hundreds and sometimes thousands of animals. We have
changed the way others around us view animals.

We begin to see our proper place in our own community and we begin to see
that we are most effective when we balance our work and out-of-work lives.
We realize that work is not our whole world and that if we pay attention to
our personal lives, we can be more effective at work. We understand that
some days we work 14 hours and some days we knock it off after only 8. We
take vacations and we enjoy our weekends. We come back refreshed and ready to
take on daily challenges.

We see that all people are not bad. We understand that ignorance is
natural and in most cases curable. Yes, there are truly awful people who abuse
and neglect animals but they are a minority. We don't hate them. When we find
them we do all we can to stop them from hurting animals.

We recognize that the solutions are just as complex as the problems and
bring a multitude of tools to the problem at hand and use them any way we can
and we begin to see results - one small step at a time. We reconnect with
the animals. Our shields come down. We understand that sadness and pain are
a part of our job. We stop stuffing our feelings with drugs, food or
isolation. We begin to understand that our feelings of anger, depression and
sadness are best dealt with if we recognize them and allow them to wash over
and past us. We recognize our incredible potential to help animals. We are
changing the world.

I've noticed that some people get frozen in Phase One (the zealots), or
Two (the zombies), or Three (the misanthropes) . Some shift back and forth
between Two and Three and even between Four and Three or Four and Two. Many
leave animal work during Phase Two or Three, never to return. Some seem to
move rapidly to Phase Four, while for others it takes years and years. Some
never get a sense of peace to go along with our purpose, they work their
entire lives on the frantic pink cloud of phase one or depressed or angry. I
know I've been in all four phases in 25 years in animal protection. Can the
journey from Phase One to Four be speeded up? Can we avoid the pain,
discomfort and agony that goes with the journey? I wish I knew.


Christine said...

Oh my Gosh! How poignant! I have to say that I have always helped the cause to raise awareness and funding by attending different social events. The fun part of helping animals.B y accident, only recently have I embarked on this "rescue" operation for cats (see my personal website Now I'm immerse in Phase One and want to Skip Phase Two and Three. I have zero free time for other things and THANK GOD we have healthy fast food in Miami. My hands are marked with scratches from tiny, stiletto nails of the rambuctious kittens. A small sacrifice before finding them permanent loving homes.

Marte said...

Christine! I am not at all surprised to hear that you've gotten into rescue.

Good for you... keep the enthusiasm going!