May 30, 2012

Anger Diaries Part 1: Compassion

The world of animal rescue is hard one, no doubt about it. People dumping animals because of kids, allergies, and the ever famous "I'm moving in 2 days and can't take my 12 year old cat". We hear these stories day in and day out, and common overtones involve Hating All People and comparing stories of how much they suck.

On the front lines, the army of workers and volunteers in animal rescue will stop at nothing to save innocent lives. (And we love you for it!) This involves transporting, cleaning, walking, photographing, hauling heavy crates, begging spouses to foster just one more, and spending our last dollar on kitten formula.

The amount of compassion poured into homeless, neglected, and abused animals is insurmountable. But sometimes we have to remember to share some of that compassion with our human counterparts.

People do get sick. People do get into financial trouble. People do get desperate. Have you ever cherished every moment in the hours between 10 pm and 8 am, because the phone and doorbell would most likely not ring between those times? I have. Have you ever had so much on your shoulders that you have to take it one day at time? I have. In fact, some of the best advice I ever received was to not take it one day at time, but to take it one minute at a time. I may not have survived without that minute by minute advice. Those folks getting rid of animals days before they lose their home may have been in the minute to minute survival mode as well. It happens.

Over the weekend, we had a gentleman try to surrender his family dog to us, a little dachshund named Penny. He had already been to the pound, and did not want to leave her at a kill shelter. When we told him our adoption center was full, he got mad, and drove off saying he would shoot her in the head. What an 'effing bastard.

Animal Control was called, intervened, and the dog did make it to our adoption center, safe and sound. She arrived with a pretty collar and a full folder, demonstrating updated shots, Vet care, and city tags. Was this guy a total asshole? Maybe not. He was, however, elderly, sick, and a caregiver to his wife on dialysis.

In a nutshell, here is the life of someone in kidney failure: 
  • Dialysis patients get hooked up to a machine that filters the toxins from their blood 3 times a week, for 4 hours each time.
  • Dialysis patients get stuck with seriously large needles for each treatment. They hurt.
  • Dialysis patients are fearful that they could bleed out, faint, get horrendous leg cramps, and possibly die with each treatment.
  • Dialysis patients suffer from chronic thirst, but are on a fluid restriction of one liter of fluid each day. Fluid is anything that melts at room temperature.
  • Dialysis patients have to restrict potassium from their diet. Tomatoes, potatoes, bananas and oranges in particular. If they do eat too much potassium, there will be no warning, no chest pain, no nothing; they just drop dead. Pretty scary.
  • Dialysis patients develop gray skin.
  • Dialysis patients with diabetes usually lose fingers, toes, arms, and legs. 
  • Dialysis patients with diabetes often go blind.
  • Dialysis patients have to take 2 - 6 Tums with every meal. Tums are very chalky tasting and are used as phosphate binders. Dialysis patients cannot pee out extra phosphorus, they have to take the Tums to make them poop it out. If they don't take the phosphate binders, their phosphorus levels get really high, making their calcium levels really low, causing their bones to become brittle and snap.
  • And, better than anything else, dialysis patients have to sit in a big room full of other dialysis patients hooked up to machines and talk to the dietitian about their phosphorus ridden bowel moments, and how much fluid weight they gain in between treatments. 
This man was taking care of his wife, who as a dialysis patient has had just about every freedom taken from her. Not an easy life for either of them. On top of that, for reasons we don't know, he had to get rid of his dog. Did he have a right to be angry? You bet. Maybe, in the threat to shoot his well cared for dog, he was thinking that it was the ultimate kindness to take her life in one quick moment himself, rather that have her scared and alone at the pound, and dying amongst strangers.

I'm not saying that there are not some people who are, indeed, horrible to their animals. In those cases, we do our best to get the animals to safety, and let law enforcement do their thing. Virginia animal welfare laws are actually quite good, and although frustrating at times, the wheels of justice generally work well.

What we have seen at Angels of Assisi, time after time, is that for every horrible person in this world, there are so many more who step up and help. We do the easy part in taking in the homeless, sick, abused, and injured animals. The good people in this world are the ones who come to their rescue with generous contributions of food, supplies, and donations to the Biscuit Fund. There are so many who open up their hearts and homes to the old, injured, and sick animals. They seem to have an endless supply of love and resources to pour into the less fortunate.

As we go about the tremendous task of helping the homeless pets, let's also remember our compassion for people. If we fall into the self important "I hate all people and everyone sucks" mode, who will foster, adopt, and donate to the cause? And why in the hell would they want to? Saving animals has to come from more than just the exclusive front lines of rescue workers and volunteers, it takes a community. And the community has proven to be pretty awesome at covering for the animals, and their former owners, when they need it most.


If a seething anger wells up within you, because people are the problem,
remember your humanity and that people are also the solution.
~ Jim Willis

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJune 28, 2012

    Thank you for stating this; this is actually *why* I left "organized" animal rescue. I quickly grew tired of the "all humans are horrible" philosophy because it wasn't the truth.