Anyone that works, volunteers or networks to help homeless animals knows all too well that feeling of helplessness. We work feverishly to save lives each and every day. We spend hours making phone calls to rescue groups, we email, we drive, we donate, we volunteer, and we definitely do not get as much sleep as we probably should. In many cases these efforts are to help save ONE animal’s life, and it may even be an animal we will never meet, but we hold them so dear in our heart and cry for their safety until we know they have been rescued or adopted.
And when we do finally discover that our efforts did save this one animals life, what do we do? Do we celebrate? Do we take the night off? No, we are overcome with this feeling that our efforts are not good enough, because there is always another animal that needs just as much help. So we become, sad, depressed, and feel helpless. These are all feeling that I have experienced in the past and still do on occasion if I am having a bad day or I didn’t get enough sleep that week. I also know first hand that so many others involved in animal welfare go through this same cycle.
So I want to give hope to those people that might be feeling the ‘rescue burnout’ which is all too common, because what you do each day DOES make a difference, (actually, a huge difference.) You are saving lives. Without you using your voice, your actions, your money and your ability to DO something, these animals would have no hope. Animal welfare and rescue groups have found an alternative path for homeless animals, this movement has taken on the traditional sheltering system and rebelled against the status quo that was historically a catch net for stray animals. Sadly in today’s world, traditional animal shelters have become a dumping ground for any unwanted animals, so partnerships between traditional shelters and rescue groups are even more critical than ever. Gone are the days that only offer one path for homeless animals, today we are an army of rescuers, networkers, advocates and activists, and I am extremely proud to be part of this.
So if you are having a bad day, if you are feeling helpless, if you are staring at the faces that need rescue, do not be discouraged. You must celebrate the successes, you have to enjoy the victories, because if you do not, you will burn out. I would like to share one of my favorite stories with you below, which is my ‘go to’ if I am having a bad day. I will always refer back to this and know that despite what I might be feeling at that moment in time, ‘I made a difference to that one.’
The Starfish Story.
A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.
She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,
“Well, I made a difference to that one!”
Lastly, I would like to share with you the reason we chose to publish the number of animals lives saved on our home page that is collectively totaled for all shelters and rescue groups using Shelter Exchange. This number is my motivation. Each day it encourages me try harder, to do better and to keep fighting the fight for homeless animals.