It is amazing how we can forget the simplest decencies when our emotions are running high. One thing I have learnt since working in animal welfare is that we are a highly passionate group of people. This can really play in our favor and bring out the very best in people, it can create an amazing movement of new adopters, volunteers, foster families and donors to assist our efforts to help homeless animals. Believe me I have seen it with my own eyes, people who I never considered to be the slightest bit interested in helping, have been there at my most crucial times of need. But being passionate can also cause us to become frayed around the edges, stressed and angry at the world, especially when we do not receive the help or assistance we so desperately need.
Below I have summarized 4 important things to remember if you are involved in animal rescue. I try and stick to these daily, and I can honestly say I am a happier person for it. I do believe in the concept of ‘the more good you put out, the more you will receive,’ (and yes occasionally you might get burnt) but those are far and few between!
This might seem an obvious one to most people, but please, be nice. If you start an email or phone call off in a stern and angry tone, the likelihood is you will be rerouted to voicemail or relegated to that persons archived email file. Even if you are stressed beyond belief, take a moment to consider what has the other person’s day been like. Rein in your emotions, be nice, be pleasant and you will actually feel better too. Also, you are much more likely to get a positive result, especially if you are asking for something.
Most people in animal rescue are BUSY. I always struggle when I receive a really long-winded email, and at the end of it, I still do not know what the person is asking for.
One trick I have learnt is to do a quick summary in the subject line, for example, ‘Lost Dog on 08/01/13, spayed Black Labrador, Trenton, NJ.’ If I need to redirect this email to someone that deals with lost pets, you have just made my life SO much easier by a simple and direct heading! Emails should then provide concise information. If you send an email to a rescue group that says ‘There is a dog in South Carolina that is going to be euthanized, please help’ believe me, this helps absolutely nobody, (and especially not the dog that is at risk.) Provide details of the shelter name, address and phone number; include a link to the animal’s details if there is one available. Also include your full name, phone number and email address in case we need to contact you. You might have to do a little more legwork to collect these details, but if you really want to help this animal, and you are expecting a rescue group to help, they will need this crucial information.
I receive a lot of emails and called each week, and I know that rescue groups and shelters receive just as many. If you do not get an immediate reply about an animal you want to adopt, please do not get upset and angry at the rescue team, this helps nobody. I once received a call from a lady asking for information of how to adopt from one of the rescues we work with. I explained that there was an adoption application that she would need to fill out on the rescue groups website, and then the rescue group would contact her in a few days to go over her application and make arrangements for her to meet the puppy. She then let out a huge sigh and said, ‘This is way too much work. I’m just going to buy from a breeder’ and then she hung up on me. I was honestly crushed. I sat there for 10 minutes holding my phone thinking I had done something horribly wrong. But then I realized that I hadn’t done anything wrong. I had done everything she asked, she just didn’t like the answer I had given her. I learnt very quickly that I could not control how people act, but I can encourage others not to do the same thing. Most people that work in animals welfare have a family, a full time job, pets of their own (plus fosters) and the majority are doing this work as an unpaid volunteer. They cannot be on call 24/7 and you might have to wait a day or so for a response to your email, but believe me, they want their animals to find homes just as you much as you want to adopt, so please be patience, they will respond to you!
I don’t know who started this movement, but there is this unwritten rule in animal rescue to sign off an email by saying; ‘Thank you for everything you do for the animals.’ Every time I receive an email from anyone that has added these words, I smile. It took 5 seconds for that person to write those words, and it just brightened my whole day. Extending a word of kindness can really turn someone’s whole day around, and it maybe the only kind word they receive that day.
In reality these can be applied to anything in our daily lives, not just animal rescue. So pass it along and hopefully you will receive kindness back ten fold!