This post is part of our Saturday Editorial section. Normally, we let the dogs do all the talking every weekday.
Oh, what lessons we learn in life. Sometimes, we think that we know it all. Sometimes, we think that we are experts in what we deem important in our lives. If we devote much of time, energy and devotion to a cause, it only becomes natural that the cause becomes part of who we are. I thought I knew everything there was to know about animal rescue. I sure was wrong. Because I had not recognized the most important part. Yet.
As I have said before, I never expected my life to take a turn, literally, to the path of animal rescue. This path chose me. Or, in fact, my dogs led me down it. I also never expected that this path would lead me to the 48 contiguous states and 48 animal rescues in the span of less than a two year time period. But, I wouldn’t change that now. Although that path changed me.
I knew before our trip, “48 states, 48 rescues” that the problem of animal homelessness in our country was an overwhelming one. I tried to prepare myself, and mostly, I tried to prepare my husband. My husband was not one who liked social media, and I had been solely in charge of the animal rescue side of our brand. I was the one that shared posts of animals and situations to set up transport. My husband preferred to leave that to me..because honestly, he couldn’t handle this emotionally. Maybe you have felt the same. And that is why the premise of our brand, websites and social media sites have also presented animal rescue in a fun way. Yet, now, we were going to see these animals face to face. But we found that often, it wasn’t the animals that affected us the most on this trip. It was the people. The people at the shelters, rescues and organizations who had spent years of their time doing this. I felt their pain beyond any emotion in animal rescue that I had ever felt. And it broke my heart.
So many have asked us since this trip of one specific example that touched us the most. And when I honestly say there was not, I mean it. Because to say that one animal or one person that we met was more important than another would be disrespectful. Every person and every animal had their own, important story. And the story that we read over and over were that there is a big problem in this country and our world. Not just for animals. But for the people that are trying to save these animals.
Many times, the exhaustion and weariness would be apparent the moment we walked into a shelter. But most times, it wasn’t until we toured the facilities or homes and heard the stories of the animals, that we saw a need. Of course, for the animals. But the ones telling us these stories were leaving out one crucial detail of their rescue. Their story. Why they gave so much of themselves. And why they did this. Day after day. Year after year.
But beyond that, we wanted to know, what kept them going. So many times, it was the fact that they helped even one animal that propelled them forward. And we knew how that felt.
Sometimes, they felt like they had no choice. They felt if they did not help the animals in their community, no one else would. And I suppose in many times, they were correct. Very correct. And yet, I saw the exhaustion, the mental and physical exhaustion. Not many people have a job or volunteer in life or death situations. Yet, for animal rescuers, every day is this situation. So with all the good that we saw in these selfless people doing what they could for animals where they lived and beyond, we saw the need for changes. Because not only are the animals in a life or death situation, the people helping them are too.
Why? There is no stopping animal rescuers. When your heart is in the right place, you keep going, you keep advocating and you keep working. A few weeks ago, an article that I wrote last year went viral, “Why It Hurts Me When My Friend Buys A Pet”. And when it went viral, the comments on social media and the article itself provided an outlet for many who did not feel the same about the plight of homeless animals. The conversation surprised me. No, not the remarks. I have heard the excuses all before. But how I felt about these remarks surprised me. I was really angry inside. I felt no one seemed to care that I had spent two years of my life and funds to visit 48 shelters to learn and give praise to these rescuers. NO, they did not care. I was not going to change their minds no matter what. And it is that feeling I had of helplessness and disrespect that I know animal rescuers feel everyday. Yet. They keep going. They keep doing. Oh, how I admire them.
So how are we going to help these ones who need saving themselves? I will be blunt. Feeling sorry for them helps no one. Until there is not a need for animal rescue any longer, the ones doing the work will push themselves to the limit. They will give of themselves every day. Some days they may think they can’t do it one more day. Yet they will. And if we don’t help them first, and advocate for animal rescue second, this cycle will continue. Say thank you to a shelter worker, volunteer or organization today. Whether that thank you is with a donation, a card, or a meal to the people helping the animals, do your part. Do you know who originally helped YOUR rescue animal? Can you thank them in some way today?
And to the animal rescuers out there who think that no one knows how much they do, or how much they give of themselves everyday, we say thank you. You are amazing. You are a true lifesaver.
But you, and only you will have to decide if you are important enough to take a break, to take a breather, to take a day off. Don’t let anyone tell you when to do it. You will know when it is time. And the animals will be here when you get back. You were meant to do this. And every animal you have saved, helped, bandaged, or loved thanks you too. But above all else, thank yourself.
-Rachael Johnson, Owner and Girl Person of 2 Traveling Dogs and Your Dog’s Diner
Watch all of our 48 episodes of “Stop Hounding Me” at 48 animal rescues and shelters across the USA on YouTube.
Catch our daily dog blog at www.2travelingdogs.com