Raindrops And Tears

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By way of my previous blog, you know that my recent vacation, I met a little dog that needed help.  Even though we promised Rango he could keep his Cuban heritage alive and that we would buy him a coat to help deal with the colder temperatures in Canada, he had a different idea and wandered off before we could treat his mange and infections. 

Because I am a glass-half-full kind of person, I was hopeful that Rango was just out strolling and would be back before the end of our vacation.  However, I am also a realist who has been involved in dog rescue for 10 years.  When my wave of realism crashed over my optimism and I accepted that Rango was not coming back, there is no other way to put it, I was a mess.  I was sitting in a parking lot, in the rain, with tears streaming down my face. 

I was not just crying for Rango, I was crying for Hawkeye who lost his battle with parvo, I was crying for Houdini who had to fight for survival on the reserve while blind, I was crying for Ruby who was viciously abused, I was crying for April who had been shot with a pellet gun…the list of dogs I was crying for was extensive.  I was crying for dogs who I have helped and dogs who I have lost through my rescue history.    

Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress, is common among individuals that work directly with trauma victims.  Symptoms are now being observed in employees and volunteers involved with animal rescue, advocacy and welfare.  Animal care workers and volunteers often see animals at their worst and this has an impact on their mental wellbeing.  The emotional exhaustion brought on by the stress of caring for traumatized or suffering dogs manifests in many ways: depression, misdirected anger, irritability, physical fatigue, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, hypertension and substance abuse.

No dog rescuer is immune to the emotional toll that our efforts to improve and save lives takes.  Including me.  I had been stuffing my frustration, anger, sadness and hopelessness from years of rescue work into a reservoir and that night in the parking lot, because of Rango's disappearance, my reservoir burst.  It was cathartic really, and also helped me realize how close to literal burn out I have been. 

The Compassion Fatigue Awareness Program (CFAP, http://www.compassionfatigue.org/index.html) provides information and help in order for people not to feel alone and seek a solution for their pain. CFAP provides an online self-test determine your level of compassion fatigue as well as featuring a host of Animal Caregiver resources on the site.

Although I can't give Rango a hug for helping me empty my reservoir of negativity, I will always be thankful that he came along.  Perhaps that is why we met?  Perhaps I wasn't meant to help him, perhaps he was meant to help me?

Written by Lyndsay hart at 00:00
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