Thursday, November 6, 2008

Volunteers and staff

Thanks for all the comments from yesterday. Despite the sad circumstances of Kiki's death, it would have been much worse for Kiki's life if there weren't such a committed group of volunteers and staff dedicated to trying to make it better. The ending was tragic but we are priviledged, as Cathrine reminds us, that we live in a place where we don't have to face that tragedy on as enormous a scale as in most other parts of the world.

Every volunteer plays an immensely important part in ameliorating an unkind situation for the animals at TAS but as volunteers, we're lucky we can come and go as we please and not have to face making life and death decisions on a routine basis. I think this allows us the advantage of being able to bond with the animals more so than some of the staff. We know we'll never have to look the creature in the eyes if it comes down to a decision to euthanize.

I don't think it ever becomes an easy thing to do, to take the life of an animal at the shelter. I think what happens is that the staff learn to put up walls as soon as that possibility rears its ugly head. Don't get too close to the animal. Don't talk to it. When it's out of sight, keep it out of mind.

A couple of nights ago, I was leaving as TAS was closing for the day and one of the animal control officers came in with a kitten in a crate. It had been discoverd by a city resident who had called TAS to pick it up. Inside the crate, a small white kitten looked back out. It was hardly a handful. It's head was misshapen and looked like there was blood on it. It held its front left leg up at an awkward angle. Worst of all, it looked like its left eye had either ruptured or was highly infected. Everyone thought it looked like it had been hit by a car. No one thought it would be make it through the night and as soon as they realized that, their walls went up. There was still sadness and there was still compassion but the sadness and compassion were tempered and kept in check. A decision was made to bring the kitten to a late night vet who would decide on whether or not to immediately euthanize.

As it turned out, the kitten may very well have been hit by a car but its main problem was that it had acute encephalitis. It didn't seem to be experiencing any pain, at least it wasn't noticeable and it was kept alive for a day to see if there would be any changes in its condition. But, on the second day, when the kitten could no longer right itself after falling on its back, someone at TAS made the necessary decision and the kitten was euthanized.

I guess I heard about the euthanasia pretty much immediately after it happened and when I told some of the staff who hadn't heard about it yet, I could see the same reaction I saw the other night. First the sadness and compassion and then the walls came up to fend off an overflow of emotion. They still had their jobs to do. I could just walk out.

I guess what I'm trying to say is thanks for the comments of support but really, I hardly get my feet wet in the never ending effort to do right by these abandoned animals. It's really those staff members who put their hearts and souls into animal rescue that deserve the recognition. They do what I could never do.


Lynda said...

They do what I could never do as well, Fred. And really, so do you.

I could make a million excuses as to why I don't volunteer at my local shelter - too busy, it's too far away, never enough time, have my own animals to look after, etc etc - but what it boils down to is that I just couldn't. Period. My heart would break every single day. Major Kudos to everyone dealing in rescue, from the volunteers to the vets.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Fred,

Yesterday was one of the hardest days for me in a long time, I was beside myself with sadness and at work when I found out about KIKI. the tears didn't stop flowing until this morning. I will continue with my volunteering because at the end of the day we are a light , a ray of hope for these animals. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the workers at TAS. The decisions they face on a daily basis would make the average person weep. I am proud to play whatever small role I can in this neverending fight for animal rights


KIKI will never be forgotten

Fred said...

Susan, I'm glad you've decided to continue volunteering. You're important to these dogs. Every pat, every word, every smile, every walk is important.

House of the Discarded said...

Hi Fred,

I'm new reading your blog and am on the "feline" side of the rescue business. I've recently resigned from the board of a larger cat rescue group and am in withdrawals. :)

Thank you for saying what needs to be said - no matter how badly it hurts. People need to keep hearing it..over and over.


Cathrine said...

I hope you do not think I was putting anyone down: far from it. Having volunteered at home and run a shelter abroad, I have nothing -- nothing -- but respect and love for people who work for lost, abandoned, abused and neglected animals. I know how it hurts to lose even one, and I am awestruck that people can do this and still keep coming back.

I know about emotional shutters, too. They aren't very useful: if they were, there would not be the huge burnout rate there is among volunteers and staff at shelters all over the world, including in Canada.

I am lucky: I don't have to do this. At some point, my country will send me home, and I won't have to see this. I will be able to distance and forget.

I hope I won't do that. Because too few people are working too hard to save too many animals. We must, all of us, keep on. Not only for the living, but for the dead: if we don't give whatever we can, then Kiki has died in vain.

As have La Pussionara, Smokey Joe, Blind Bella, Beba Reba, and all the others I had to leave behind in that terrible little graveyard at the border that marks a little bit of Canada in the Balkans.

Susan, I am so glad you decided to keep on. Because that is one more person giving a few more animals that small but transcendent moment of love that they would not otherwise have had.

It is so important to them, whether they live or die, that, at least for a moment, they know love.

Thank you all for being here to remind me and keep me strong.

Fred said...

Cathrine, of course I didn't think you were putting anyone down. It's always great to hear from you and your comments are always much appreciated. Send photos too if you want and I'll post them up.