Avoiding the Burnout Blues

Without my burnout protection program–I call it the Frances and Donna Plan–I’d have quit rescue work years ago. Long-time readers of HRJ may remember Frances as the woman who came to adopt a friend for her rabbit (“Against All Odds,” Vol.II, No.4). Bypassing all our most adoptable, adorable fosters, she settled on the terrible Fiona, the most aggressive rabbit I’d encountered in 11 years of rescue. Thanks to Frances’s absolute refusal to give up on her, Fiona went on to a long and happy life, loved by friends of several species.

When Donna came to a Basic Bunny Talk at her local humane society, her rabbit was unneutered and lived in the back yard. Making immediate use of what she’d learned, she had him neutered and brought him indoors, a happy enough ending in itself. She also returned to the shelter as a volunteer, working with rabbits and other small animals. Most courageously of all, she found a way to help the least lucky ones, those who are neither adopted nor rescued. When time has run out for a rabbit whom Donna has cared for and befriended at the shelter, she is with him at the end, a familiar and soothing presence when the lethal injection is given. She has received the shelter’s Volunteer of the Year award.

When I read “reason for surrender: aggressive” on a shelter intake form, I think of Frances and her dedication to little Fi. When I look out at the audience for yet another presentation of Bunny Basics, I remind myself that Donna appeared in just such a group. Frances and Donna are unique, yes; but over the years there have been others, and memories of those enlightened ones–and the animals whose lives were saved because of them–fill my heart and ward off the burnout blues.

Amy Espie

House Rabbit Journal Fall 1998: Volume III, Number 11