There were times during my twenty plus years in animal rescue, (mostly with rabbits), that I have felt like running away–and fast too!
I am betting that many of you have found yourself at that same crossroad while traversing a path filled with passion, frustration, physical exhaustion, fulfillment and tears of joy and grief.
The reasons for stepping away from rescue work may include physical limitations, financial constraints, another cause that needs your help, family obligations and sometimes just too much sadness and emotional output. One reason I have heard most often is the difficulty in working with other rescue people and/or groups. Sadly many talented and knowledgeable individuals leave rescue work, a fact which could have been prevented by cohesive, focused and supportive peers who have developed ways to work together or to work separately but respectfully. Unresolved discord can affect all areas of rescue work: volunteers, organization members, donations, community support and above all those animals that are counting on us for help.
Don’t run away, though; there is help. One of my favorite books on animal rescue work is Linda Harper’s The Power of Joy in Giving to Animals. Linda covers many aspects of giving our best selves to the animals and to other people using the wisdom that comes naturally from our animal companions. I want to share some excerpts of what she calls:
“The Three A’s”: Authenticity, Acceptance, and Appreciation.
Authenticity: Experiencing life with authenticity means recognizing who you really are. Your true self guides your daily actions, and the gifts that you share with the world are aligned with your natural talents and strengths. You are aware of your vulnerabilities and know which of your buttons can be pushed into reactions that will temporarily block this innate wisdom. The animals show us how to live according to the principle of authenticity and they naturally support us in those actions that follow their lead. They support us in letting that true self shine through with them and with others. Responding with authenticity may mean that you need to step back from a situation when being in it is preventing you from living in ways consistent with who you are. You may experience the loss of people or things that you had feared losing. Conflicts with people are inevitable. Knowing and being who you really are will allow you to stay grounded when these struggles arise. An honest look at who you are in the situation and what you need to do in the spirit of authenticity is the first step to finding resolution.
Acceptance: Living with acceptance means taking in all that life offers without resistance, even those experiences that you label as unpleasant or bad. Acceptance means taking the moment in exactly as it is. There is no doubt that our animal friends are some of the greatest life teachers and role models for accepting what the moment brings. Time and time again our animal friends show us that when you accept what is, the gifts of that moment are naturally revealed. In addition to being role models for acceptance, it is often the animals in our lives who naturally present us with the opportunities to find the peace and joy that this acceptance brings to life experiences, even the most challenging ones. Acceptance allows others to be who they are. Our relationships with animals are an excellent illustration of mutual acceptance; they accept us and we accept them. We strive to uncover that best self in the animal. What would our relationships with our fellow humans be like if we were able to offer the same kind of acceptance to them? Can you treat that person as if you were relating to their best self, even if it is not showing itself in that particular moment? Acceptance also means that we let go of our need to change others. We may not like all that we see, but suspending judgment and seeking to understand is the first step toward a resolution. You may still find that you need to go your different ways. Perhaps, however, you may find that you can accept the difference and still work together. QTIP stands for Quit Taking It Personally. When we accept others, just like when we are accepting our furry friends, we realize that each living being responds from their individual personality as well as a whole lifetime of experiences.
Appreciation: Experiencing life with appreciation means welcoming the complexities of the human experience as life unfolds. Life happens, but it may not unfold the way you had hoped it would. You may find yourself in situations that cause inner turmoil, or require personal strength, empathy, or forgiveness. There is no doubt that life’s greatest teachers for “going with the flow” are our animal friends. The animals in our lives lead us to appreciate the many turns we take on our journey, often influenced and directed by our bond with them. Living with and learning from our animal friends allows each of us to uncover that natural ability to relate to each other with energy, creativity, and support. It is this unity of spirit and action that is the key to changing the equation of hearts larger than hands to our collective hearts equal to our collective hands. It is through the influence of our precious bond with the animals that we develop the capacity to unite, each of us directed by our best selves.”
Linda has given me permission to share with you her Self Assessment Tools. You may find these particularly helpful in understanding the obstacles in your own rescue journey and how you may be contributing to robbing yourself or others of the joy that rescue work brings. I would highly recommend purchasing a copy of Linda’s book and taking and sharing the self assessments as guidelines to working together to help the animals.
By Debby Widolf
With Quotations from The Power of Joy in Giving to Animals, by Linda R. Harper, with a foreword and contributions by Faith Maloney.