Lately, people have been telling me to “thicken my skin.” If you’re going to continue to do animal rescue, they declare, you can’t become so emotionally involved (this advice usually arrives after a bout of crying or bemoaning the unending cruelty of human beings from my end). You have to learn to “compartmentalize” areas of your life, they say. In other words – tone it down. My own mother even warned me not to ruin my life. Ruin my life? Change my life, perhaps. But ruin?
I appreciate their concern, but what they can’t understand is that animal rescue is a way of being. It’s not a hobby – an interest you can set aside when you head home at night. It’s life and death. Without those who speak for the voiceless, these animals are doomed to a cold and meaningless death. In no way do I intend to toot my own horn here. As a relative newbie to rescue, I’m in awe of the dedicated people who have been doing this for decades. My heart breaks at least once a day – for the ones I can’t save, the desperately sad stories, the cruelty that human beings are capable of. For those who’ve made this their mission for years, the level of heartbreak is nothing short of staggering. And I’m ashamed of myself for not becoming a fervent participant in this movement many years ago. Advocating animal rescue is one thing. Being on the front lines is quite another.
What I can’t do is turn away from the suffering. And I can’t turn off my empathy, my sensitivity, my compassion for these poor souls. An animal rescuer is who I have become, and it’s who I will forever remain. There’s no going back. Perhaps, with time, I will “toughen up”, so to speak, but I can’t predict the future. For now, I have to live with the heartbreak, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world – or for one animal’s life.