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Animal Carers suffer Compassion Fatigue

As a RSPCA Volunteer, I am able to spend quality time with the dogs & cats at the shelter. Incidentally, I was playing with a little Chihuahua who asked if it could come home with me. I did tell him that I would put it out there for him to find a wonderful home soon. My Gracie passed away last November, and I cannot take on any new animals at the moment. Do you have any advice for these situations?   

Firstly, animal carers have one of the most important roles on this planet. Your perseverance and commitment to making a difference in these animals’ lives is invaluable. Unfortunately, we cannot take every shelter animal home. But we can try to make the situation a little easier, and little more loving for them.  We show them the love, care and attention that they deserve, and even if we cannot save them all, we have filled their lives with happiness & love, however short-lived it may be. It can be very stressful and draining for animal carers, but without you their lives would be distressful and empty.

You may feel frustrated, trapped and helpless; just as you are fighting to save these animals, you feel you are not making a scrap of difference. So here is the crucial point – you cannot save every animal on this planet. It is physically impossible; but even if you can save just one animal in your lifetime, just one, you will have given that animal the chance to live and experience all it came here to discover. You have made all the difference in the world for that one animal. And that makes it worth it, don’t you think? If it wasn’t for you even that one gorgeous little animal wouldn’t be here.

Now as much as the animals need our help, we also must take care of ourselves. You cannot keep giving without giving to yourself first. You need support too – where is YOUR oxygen mask? Do you remember the instructions we are given on an aircraft to fit your oxygen mask first and then place a mask on someone else. The same is true in this case. Often as carers we get caught up in doing everything possible to help the animals that we forget to take care of ourselves. If you are not happy and healthy, how is it possible to offer it to another. Some worry this will seem selfish, it is quite the opposite, it is common sense. You must be energetically strong – meaning you protect yourself and your emotions in certain circumstances. Surround yourself with supportive people; they will be your encouragement when you feel like giving up.  As a communicator animals have told me very emphatically that if they feel they are hurting someone or holding them back they would choose to leave this planet.  That is your answer right there. They so appreciate you just being there and supporting them when they are scared, unwell and lonely; but not at the cost of your own health and wellbeing.

Being an animal communicator you can hear what they are thinking & feeling, and this can sometimes make the job much harder and more stressful. However it is also the most rewarding way for you and the animals. This is where your discipline & focus comes in. You must be able to deal with your abilities in the appropriate way when you are dealing with distressed animals. If you listened to every animal’s thoughts, you would be so emotionally drained that you could not function. You must protect yourself & your energy so you can focus on the present – what can I do for that animal right now? What difference can I make to their wellbeing?  Even though you can’t promise every animal everything they want, you can enlighten them on what you will help them with and offer them hope. Hope is an amazing emotion as it gets us through the toughest of times.

Finally, you must have an outlet for yourself. Go for a walk in nature, stand in the grass barefoot for a while, go to the beach & walk in the sand and the ocean. Find your outlet, whatever it may be to help you reset your energy and release all the stress. Do this after every session at the shelter. Not only will you recharge, but also coming back to the present calms you and brings you back to a peaceful state. We want your time at the shelter to be a positive one for you and the animals in your care. A big thank you to all the animals carers and volunteers out there.