A Hard Decision

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Sneakers is better off inside, but he requires a lot of attention from me.

I recently decided to take a step back from cat rescue. I am burnt out.   I was an active part of a rescue group based here in Chicago.  I have been volunteering with shelters and rescues since 2004 or 2005 and it simply breaks my heart to step away. However, I realized it was taking a toll on my life in general. I was stressed, I was always feeling guilty that I couldn’t help one more cat, or save one more life. There are thousands of cats who need rescue in this country and I  can’t help even a fraction of them.  I would see dozens of postings a day on cats who are “urgent” or “desperate” at the kill shelters across the country.  Looking into their  faces in the pictures posted and I saw the fear and the sadness plastered there. I couldn’t help but think of the stories and individual personalities of each of those poor feline souls and how horrible the experience of shelter life must be for them. I thought of the kitties I have saved over the years and how happy they were. Of course I thought of my own kitties, and the kitties I have saved over the years.  And I cried. I cried so hard. Maybe not physical tears all the time, but I cried on the inside.  I was sick of having people say “oh, I have a cat. Do you want it?” when I mentioned I worked with animal rescue groups. Tired of having people seek me out just to find someplace for their cat (flattered, but tired. Just because I work with a group doesn’t mean we have room for your cat!)

Aside from the emotional exhaustion and compassion fatigue, I was exhausted from the stress of volunteering. I signed on with a small rescue organization two or three years back, just after I left the large shelter I worked for.  I became one of the core team very quickly. It was an honor to be involved and to be such an integral part of a wonderful organization. However, it was also exhausting. There were so many hours that needed to be put in and the work never ends. I do best when I can compartamentalize my life-work is here, cats are over here, friends are over there and so on. Being a core member didn’t give me the ability to do that.  It also started to take up more time than I was willing to give.  I am trying to market the book I published last winter, make Tails from the Street bigger and write more.  With a full time job, five cats (3 inside, 2 outside), I just don’t have time to dedicate to both writing and rescue work.

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Vivian, Morgan La Fay and Pendragon. Three kittens I captured, socialized and fostered.

After much deliberation and many hours waging an internal debate I decided to step back from rescue work. It was a huge decision, and even after I made it I wavered. However, I am sure it is the right decision for me. I can’t save the cats on my own, and it won’t do anyone good if I break myself trying to do good. I am officially stepping away from the rescue group I work with after our large event in October (which I will write about soon). In the mean time I have stepped back from all other duties with them.

In the past few weeks since I actually gave my resignation, I have felt much more relaxed. I don’t have to come home to emails or pending projects for the rescue group. I have one job now instead of two and I can focus on moving myself forward. Once I move forward I will be able to get back to helping even more cats.  Yet, last week when I stopped by the shelter I worked for and the vet clinic associated with the small rescue group I volunteered with, I was sad. Sad to not be a part of that life anymore.  Saving lives, making a difference in both feline and human lives was so wonderful. But I need a break to build my life away from the rescue scene.

However, not being a core part of an organization doesn’t mean I am done with cat rescue for good. Cat rescue is in my blood. I have been marked by the cats and so, the cats will continue to find me.  Perhaps that is why Tuesday, despite being “done” with cat rescue, I paid my first visit to an elderly couple who have six kittens in their yard who need a little bit of TNR. I shared this story with a friend and former co-worker today and her response “so much for taking a break from cat rescue!” Like I said, it’s in my blood; I will never completely be  gone from the cat rescue community. Just taking a step back

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8 thoughts on “A Hard Decision

  1. cyberbonn says:

    I’ve been in rescue. The more involved you are, burn out comes soon than later. Sounds like you’ve been very involved. It is wonderful that you made such a difference. Enjoy some free time now. You deserve it. Good post.

    • Katie says:

      Thanks! It was such a hard decision. So many kitties still need saving; but I won’t do them any good if I am figuratively dead (or literally, that stress is a killer). So easy to fall back into old habits, so hoping this TNR project I am taking on will be a good transition for me.

  2. carmapoodale says:

    We understand. Trust me , we really understand. Being a core member of a rescue take a lot of work , alot of energy, and a lot of energy. Ma has been trying to step back for sometime and every time there is much more that needs to be done or someone moves and she has to take that position etc. It causes my blog to suffer, it causes her more stress and sometimes causes MS flairups. We understand. We also know that you haven’t been totally happy for a while and know we know why. You were weighing this decision out. We understand. We wish you the best, the happiness and the energy back.

    • Katie says:

      Thanks Carma! It means a lot coming from you; I know you and your Ma do a lot of wonderful rescue work for your shelter. I hope after a few months off I can regroup and start helping out again. Just need some time to refresh myself!

  3. janetblue says:

    We all have to decide what is important at each step of our lives. For you, this is the time to step away from this long-time help with rescuing the kitties. I want to bring home every cat I see who needs a home, but I know that is not realistic. This does not mean that you cannot lend a hand when it suits you. And I am sure when you are ready to step back into the rescue world (if you do), you will be welcomed with open arms, and many, many kitties will still need your help. Best of luck as you make this transition. Janet

    • Katie says:

      Thanks! I do hope some time away will make it easier for me. I am helping to finish up a fundraiser for one rescue group, and working on TNR project for another and after that taking a few months off. We will see how I feel after that!

  4. CatInTheFridge says:

    Dear Katie,
    Thank you for visiting my blog today. It’s so nice to meet you! I’m sorry you’re having a hard time with the rescues. Sometimes everyone needs a break. Maybe you can use your other talents, like writing, for awhile. Or maybe you can just take some time off to hug your own kitties. Thank you for the kind words you left me. Please come back and visit soon! It’s so nice to know someone appreciates what I’m doing. Hugs and happy purrs to you, Crepes.

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