by Douglas Fakkema
[email protected] (Lisa Marie)
Those of us who work on behalf of and who dedicate our
lives to animals go through four phases in our career evolution. As we
are unique, so are our individual stories, but we all go through a
similar process, and if we survive that process go on to understand that
we have achieved what we wanted in
the first place.
Red hot and raring to go, we are out to change the world. We are high on
life. We know we can make a difference, that our efforts on behalf of
animals will ease their plight. We work what seems like 25-hour days yet
are energized. Our enthusiasm overflows, our capacity for challenges is
limitless. We eat, sleep and live in the cause for animals. Our friends
don't understand our obsession and turn away or just fade away, and we
let them for we meet new ones. Some of us though don't make new friends,
we're too busy working for animals.
Some of us become loners with only our canine or feline
companions to keep us from total isolation but we're content because we
have a cause. In our zeal, we tend to affix simple solutions to complex
problems - every animal should be sterilized or no animal should be
euthanized. We're often late because we try to rescue animals from
highways and streets. We think we understand the problem and we know we
can fix it if only people would get out of our way.
Our phase one enthusiasm has turned sour, the bubble bursts and we crash
and burn. We see the same people coming into the shelter with yet
another litter - they haven't heard our message. We continue to
euthanize, there seems no end to it. Even our friends - those we still
have left - don't understand us. We can't seem to reach anyone.
Animals are still abused and neglected, their plight
seems unchanged despite all our efforts. We've lost the boundless energy
that characterizes Phase One. We no longer wish to talk about work,
don't even want to admit where we work. We're tired all the time. We go
home from work, lock the doors, turn out the lights, turn off the
answering machine and close the window blinds. We're too exhausted to
cook so we scarf fast food, pizza, potato chips or chocolate.
Some of us buy useless objects we can't afford. Some of
us turn to alcohol for it takes away our feelings of hopelessness. We
ignore our families and even our pets get less attention than we know is
right. We seem powerless to affect any of the changes that drove us to
such ecstasies of dedication in
Phase One. We have become horrified by the work we have to do. Even our
dreams are filled with the horror. Every animal we take in, every animal
we euthanize is yet another nail in our coffin of defeat. Somehow we're
to blame for all our failure and it's destroying us. Raise the shields
Scotty, the Klingons are on our tail!
Our shield gets thicker and thicker. It blocks the pain
and the sadness and makes our life somehow tolerable. We continue on
because every now and then we get a spark of Phase One energy.
Our phase two depression has turned outward and we're mad as hell.
Hopelessness turns to rage. We begin to hate people, any people and all
people unless, like our co-workers, they dedicate their lives to animals
the way we do. We even hate our co-workers if they dare question us -
euthanasia. It occurs to us, let's euthanize the owners, not the pets.
Let's take everyone who abuses an animal or even surrenders an animal
and euthanize them instead.
Our rage expands to our out-of-work life. That guy in
front of us on the highway, the one who's in our way, euthanize him too.
We rage at politicians, television, newspapers, our family. Everyone is
a target for our anger, scorn and derision. We have lost our perspective
We're unable to connect with life. Even the animals we
come in contact with seem somehow distant and unreal. Anger is the only
bridge to our humanness. It's the only thing that penetrates our shield.
Gradually, and over time, the depression of Phase Two and the anger of
Phase Three become replaced with a new determination and understanding
of what our mission really is. It is big picture time. We realize that
we have been effective - locally and in some cases regionally and even
nationally. So we haven't solved the problem - who could - but we have
made a difference with dozens, even hundreds and sometimes thousands of
animals. We have changed the way others around us view animals. We begin
to see our proper place in our own community and we begin to see that we
are most effective when we balance our work and out-of-work lives. We
realize that work is not our whole world and that if we pay attention to
our personal lives, we can be more effective at work. We understand that
some days we work 14 hours and some days we knock it off after only 8.
We take vacations and we enjoy our weekends. We come back refreshed and
ready to take on daily challenges. We see that all people are not bad.
We understand that ignorance is natural and in most cases curable. Yes,
there are truly awful people who abuse and neglect animals but they are
a minority. We don't hate them.
When we find them we do all we can to stop them from
hurting animals. We recognize that the solutions are just as complex as
the problems and bring a multitude of tools to the problem at hand and
use them any way we can and we begin to see results - one small step at
a time. We reconnect with the animals. Our shields come down. We
understand that sadness and pain are a part of our job. We stop stuffing
our feelings with drugs, food or isolation. We begin to understand that
our feelings of anger, depression and sadness are best dealt with if we
recognize them and allow them to wash over and past us. We recognize our
incredible potential to help animals. We are changing the world.
I've noticed that some people get frozen in Phase One
(the zealots), or Two (the zombies), or Three (the misanthropes). Some
shift back and forth between Two and Three and even between Four and
Three or Four and Two. Many leave animal work during Phase Two or Three,
never to return. Some seem to move rapidly to Phase Four, while for
others it takes years and years. Some never get a sense of peace to go
along with our purpose, they work their entire lives on the frantic pink
cloud of phase one or
depressed or angry. I know I've been in all four phases in 25 years in
animal protection. Can the journey from Phase One to Four be speeded up?
Can we avoid the pain, discomfort and agony that goes with the journey?
I wish I knew.
Go on to GAP's Vision
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