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Rescue Fatigue

Our good friend Cynthia Heyman (a/k/a Cynthia Blue) is taking a break from Collie Rescue, as I just learned in this post from her blog, Tip-Tail. For those of you who don’t know, Cynthia is Collie Rescue of Utah. Barbara is on her board of directors and helped Cynthia formalize her Collie rescue work (e.g., by incorporating, etc.). And Cynthia and her husband are the primary (and just about only!) foster home for the Collies that she rescues. (See a pattern here?)

I know that the decision to take a break from rescue was very difficult for Cynthia to make, and that she is painfully aware that there may be Collies in danger because of her decision. But rescue fatigue is a very real, and very serious syndrome.

Those of who have encountered it become numb from the constant stream of new dogs, dogs with health problems, senior dogs, dogs with behavioral problems, dogs being dumped for no real reason at all, dogs emotionally traumatized by what’s happening to them, and dogs having to be taken to their final goodbyes. How many tears can we shed? How much of our family finances can we throw at the never-ending problem? How do we deal with the roller coaster of emotions? When do we take time to heal, to rest, to recover?

I don’t know.

Barbara and I are pretty fortunate in many ways. We have a number of close and faithful friends and collaborators helping us in whatever ways they can. Barbara’s pretty good at finding foster homes and has an incredible ability at evaluating adoption prospects for their suitability to a particular dog. I’ve got a well-paying job that supported things financially for so long. We’re both healthy and have a passion to match the energy required.

But we can’t go on like this forever. We have not had fewer than a dozen dogs in our house for several years, and that’s physically destroying our house and overwhelming our abilities to handle the emotions, the conflicts, and overall management of the situation. Our “shrine” of boxes, urns, and other containers holding the ashes of dogs we’ve had to help cross the Rainbow Bridge is running out of shelf space – there are more than 30 of them, if memory serves correctly, every one involving not only medical and related expenses of hundreds (even thousands) of dollars, but also hours of tears and numbness.

I don’t know what to do. I can’t abandon Shelties in need of rescue, but who rescues me, who rescues Barbara? I feel like I’m drowning and somebody just threw me an anchor.

What really makes me sad is that I can’t even do things with our own dogs — can’t take them camping, can’t spend time training them and entering them in obedience or agility trials, can’t even just spend an evening quietly cuddling and grooming them. There’s always so much that needs to be done for the other dozen or so in the house

On this day..

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1 comment to Rescue Fatigue

  • It is a very hard choice to make. There are a lot more shelties around than collies, here in Utah. Plus, there are a couple other rescues that will take collies if needed. And they are adopted rather quickly, too. I’ve only had one or two calls lately and other rescues have picked them up.

    When I was in recovery,I learned that in order to take care of someone else, we have to take care of ourselves first. It’s like the airline… if the masks come down, you have to put your own mask on first, and then put the mask onto the child next to you. Because if you are not strong enough to put the mask on the other person, then you are not going to be strong enough to help them.

    Take care of yourselves, guys. Rescue is a never ending stream of dogs. Our society has to stop it at the source and, unfortunately, that’s not happening. Until the stream is plugged rescues are going to be overwhelmed. :(

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