Thursday, October 9, 2014

Compassion Fatigue

             There is a very real problem with those of us involved with animal rescue, sanctuary work, and the veterinary field as well. It is called “Caregiver's Burnout”, I think I have it. For the last 15 years I have watched my beloved animals grow old and frail. I have been there to care for them every single day. I have held them in my arms for their last breath. My last gift to them. Some people think it gets easier each time you loose one, that's not entirely true. It gets harder as each new loss stirs memories of heartache. Each one adds to the last until you just can't.
           They come to us so broken. Their minds, their bodies, their spirits, so broken. I can so identify with them. Horses have Post Traumatic Stress, anxiety attacks and pain. None of this can be expressed in words. We can only guess, but I have been there too.
I have held the faces of 30 horses, that I can think of off hand, as they died. Not all of them were mine, but I felt that they needed to know that they were loved, no matter what. If their owners couldn't do it, I would.

            We have 10 horses and ponies left at EOTS, the four ponies are all young but the horses are between 24 and 31 years old. They are all broken beyond repair. I watch as each one grows older and fades away. Czardas at 31 is being provided with hospice care, any day can be her last. My beautiful Faith at 24 has just gone blind in her other eye. Auto-immune disorder I'm told by the vet. She went blind in her right eye four years ago, now her left one is gone too. My heart is so broken, at times I can hardly breath.

           We lost four horses in the last two years. At those times my mind somehow shifts me into what I call “the gray place”. This is new. I don't know how it happens, but I feel nothing. I go about the business of what needs to be done and manage to go on. When my own horse Fancy left me at 31 years old, I kept asking myself “Why don't I feel anything? What's wrong with me? I've had this horse half of my life and I feel nothing...”I don't cry much anymore. It usually takes alcohol to get me there. I don't really want to feel anything, good or bad, staying in neutral is a good thing.
           Recently a woman who was an animal behaviorist committed suicide. Looking out at the world and the horrible atrocities committed against animals that are so wonderful and intelligent is sometimes too much to bear, knowing that there is nothing we can do about it. I guess she was too young to have found “the gray place” yet. So very sad.
         The best we can do is stay inside our own little bubbles, care for those within it and not look too closely at the horrors going on outside. Make things known to the masses. The the voice of the voiceless, and then, let it go. Feel comforted in the fact that you've done the best that you can, then hug your own animals.
          We are their care givers. We can try to find a way to go on if we can. Some of us can't.