Are you an animal addict?

This post is dedicated to the kindhearted peeps participating in today’s BtC4animals’ Blog the Change. They’re writing for animals. I’m writing for them.

“No budget, no donations and my personal credit cards are maxed. I will eat macaroni and cheese and currently even rent rooms in my house to be sure that the animals have the good stuff. I love doing rescue… but… they say they are going to put the animal to sleep and it’s my fault.”Anonymous Best Friends Member

“I scream that I’ll never foster another dog again… then I see another dog with sad eyes that will die if I don’t help…” -Post on Rescue Anonymous

“I became increasingly isolated from family and friends. My… mom ask[ed] if everything was okay. No, everything is not okay! There are thousands of beautiful, loving animals dying needlessly in shelters every day!” -Julia Kamysz Lane in “When a Rescuer Needs Rescuing”

Sound familiar? Are you spending more time with a rescue than with your family? More money on cat food than on treats for yourself? Feeling angry that others abandon or mistreat their pets? Overwhelmed that it never ends? Sad that you can’t fix it all? Burnout, helping addiction, compassion fatigue–call it what you will– if you think you’ve got it, you probably do. And hugs to you for acknowledging it.

1. You’re not alone. See those quotes above? There are oodles more. Though it’s seldom discussed (and difficult to find on Google!), those who help often need help themselves. An estimated 1 of 4 social workers teeter on alcoholism. 23% of psychiatric nurses smoke. Like you, they’re good people doing good for others but harming themselves in the process. And who can blame you? There are lots of loving animals who need help, so…

2. Know that you are needed, but maybe differently than you think. Once, my mom wanted to give blood. As the Red Cross worker prepared mom’s arm, the blood drained from her face when she saw the needle. The nurse stopped, laughed and gave my mom o.j., saying, “There are lots of other ways to give. Having you flat on the floor isn’t going to help us.” Draining your family of “you-time” or your bank account of money will not only hurt you; it will hurt the animals that you love. And your rational mind knows this, but your heart argues. Which leads to (Excuse the gratuitous photo):

Beagle on a lap

This hound takes care of #1. You should, too.

3. The #1 animal NEED is for you to take care of YOU. As a canine, I know what I’m talking about. When my mom is stressed, so am I. Similar to the airlines’ plea for adults to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting children, it may seem counterintuitive to help yourself before helping us–but it’s vital. A burned out you is no good for us.

Of course, there are differing levels of self care. You may just need some stress management techniques, including just talking about it. Or maybe you need some time off, to ask for help in spreading the workload, or to switch duties (e.g., instead of working at a shelter, host a party to raise money; or instead of answering the phones, donate some dog food). But if nothing will be enough–if you’re addicted to aiding animals you may need to stop altogether and do something else. Regardless, it’s important to focus on the work that HAS been done and DOES get done, the dogs and cats and horses and furries that DO get saved. There are a lot of us. And we will always love you, no matter what.

More help for you helpers:

Animals in Our Hearts: Preventing and Healing the Stress of Animal Care Work: A site full of resources for animal activists with compassion fatigue. Wonder if you’ve got it? Need more help? Check it out.

Best Friends’ Solutions for Burnout: An easy-to-follow guide to ensure you stay sane–great if you feel you’re teetering over the edge or have a friend who is.


My Recycled Pets: Diary of a Dog Addict

My Recycled Pets: Diary of a Dog Addict          A cute book to help you stay focused on the positive.

Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life A classic book on setting boundaries and saying “no” without guilt. Has a Christian slant.

Rescue Matters: Not for the burnt out, but for the burn-out-inclined; this book is full of helpful reminders and a-ha moments.

Have more suggestions for caring for caretakers? Comments? Please share.
Blog the Change

18 responses to this post.

  1. Oh, wonderful post. As a recovering rescue worker (but not foster), I know what you mean. Those quotes are so so familiar–heard them all the time. It doesn’t do the animals any good if they’re burned out. I love that there is help for the burned out person with a great heart.


  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wesley, Wesley. Wesley said: Are you an animal addict? Help for the helpers: […]


  3. Great, great post! I think most of us who are involved in some way in sheltering and rescue know a few of these folks — people who forget themselves (and sometimes their own pets) in their quest to save others. Thanks for the web resources. I may need to pass those along.


    • Thank you so much, Vicky! Yeah, as hard as it is to see animals who need help– it’s harder still to see the people who help them, running on empty themselves. We have to remember not to get mesmerized by these ultrapassionate-superdedicated people who spend every spare moment at the shelter– and realize they might need help. If you stumble upon other resources, please share.


  4. Thanks for the great post and info! We came to your blog by way of the Blog Hop and am glad we did! We are now followers, and hope you will come by and visit us too sometime! Happy Saturday!


  5. This post is so true! Thanks so much!

    If we’re burnout and overwhelmed, we’re useless. So doing anything we can to keep ourselves safe is in rescue’s best interest – even if that means only rescuing for 6 months a year, or if you coordinate fundraising drives instead of fostering. Doing something, even a little, is so much better than doing nothing.

    I think another pressure is the strain that rescue puts on our own pets at home. We have our own welfare and our pets’ welfare to consider, before we begin to tackle the enormous rescue conundrum. I think, overwhelmingly, we need to keep ourselves well before we can be a significant contributor to rescue.


    • Thanks for stopping by, Tegan! Interesting point about the pets of rescuers and their stake in this… gives me an idea to do an interview… If you know any cats or dogs (border terriers, perhaps? :)) who’d like to be interviewed, please let me know! Thanks again!


      • I don’t know if my border terriers are such a great candidate, because I really don’t know what they think of it all! And it seems to be on an individual dog basis, too. They loved the first one, and then have progressively got less enthused about greyhound fosters.

        I could always give it a go talking in dog-person if you’d like!

  6. Thanks for bringing this important issue to our attention. Most of us think in terms of people who don’t do enough — not people who want to do too much and don’t take care of themselves.


  7. Thank you for discussing this issue in a positive, helpful way. We are learning this lesson the hard way after constantly having to pull from our savings to take care of the animals we rescue. I recently spent about a month’s worth of paychecks on two fosters, hoping that we would be able to make it back in donations, but so far haven’t raised even half. It’s hard because I wouldn’t change what I did. One was a cat that had been hit by a car & left on the side of the road to die and who is now doing 110% better! The other developed a urinary blockage which is fatal unless treated ASAP. I wouldn’t ever choose to let them die over saving money but I do see how it hurts our family. That money was supposed to go towards us buying a home where we could finally have everything set up perfectly for our own kids and make all our lives less stressful. So it hurts us, and I know it, but in a life & death situation, I can’t see myself ever making any other choice.


    • Awww. Thank you for your comment. I’m sure a lot of people can relate. And I’m grateful there are people like you who care– and who teach your kids to care, too.


  8. Great thing to think about, keep in mind. We need our humans to stay in their bestest condition, so they can keep us in ours!


  9. Great post!


  10. You have such a pure heart because you really care a lot for the welfare of animals. I salute your for that. I do appreciate people like you who sacrifice and made an effort to ensure the good condition of those creatures. I’m an animal lover as well and I indeed support any groups that commit themselves to help our beloved animals. Rescuing them is no picnic so I am happy to found your blog. Keep it up!


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