When you're born a fighter and retire (for lack of a better term) there comes a point where you have to step back into the ring for your own sanity.
This week has been a week of juxtaposition; great joy and great sorrow with reminders of days long gone.
I took a step back into the rescue world this week, much to my dismay, to find that not much has changed just the pace in which information can get out across the airways.
There is a uniting force that comes upon you when you mesh with the right people and an overwhelming bitterness that runs deep when the so-called-do-gooders rear their heads.
It has been four years, two months and 30 days since I officially left the world of daily rescue. The real rescue world where you go to shelters to pull dogs that have no time left. Death row dogs where you become their only chance at life; sickness, behavior concerns, veterinary and training bills. On December 4, 2008 I shut it down. It took three years to even tip toe back in and I started with two young puppies, scheduled to die and I was their lifeline. That became a bittersweet situation where one went into the perfect home and the other pup died in my arms - a painful reminder of why I had to stop. Cold turkey. This event would also be my leap in coming out of the closet - a leap that I was ready for... go public with my rants, my mission, my long-buried soul.
Then I had an epiphany and thought of a much larger way I could make an impact, without getting my hands so dirty and feeling the pain of loss, literally in my own arms. I created the A Dog A Day campaign with Shorty's blessing. I could find dogs across the nation in need of a home, cause we all know an adoption means two lives saved - the dog that finds a home and the dog that takes its place from the certain death of a shelter. 365 chances per year to make a difference without having a single dog step foot inside my home, or my heart for that matter. I got the blessing and we were off...
You see, I consider myself a former rescuer turned writer. I knew, back in the day, that it was my daily blogging (on MySpace) that pulled in the money necessary to fund our work. The volunteers were essential, the donors even more so and the adopters, so we could keep moving forward. During a chat with my boyfriend this evening, we discussed the similarities and differences between his work and mine; he being a filmmaker who takes videography work to make ends meet and me being a writer, who runs social media sites to make ends meet. He was asking about a recent project for a client in which a dog was burned in a fire - asked how she was recovering and where she was now. I explained that she was still in the care of my client and that her bill exceeded $30,000. He knew I'd done a fundraising campaign for this dog last month and commented, "wow, I had no idea, how much were you able to raise?" My reply "twenty-five"... "only twenty-five hundred?" "No, thousand." Then his stunned silent pause... "how is it that people give to animals and not children with cancer or kids with cleft pallets in Vietnam?" You see, I designed a campaign for his documentary that only needs $60,000 to be turned into a feature film. Funding is at a standstill.
I couldn't explain to him why people are inclined to give to helpless animals in lieu of helpless children, but was able to tell him my experience in fundraising and why I've been able to get people to part with their money, five dollars at a time, for the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars for years.
Doers. Donors. Minions. The three key elements to fundraising. I went on to explain that my marketing and networking strategy is what enabled me to saved nearly 600 dogs from death row all across the state of California for years on end. How my rescue efforts were funded and how I am able to continue to raise funds for animals in need. Yes, he was slightly disillusioned and dismayed, yet proud of my ability to help bring in $25,000 in the matter of one week for a dog. But you see, it's not me, it's the story.
What I'm getting at, is that we all need each other. We all have our roles. The Doers must do what their souls crave whether it be providing surgery to countries without medical care and children who would suffer, or individuals who give up nice homes in trade of fur everywhere to feel that feeling of saving "just one" to the tune of hundreds. The Doers cannot "do it" alone - I am a former Doer. The Doers must have donors because frankly, everything costs money. But how do you connect the Doers to the Donors? The Minions. The most important piece of the puzzle. Some might perceive minion as a term with some condescension attached to it, or that they are lesser. Quite the opposite - they are the most important piece.
What I then went on to explain was that (for his documentary) he had the Doer and I'm positive there are Donors. He has no minions.
In animal rescue there are minions everywhere. People who are unable physically, emotionally, psychologically to do the physical rescue. Those of us that MUST DO SOMETHING but cannot take on the daunting task of rescuing, rehabilitating and re-homing which really is a lifelong commitment - at least for the life span of that dog. The rescue does not end when the dog is no longer on death row. The rescue is a commitment to this dog's welfare for the rest of its days. That commitment comes with great cost.
ad·ver·sary noun : one that contends with, opposes, or resists : enemy
al·ly verb : to unite or form a connection or relation between : associate
Funny (not ha ha, but ironic) that this is a status I would post from precisely one year ago...
There are as many critics in rescue as there are when discussing politics or religion in an open forum. I have blocked more people in the past week on Facebook due to what I refer to as "desktop rescuers" than I had to when I was in the midst of the criminal case last summer. Critics who voiced their opinions, quickly, fiercely and loudly as they called in their minions to accuse "us" (me and my rescue partners) of scamming people for funds for (what we knew would be) an expensive and risky save. We planned to do it anyway until someone else stepped up to bat and we bowed out gracefully, letting the reputable, experienced rescuers take on the project of a bait dog that needed some serious recovery time, rehabilitation and care. But we didn't just walk away, we asked "who needs out the most? who deserves a second chance?" And that's the dog we saved, who is now safely in our care. There is never a shortage of dogs in need of having their lives saved, especially in the world of pit bull rescue. The story of our save, now known as Livvy (aka Olivia, is online, no need to rehash it here.
"Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway."~Eleanor Roosevelt
I drive my boyfriend nuts, I'm sure. I'm 90% sure it annoys him how (seemingly) easily I can raise funds when he's sitting on more than one film that simply needs the backing of funds to get it out there; important things, documentaries, moving story lines. I don't work in film though and this is where I step back to become the supportive girlfriend in lieu of his marketing executive.
What this week has brought me is the dreaded fate of being pulled back into rescue... I spent an hour reading the story of Cindy Marabito tonight and by the time I got half way through, tears were streaming down my face from the venomous attacks she is facing. Then I think back to last year and the tears that streamed down my face due to the responsibility I felt and ultimately weakened defeat in the case of Lennox. Yet there are hundreds, thousands of these cases, these stories. Dogs dying needlessly, venomous wars online between rescuers. Stories of sanctuaries turned hoarders, yet people are so desperate to save a dog's life that they lose their humanity... anything for the save. ANYthing so that they can post "SAVED" and move on to the next dog... but what happened to that dog after you moved on? What happens when you send a dog off to live out its life elsewhere and never follow up?
Out of sight, out of mind? Or do we, as rescuers, have an obligation to comprehend the definition of
com·mit·ment noun : dedication; application.
I realize I'm all over the map with this blog post tonight but it reflects the emotions and experiences of this week. I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting and partnering with some amazing human beings; kind, selfless, generous. I have also had the reminders of the opinionated, arrogant, it's-my-way-or-your-name-is-mud-desktop-do-gooders that blast, bash, "save" and run (on to the next dog).
In closing, thank you to the ones who see the big picture. Thank you to those of you who get it. Thank you for the tireless, aggravating efforts to get the real saves accomplished.
"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." ~Martin Luther King, Jr.