Compassion Fatigue: I’m only human after all. . .



I have decided two things today: turn off the weather reports when they mention ‘beast’ and ‘east’, and stop reading comments on Facebook that serve no purpose, are often not true, and definitely not kind – when kindness is really called for.

I think a lot of rescuers out there are suffering from Compassion Fatigue: very common amongst rescuers and caregivers. Rescuers are under a constant strain that comes from the often disheartening work itself, and another layer of stress comes courtesy of critics: key board warriors & armchair generals! Yes, sometimes we are all guilty of taking on these roles, and often for genuine reasons like geographical distance or not having the resources to help! So, we are experts from a distance! However, there is another type of KW who is a ‘fire starter’ – this KW likes drama and lots of it! The animals are way down the list of need fulfilment; they shouldn’t be! Animals should at all times be at the centre; if they are, we are minding each other by sharing a common goal. If we don’t, the ability to rescue is minimised by our stress and frustration: self & other inflicted. We need to be mindful of how our words impact and imprint on others. Rescuers are resilient and fragile at the same time. We need to feed their resilience not test their fragility.
Today I tried to be understanding and repeated ‘we’re all human, we make mistakes and say the wrong thing’ to stop myself reacting and defending. But reading some comments today on one welfare page left me actually shocked and saddened. It was akin to being in a school playground….one without animals! Like children, adults were not minding their behaviour. Intentionally cruel at times and some comments lacked empathy – the two very things we try to eradicate and build on in the case of the latter when it comes to rescue work.
So that got me thinking of transference and projection! Something we all should be more aware of! Rescuers increasingly transfer their frustrations and anger meant for another group of people (irresponsible/cruel owners & those in authority) onto each other – and often scream from keys ‘WHY ARE YOU NOT DOING SOMETHING?’ – when the very people who should be doing something are off the hook! My friend made this point today on one post! It was a valid one! To quote one of my favourite songs ‘I’m only human afterall – don’t put the blame on me!’ Rescuers can not absorb the blame others should be holding out their hands for. They are the ‘somebody, do something’ people who are there 24/7 when the department’s and ISPCA’s phone-lines ring out.
When it comes to rescuing animals – the work is never done! Moments of ‘job well done’ celebrations are short-lived in the rescue world as your rescue mind says ‘who’s next?’ Because we are living in a world now where humans not only neglect animals but are using them for their own negative need fulfilment, where they project all that they hate about themselves onto innocent animals; all they hate about the world is transferred onto the voiceless victims. The consequences are often sadistic and brutal. It is behaviour where empathy has no ground to grow on. These are the people that rescuers face in a constant and difficult tug-of-war.
Most days I witness many moments where animals display huge empathy and care. Last Summer, a wild goat was knocked down in Ennis town. I watched the other goats including kids surround her until she passed. They cried and walked around her in circles. And when she was no more, they moved on. The now dead goat was in a field with a mare in foal who was soon due. I couldn’t get anybody to help with the goat! Nobody would come to take her away. I asked the owners of the mare to help me bury her. Their reply was ‘we wouldn’t eat for a week if we went near her’. So, I decided to bury her! That idea itself was soon buried when I just couldn’t dig deep enough. So one hour later, I lifted gravel and a lot of composs down to her. And I buried her over the ground. It was a poignant moment as the herd watched my efforts from a distance, and the mare in foal, stayed by my side. At times she leaned her head on my shoulder. The compassion shown by the goats for their lost one, was deeply moving. The mare who stayed by my side as I cried my way through the job, along with cursing all the people who never helped is equally touching.
Yesterday I fed one of my regular little boys. It struck me how his owner doesn’t even have a bucket in the field to even catch the rain that falls. If you want to know if an animal is cared for – look for buckets or troughs. They are a real tell-tale sign! This is the owner who gives haylage everyday!! Oisin is desperately lonely but his owner who never named him wants to keep him. She never gives him haylage. She just says she does!
Yes, the bottom line is, ‘rescue is hard enough’ without people nailing rescuers to the cross when they don’t get it right or their idea of ‘right’ is your ‘wrong’.
I do think a lot of people in rescue have suffered at some stage in their life – like most. In their case, their suffering gave birth to a constant hunger to prevent others suffering! I remember a long time ago asking a fourteen year old girl, why she risked her life to save an animal? She replied, ‘because nobody saved me!’

This week I’m grateful for Rhodiola (thanks to a thoughtful friend for pointing me in its direction!). I would highly recommend it.
This week I’m thinking of Joe from Charlie’s Equine Rescue and I want to acknowledge his life-time commitment to rescuing horses. He thought me every thing I know about rescuing horses and I’ve heard the same words many times from him every time I cried or gave out whilst on the road with rescued horses, he’d smile and say, ‘this is rescue!’ Indeed it is.


3 thoughts on “Compassion Fatigue: I’m only human after all. . .

  1. Reading, what I’m sure was the same, comments on a post on a page, I too was angry, frustrated, and so sad. How quick people are to assume, to blame with no knowledge and to judge. There are people of all backgrounds who neglect animals and there are people of all backgrounds who care for and rescue them. I was glad to see some defensive posts, but why should the innocent have to defend themselves.
    The post appealed to the owners, if you are not the owners and don’t KNOW who the owner is, do not assume, nobody has the right to assume, and what good do your assumptions do? Do they encourage the owners to feed their horses, or does it hurt and offend good people, and make you look like a fool.
    I have horses here, rescues, in a terrible state when they came in. Their last owner is a very well off person. And they are not ill bred horses exchanged for a few quid on donedeal.
    That page was to bring people who care together to help Irelands horses, not to people bash.
    If you don’t know, don’t say.
    Sorry about the goat, I hope you are OK x
    I love the compassion animals have for humans, I wish it would rub off on some people.
    Much love ❤️


  2. Hope the corner has arrived up there?? It was like a boxing match at times with no bell ringing to say ’round over’! Definitely the assumptions and mind reading is frustrating and probably hurtful to the people running these pages and doing all sorts of difficult things behind the scenes:.. thanks for reading again xxxx hugs and love to you all up there


    1. I stopped reading. Cowardly maybe, but I feel the hurt caused and can’t rescue people, horses are hard enough.
      I feel for the admins of the page too.
      And Joe!! My heart hurts that someone would cause him grief. For what, for helping everyone and every creature he could.
      I hope the corner is passed. All bad luck blown away by this infernal wind.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s