Fill My Shoes?

Sometimes motivation comes from remembering: look what you have done so far! And so, I sat outside and looked at my four miniature rescue ponies. Their big brown eyes were focused on my pockets – where their treats came from! All smallies who have survived environments and circumstances our nightmares would never be made of. They have a shared background and a shared rescue beginning. It was a dream come true for me: to get them all to safety. And so I cried. Happy for them. One tear chased the other down my cheeks. I wondered had they forgotten their past horrid life. I cried wondering what would happen all the animals in need I had yet to meet. Would I?
After surgery, and the removal of my ‘tennis-ball’ tumor, I was told, ‘no more stress’. Ignoring what I see as generic medical advice, I recently visited a spiritual healer who greeted me with the line ‘give it up or you’re done!’ She didn’t know me but she seemed to know everything my life was made up of. She had no tolerance for my disputes that started with ‘But…’. ‘But, I can’t, But, nobody else will, But, how do I stop?’Ironically, a loose pony appeared outside her front door as I walked in. I looked at her with pleading eyes but the visual warning put me firmly on her couch.
Yesterday the same pre-surgery pain was back, except now on my sole ovary. And her words ricocheted around my mind. Yes, I had reduced my rescuing and the amount of hungry horses I am feeding. But I was still buying haylage, filling bottles of water, and loving visiting a smaller number of ‘not my horses’. Alive for another day, but alive for owners who can’t even fill a bucket of water for ‘their horses’. You see, I don’t know who will do it after me where I live. I know lots of amazing rescuers; I just don’t know anyone following in their footsteps. Filling our shoes is probably not what a lot of dreams are made of.
Yes, I’m doing less; I’ve lost my nerve. I’m not really afraid of the warnings I got from different owners. Yes, it crosses my mind but hooves cross it more. But I’ve still lost my nerve. I use to walk into places that I once would drive by quickly with hay bags on my back and carrying bottles of water in my hand. I had numbers in my phone and when they flashed on my screen, I had to take deep breaths before answering. I don’t go in anymore and I don’t pick up anymore. I still feed, only from the roadside. I still face the same questions from curious passerbys, ‘are they yours?’ When I reply ‘no’, the next questions quickly follows, ‘who pays for it?’ and finally ‘why do you feed them?’ I want to say ‘why not?’ Lately I let them vent, and I save my replies from minds that would never comprehend the honest answer to ‘why?’
So, how would you sell the unpaid job of a rescuer? It gets you out of your own head which in a world where people fall hard on hurtful and damaging irrational thoughts, that is always a good thing. When you’re holding a hungry or injured animal in your arms, probably the only arms that have ever offered them comfort, there is no head space for ‘I or me’. They hold you in the present;their presence imprints on your mind-space and ironically makes it a better place. But I’m not sure if ‘making a difference’ or ‘unconditional’ love sells it. It’s not the kind of position one gets paid for retweets or shares. The love is far removed from the Love Island variety. But with the stress of rescuing comes an indescribable sense of purpose and meaning. Seeing new beginnings unfold before you is life enriching. A life enriched by the fact ‘I made a difference!’ Is that what we want to think of when we take that forever last breath?
I recently watched a clip shared by the BBC about a 96 year old lady who radiated kindness and calmness. Everday she walks her neighbors’ dogs – neighbors unable to walk their much loved pets due to illness. As if that wasn’t giving enough, she then heads to a local rescue that she considers home and the dogs there her family. And she walks them. Everyday this purpose makes her happy; it helps her live purposefully.
I hope I get to my nineties – for all the animals I’m meant to cross my path with and if I don’t make it to that good age, I hope – really hope, there will be many to fill my shoes and the shoes of every rescuer who have made a difference – real life differences to animals starving, injured, or being abused. You see they will always be waiting for someone to come. They never give up on us; we shouldn’t give up on them.
And back to my shoes – maybe one day shoes like mine will be the ones everyone aspires to walk in – not all the time! No, just some of the time. I’m learning to put on my other shoes again. Afterall wearing the same pair all the time means they’ll quickly get worn out! Sometimes a change is indeed as good as a rest. But, my feet will always be more at home in my wellies!


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