Wednesday, October 7, 2015

One Door Closes

Today was the end of a very important chapter in my life.  I have been involved with rescue groups since I was 22 years old.  18 years later, I'm closing that door.  I worked 8 years with big national rescue groups, and 10 years with the rescue that I started.  Protege Canine Rescue.  I have never been paid, never had a salary, never wanted one.  I wanted rescue to be about the dogs, not endless fundraising.  I was able to do that thanks to the incredible dedication of volunteers who were similarly committed to that mission...DOGS!  Of course I'm not really done, we promised to be a safety net for our dogs for the rest of their lives.  So maybe in another 13 years I can consider Protege really done.

This was not a rash decision, it was over a year in the making.  I've had some big guilt trips, some self-induced and some from well meaning people.  Trust me, you can't top my own guilt trips. So, I am sorry, sorry to disappoint, sorry I just can't keep it going. I can't just take a break and deal with my burn out.   

So why have I heartlessly closed down Protege?  Well, I've always firmly believed that if you weren't fully committed to something you would do a crappy job.  As the president of Protege, many things were ultimately my responsibility, and I was starting not to care about doing a good job.  I didn't want the quality of our work to suffer because of my attitude.  You see, there are many behind the scenes things happening, and since the buck stops's pretty vital that I be 100% committed.  Running Protege was essentially a unpaid, part time job.  It got to the point where Protege was becoming really intrusive in my family life, which I greatly resented.  The most intrusive things were dealing with a never ending revolving door of problems to solve.  I was essentially always on call.  If you traveled with me, it became a running joke that if I was doing something for myself, sure enough, something major would happen.  I was never, ever not on duty.  I'd call it compassion fatigue, but it's more than that, I still have lots of compassion, but I have little patience or tolerance for the continual problem solving required. The joys of rescue, the happy stories, they amazing transformations, they just weren't enough to get me through the grinding obligations.  Maybe I will feel differently after some time has passed, but if so, there are plenty of shelters, groups etc I can work with, without such heavy responsibility.  And yes, I've tried very hard to farm out that responsibility over the years, but ultimately, I have to make sure things get done, make tough decisions, figure out other options etc.  I debated handing over the reins, but I wanted someone as committed as I had been, and in the end I felt that I couldn't ever rest if Protege existed.  

My regrets:

I regret that in 18 years, I got exactly the same behavioral calls over & over & over.  There will be a blog post about this, it really deserves it's own attention and I want something to refer future callers/rescuers.  

I regret that I haven't developed a better Crazy Radar.  Crazy people seem highly attracted to animal rescue work.  Oh the stories I could tell you...

I regret any dog we have placed that developed serious health or behavioral issues.  We try so hard, and while health is always a crap shoot, I wish we could better determine which dogs would be truly problematic.  All I can say is we TRIED & if we had known, we would not have placed the dog. 

I regret that some people never got the idea of rescue, of carefully placing a dog.  They just saw a commodity to purchase and they wanted it now, now, now!   

I regret that I didn't tell off more people.  Calm, cool and steady is the reasonable way to react, but ohhhhh, it would have been nice to smack some people upside the head!

My delights:

I delight in every update we get from adopters.  I know how much my own adopted dogs mean to me and I'm glad that we were able to provide you with family member.  Many times over the years, those updates kept me going.  

I delight in all the amazing volunteers, rescuers, shelter workers and veterinary staff we have worked with. There are so many smart, reasonable animal lovers out there, it gives me hope.

I delight in the fact that Steve Branin has supported me every step of the way.  He is the best husband and a true animal lover.  He has been a great sounding board and coped with many, many rescue related interruptions in our lives!

I delight in Jo Pearson, who I met through the adoption of one of my earliest rescue dogs, who led me into flyball (my obsession).  She has been a steadfast rescue supporter who devoted as much time as I did to keeping Protege's T's crossed, I's dotted, websites running etc etc!  She did more for Protege than any other volunteer, and did it really, really well!  Jo's efforts kept this rescue working from a regulatory & a functional sense!  

I delight in knowing that something will come from this.  Doors shut, windows open, maybe you just tunnel a hole thru the wall.  It might be good or bad or who knows.  I'm okay with that and when I made the decision, I knew it was right, and the time was right, and I knew a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders.    

I delight in this dog, Zoe.  My first, terrible dog of my own.  Because of her, I developed an interest in dog training, in rescue work, and is why all of this happened.  She was the smartest, most loyal, most devoted dog I've ever met.  She wasn't an aussie, she wasn't a rescue, but she was the catalyst in my life that turned just a dog owner into a dog rescue person.  I hope that everyone has something in their life, like Zoe, that makes them more than they ever knew was possible.