Sunday, 11 March 2012

A weighty week

It has been another great week for animal adoptions. We've had lots of reserves and home visits and 4 bunnies alone have gone to new homes this weekend - so the mood is most definitely buoyant.

But the week, for me, has felt longer than usual and probably because we have tried to help 4 animals that have been left to suffer for too long and whatever we tried to do was just too little too late. There are another 2 more new animal's futures that remain uncertain at this time and no doubt next week will reveal the next step, which I can't say I'm holding much hope for.

Failing to help a rescued animal recover and find a new home feels exactly like that - a failure - but a while ago I came to the realisation that it is not me/our branch that has failed that animal but the person to whom the animal once 'belonged' to. It is this shift in thinking that essentially allowed me to keep doing this job and supporting the staff and volunteers around me when we hit such turbulent times.

I will not take responsibility for what has happened to an animal prior to coming into our care. Belief in this declaration is all important to whether you sink or swim emotionally because euthanasia is never anything less than distressing, while at other times gut wrenchingly awful. But for me what is most important is the welfare of the animal and for this reason I perceive euthanasia as a welfare option because it means we can alleviate suffering. It is with this thought uppermost in mind that I have found a strong theme prevailing on the phone lines this week.

Amongst the calls we get to the office we get a lot of requests for 'advice'. This can take the shape of anything ranging from what type of pet to get, how to care for a pet, how to rehome a pet and veterinary care (although we let people know we aren't vets). All in all it often amounts to people seeking reassurance or simple guidance that their original hunch was right. But this week, more so than any other week, has seen an influx of calls, both personal and professional, that have required a good listener, compassion and support - in other words, counselling support.

I have been struck by the range and depth of distressing scenarios some people have had to contend with this week. One in particular still haunts me. But with it being an anonymous method of getting a second opinion I feel compelled not to share details of any of the calls. So, why am I sharing this with you? I suppose in the first instance I just wanted to highlight the diversity of roles we have to undertake in our work - in fact one caller even acknowledged and thanked me for the 'counselling' service I had offered him during our 25 minute-long call. (But I'm fortunate in that I spent may years in an advisory capacity in my previous career, so I feel confident in my skills and abilities.) But I guess what is so striking for me is how much I value the fact that people feel able to call up and ask for help.

I'm not talking about animal care advice or veterinary advice (to which people are always told we are not vets) but I'm talking about life changing decisions for both the individual and their animals. It is a privilege to be perceived as having an opinion worthy of seeking and it is an even greater privilege to have someone share their intimate troubles with you. It is a role I take with the greatest of responsibility, but one that can be so troubling at times. I really hope that the people I have spoken to this week have managed to make choices that are right for them and their situation and I want them to know how much I valued their faith in us.

So, as you can probably tell it has been a 'weighty' week and one that I suspect is set to spill over into next week. But what a privilege it is to be in this line of work - to be able to help both animals and humans alike. Whilst morale is so very often low because of the lack of recognition, or indeed 'bashing' the RSPCA gets, amongst us, as colleagues, we know we are making a difference and that's what spurns us on.

The above images represent highlights of the week:

Petina guinea pig and her baby rescued from a Garden Centre fire have been reserved and this marks the start of us being able to find these survivors new homes.

Jinny and Jerome bunnies that were rescued from poor conditions have really started to come out of themselves and are proving to be such delightful, cheeky pair - progress that makes my heart sing.

Tucker-Tuck-Tuck bunny is the last long-stay animal that we have in our care. He has been up for adoption since September 2011 but he has actually been with us since September 2010 when he became a 'case animal' and his owner was finally successfully prosecuted in August 2010. Tucker is one of our favourite bunnies and we really hope he will find his forever home very soon.