Compassion Fatigue

This phenomenon was borne a couple of years ago, with severe natural disasters occurring in rapid and horrifying succession. People needing help in the latter incidents  found themselves with little or no help, resources, donations. The people helping and giving were worn out and tapped out. It's understandable that people get overwhelmed and run out of resources. What's not understandable, is the new and vile form compassion fatigue has taken in 2018.

On September 15th the Oahu SPCA in Hawaii was robbed. Staff and volunteers came in to find total destruction. All of the lifesaving medicines for the animals had been stolen, along with phones, computers and everything else of value. Depriving animals of needed heart, pain, insulin and other medicines could mean the death of that animal, especially the medically fragile and elderly animals. Stealing from a shelter that has barely enough funds to cover the cost of food, veterinary care, and medicines for the animals is a whole new low in human behavior.

In July I tweeted about Katy P, a cat who was held down while her abusers shoved a firecracker inside her colon and ignited it. The explosion inside her colon caused horrific and extensive damage, pain, and bleeding. She barely survived, needed multiple surgeries, and has no tail due to the injuries. The monsters who did this have expressed zero remorse.

My beloved cat Raja only had one eye when I adopted her, because her "parents" liked to get drunk and throw her to see if she would land on her feet. The night they threw her off the 3rd floor she did not land on her feet and lost an eye. They stood on their balcony, laughing in their drunken stupor with their frat-brat friends. Their neighbor who saw it all grabbed Raja - and the eye which had fallen out onto the cememt - and rushed both to an ER. Sadly they could not save her eye, but thankfully Raja survived the head injury and broken bones and recovered. Also, thankfully, the ER refused to return Raja to her "parents" and she went to a no-kill shelter where I was delighted to find and adopt her.

I had to change jobs because my very loudly, very constantly self-proclaiming Christian boss harassed me about my time off for Milo's cancer treatments, quoting the Bible as to why animals are not important enough to warrant the time off. While loudly proclaiming what a good Christian she was, and how she had a perfect Christian marriage and children, she bullied, berated and threatened me even though I took the time off with no pay and ensured all my work was completed on time. For a religion that supposedly rests firmly on the basis of compassion, this is particularly troubling and not a good advertisement for the faith.

Every day units like NYPD Paws respond to animal cruelty acts, earlier this week it was a man savagely beating a puppy in the Bronx. Others animals have had their mouths duct taped shut, been locked in an abandoned building, or put in a trash can. Every day there is another headline about animals being tortured, abused, neglected, forced to breed laying in their own filth in a cage, and being locked in kennels and left to drown in a hurricane.

These things didn't happen a hundred years ago before humane education, before we became an "enlightened society". This new form of compassion fatigue is terrifying. Is there a singular cause or is it a virulent combination of many things?

  • The anger from people playing violent first shooter video games for days on end in dark, isolated rooms?

  • The seething resentment from spending every evening on Facebook trying to "keep up with the Jones’s"? Hint: the people you're worshiping on Facebook do not have the perfect lives they portray. Proof? The wife in Colorado found in an oil bin after her husband murdered her: their Facebook page portrayed a perfect marriage, a perfect family.

  • The raging jealousy from a "celebrity" obsessed culture, worshiping people who are famous for nothing, famous for vulgarity, famous for using their iPhone to video a rape, robbery, murder (instead of stopping it) and being the first to post it and go viral, or famous for violence in the name of politics, religion or the ultimate god - YouTube views.

  • Or is it because society insists on turning narcissistic, extreme bro-culture sociopaths into heroes just because they run tech companies?

It's essential that the small number of us trying to help animals in a society that now seems to have all the compassion of a serial killer, continue our work. 

  • Start a support group like I recently did in my local area, where like-minded people focused on animal sheltering, fostering and adopting could gather, share information, and support each other emotionally.

  • Give true hero credit where it's due - when you see someone helping animals give them a shout out.

  • Continue to speak not just on social media, but with your friends, family, co-workers, educational, secular and religious community organizations. I know that can be very hard because these days attempts to converse with people of different opinions can be futile. It seems like the majority of people would rather scream and shout four and five letter words instead. Don't let that lack of compassion turned into bullying stop you.

  • Adopt if you can, foster if you can, rescue if you can, volunteer at a shelter, rescue, or with a TNR group, or a feral colony group if you can; offer to speak at your local schools about humane treatment of homeless animals and responsible pet care; spay neuter always.

  • Put out food and water and a cardboard box for strays; putting up a found notice in NextDoor and CL is free, notify local rescues who can help get that homeless cat or dog to a safe place.

  • Exercise compassion even when you're busy, tired, or irritated; even when no one can see what you're doing; even when no one says thank you.

"The only reward for a good life is a good life. It's your job to work hard, give back, right whatever wrongs you can, and make it count." - Unknown. I'll just add that in this case you WILL have a reward - the look on that animal’s face when you show them compassion. For now, until society changes it's priorities, that will have to be enough.

Lauren Greenwood, Founder of and Self Diagnosed Crazy Pet Lady

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