Lashing Out At Others Doesn’t Lessen Your Own Pain

I have heard many people say they love their animals more than they do most people.

What? Star Trek is on?
I love Rumpy dearly. I don’t love him instead of people, though.

I feel that is a problem, because I don’t think we’re going to find solutions to our animal welfare problems until we begin to care more about people.

A recent blog post circulating the animal loving blogosphere was an open letter to a person who “dumped” a 12-year-old dog at an animal shelter. Perhaps you read it. The writer was blaming the dog’s former owner, Jean, for not trying hard enough, for not being a good dog owner like the writer is. See? Why can’t you be like me?

What I saw was a frustrated animal welfare worker who is doing what most of us do when we’re in pain- we lash out. But in that moment of frustration, the writer also made judgments about a person s/he doesn’t know anything about.

People see an angry-looking cat.
People see an angry-looking cat.

And because  we lack clear focus and strong leadership in our movement, we have no one to tell us how to handle the pain, and how to channel it into good.

So today, let me tell you that if you work in animal welfare and you hurt, that’s a good thing. It means you are alive and that you have a conscience.

How do you deal with it? First thing you have to do is own it. Your pain is not caused by the Jeans of the world. Your pain is your own. In my case, when I look at my pain I see a little girl who felt powerless and that as an adult is now trying to save the world because back then she couldn’t save herself.

Only when you own your pain can you look upon others with compassion instead of disdain. Maybe Jean did have other options, but she wasn’t aware of them. We don’t really know.

Let us change the way we look at folks like Jean. She could not keep her dog because of her situation. But she didn’t give him up to the first person who answered a “free to a good home” ad on Craigslist. She didn’t drive down a deserted road in the middle of the night and dump him. She didn’t just move and leave him behind. I don’t know about where you live, but I’ve tried placing animals with local no-kill shelters. Those volunteers were also frustrated, and they looked down on me the way our writer did Jean without even knowing the animal’s story.

So from what I see, Jean acted responsibly toward her beloved dog of 12 years.

DeDe had been living at the local trash dump for a couple of months when I brought her home.

Instead of lashing out at Jean for doing what may have been the best she could, how about we focus our anger on a society that does not honor our relationships with pets, and that forces people to make such difficult decisions in order to take care of themselves.

In that state of mind we can find ways to help both animals and people.

56 thoughts on “Lashing Out At Others Doesn’t Lessen Your Own Pain

  1. Friends of mine live in the south of France. Their employers have dumped 6 dogs on them. That means the employers did neither want to feed nor care for the dogs in any way. Some of the dogs were born on the property and have no registration papers of any kind. One of the dogs is blind and deaf and has skin problems. Last month the employers decided to get rid of my friends. My friends have to leave but don’t want to leave the dogs behind. They can’t find any house to rent, because of the six dogs. The employers told them to kill the blind and deaf dog. While I can see why that is okay, if the dog is suffering, I can also understand, why my friend doesn’t want to do it. The dog has been the pet of the employers once. Before they found out it is deaf. This comment is not entirely on topic. The employers do neither care for their dogs, nor about any humans they know. But the person who is in focus of everybody now, is my friend who wants to rescue those 6 dogs. She did not buy the dogs, she did not ask for the dogs. Same situation than I am in, just with more dogs. And I think I would let the vet euthanise the blind and deaf dog. She says he likes to eat. But his medication for the skin treatment costs 150€. Per week? Per month? Both would be too much for me financially and there’s no chance anybody would adopt a dog like that.

    1. That is incredibly sad. It sounds as though your friends have found themselves in a no-win situation. I hope they come through without moving a great deal of guilt with them.

      1. Later today the boss took the ill dog, brought it to the vet and the vet euthanised it. Then he went back to the property and yelled at my friend and told her it’s all her fault, because she has “made the dog dirty.” That man is so crazy. He said she should move out immediately (with the 5 remaining dogs). But luckily there are laws in France, that forbid to drive people out on the streets.

  2. So a helpless child also I empathise with being in a helpless position,whether it be animal or human.Yes I get angry and I feel pain but in the end that is my problem and mine to have to deal with,work out why I feel that way and try my hardest to stop lashing out..too much anger helps no man or animal..and yes it is hard ..I see and hear things and I feel the pain of the helpless..trying not to lash out on behalf of the helpless ones is a matter of trying to calm that little girl who now has a voice and focus that to helping not harming.

  3. You are very wise. When I had to adopt out my cat Quackey, it broke my heart. When I left him with the volunteers, I walked back to my car weeping openly. It was so hard to say goodbye to that sweet cat. Luckily they were able to find a home for him within a week, but there were no promises. I’m afraid that I am one of those people who feels more love for animals than people. Maybe I should take a look in the mirror and figure out why that is?

  4. A very good point. I often say I prefer the company of animals to humans but I try to never judge.

    One example. I am part of an online guinea pig community which is totally against breeding, a policy I agree with. However someone signed up and posted that their friend had tried to breed their guinea pigs and both had ended up with injuries. Instead of offering advice I was ashamed to see most members saying how evil she and her friend were. I posted that although what they were discussing was against the rules they needed to do certain things to clean up the piggies and get them to a vet. They later posted that they were both 14 and their parents had said it was ok to breed their guinea pigs if they wanted too. They didn’t know any better and they learnt their lesson but they won’t be coming back to an online community for advice after that reaction. Two young, frightened girls who needed help. What they did was wrong and what their parents did was wrong but they needed help and they did the right thing booking vet appointments and asking people for advice in the meantime.

    It frustrates me that people jump to conclusions and make assumptions based on very little. Another case is where my new little man Noah came from. A lady had been sold three male guinea pigs (something that hardly ever works out) and they had fought. She was rude and a terrible lady but I worked with her to bond two of the piggies and took the one she claimed was ‘ugly’. My little Noah. I tried not to judge her even though her attitude really annoyed me and helped out for the sake of the animals. When it comes to animal welfare people should be able to put aside their feeling or at least keep them private for the sake of the animals.

    All animal lovers should think the same, breeders, shelter owners, volunteer fosters or zoo keepers. Animals should come first and if an animal is in need you should help them if you can.

    ~ Amy

  5. I’ll start by saying I haven’t read that post going around and on purpose too, I don’t really want to get involved in that debate, get upset, etc. What I can say from working in a shelter is that I learned some lessons I didn’t think I needed to learn mainly, don’t judge the people who bring the animals in to relinquish, it’s already painful enough for them.

    1. I agree, Emily. One thing I am happy about is that HSUS is now working on an initiative to help educate lower income people on how they can help their animals. Many poor people love their companion animals but may not know about low-cost vet services that are available, and even if they do, don’t have transportation to access those services.

      1. I fear that as we allow economic forces to influence how we care for our pets, we will become more intolerant of people who cannot afford to care for pets the way we can.

  6. We judge others because it takes the blame off of ourselves. We have all made mistakes when it comes to caring for our pets. It is easier to judge someone who is in the same position we once were than help them.

    1. It is easier. But we do no one any favors when we get stuck in that rut. I am guilty of it. I caused myself a great deal of pain while I was there. And I don’t think I was very helpful for the cause.

  7. So well said!!!! Things happen. The dog was left at a safe haven. It could have been so much worse. Once we lived in a neighborhood that was hit hard by unemployment and layoffs. So many just packed and jumped in the cars – animals were left in yards, garages, the streets thinking the neighbors would take care of them…and we did – at least got them in a safe warm place with food and water. It’s hard sometimes to be unable to care for your kids much less pets.
    Please, no judgements. Just give them a chance. It’s OK.
    (and it’s hard seeing pets at risk – easy to understand that anger and frustration, too – but what if it were you at the other end?)
    Nice post

    1. It is hard. And that’s why I want those people doing the good work to know that what they feel is normal, but how they express that anger and frustration isn’t helpful.

      I also want to say to those who pass these sorts of posts on but don’t have any experience actually working in the arena to please think about what message you’re giving others.

  8. Love this!

    I really do understand the frustration of the original author in his/her note to Joan and I’m all for a venting and letting off steam. But I really think the frustration isn’t from Joan, but about the greater circumstance and larger problem. Of course, it’s directed at Joan because that’s an easy target. And I’m sure anyone involved in animal welfare even a little has a lot of empathy for these feels.

    BUT, you’re absolutely right – you catch more flies with honey, as they say. This is NOT the best message for those who need to read it the most (i.e., not those also involved in rescue, and not likely even other dog bloggers, but the general public – Average Joe Dog Owner). If someone does – or is truly trying to – make the best decision for their dog, it’s discouraging to be met with a message of anger and shame. Education should be a better answer than ridicule.

    Those in animal welfare often acuse others of not caring enough, but I wonder if sometimes they might be guilty of caring too much? Or maybe that’s not a thing, but more like clouding logic and reason with emotion. And being reactionary rather than preventative.

  9. Good points! I have people apply to work for my pet sitting business regularly who tell me they love animals but not people so much. That doesn’t work in my business anymore than it does in rescues and shelters. Gotta love ’em all.

  10. I agree with you, Rumpy…we shouldn’t look at only what’s been happning now and try to solve it…we have to see what causes the problems basically…..

  11. This is beautifully said. Being totally passive is probably not a good solution to anything, but if we direct all of our action and words toward doing, supporting and encouraging the positive and being as good ourselves as we’re able, it’ll have far more power to transform and renew and improve the world than lashing out at others ever could.

  12. A very meaningful sentiment. It’s so easy to cast the actions of others as below what we would do. And that way feel better about our own perceived shortcomings. But as you have mentioned the costs of caring for pets is not trivial. We have two old dogs, one with epilepsy. We are always trying to find the best treatments and care for them, but the costs effect what we can do.

  13. Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrs and paws up to you Rumpydog (& humans)!

    Jean could have done as someone did to me and my 5 brothers and sisters before my human found me. Someone dumped us in a park and left us there. We were hungry and cold, and scared…only a few weeks old- and luckily for us,a kind lady who lived across the street from the park, went to the park with her K baby humans and heard us crying and took us home. Then she told her friends about us and her friend told my human who’s kitty had just died. My humans came to see us all and choose ME out of all of my family (she could only take one of us)..but the nice lady who found us kept my brothers and sisters so we all got a wonderful home where we are cherished!

    Jean did the right thing by bringing her doggie where he at leastwould feed and cared for as home found for him.

    paws up to you fur pointing this out!!


  14. Well said. Life doesn’t always go to plan but Jean’s dog had a better chance because Jean acted responsibly in the circumstances she faced and with the resources she had. I feel for the shelter worker as well. No-one win-win in this scenario unfortunately.

  15. I think if a person takes their pet to a shelter that is the act of some who is responsible and should not be judged because things happen where they can’t keep their pet,the one who should be judged are the owners who just leave them in the middle of no where or by the road side tied to a gate for that is just cruel and the pet could die.there is a big difference between leaving a pet at a shelter and just dumping the animal anywhere to fend for its self.Great post!xx Rachel

  16. I often cannot understand how one can have a companion animal for 12 + years then abandon them to a kill shelter???yet???they did not dump them out in the rural areas or at a garbage dump???even if that animal is PTS, that death is not painful…not like being killed by a wild animal, starvation…none the less…it is hard to understand for me personally

  17. Excellent, Jennifer. You’re right. We don’t know what causes any one to give up a pet. It could be an economic decision, health decision, relocation, etc.

    I’ve had at least two times where owning a pet presented a challenge: The first was when we moved to Florida/ We searched for apartments that would accept our two cats. One that expected us to declaw the cats first. (No, to that one.) We did find an apartment that was welcoming to all of us: my hubby, me, and our 2 cats. The second situation was Hurricane Floyd. Then-Governor Jeb Bush called for an evacuation for those in its path. For those seeking shelter, there were few – if any – places that accepted pets. My hubby and I stayed because of our jobs. We were close enough to feed and check in on the cats when we were working. But I didn’t envy those who didn’t have an option that included their beloved furry family member.

  18. Insightful & thoughtful blog!!! You are right. We always jump to the inevitable conclusion that the owner is at fault somehow. I had this happen between a friend & I last year. ‘Tom’ (not his real name) rescued Lucy cat from Death Row when she was 8 years old & he kept her for 6 years. Tom had some serious mental issues & he decided he needed to leave the state. He sold all of his furniture & he thought about what to do about Lucy. He was too scared to put her for adoption on Craigslist so he took her to the Shelter where he had found her unaware they had a 7 day policy about adoption. He thought he was doing the ‘right’ thing. I called down to the shelter in Nebraska 2 weeks later & the man working there told me Lucy was PTS after the 7 days as no one wanted an older cat. At first I WAS angry with Tom…& then I realized he did the best he could for Lucy. He did not just give her away or leave her behind out in the cold. He did what he thought would be best for her. Once I saw that I told Tom via email (he had gone to Texas) that he did the best he could for her. He asked did she get adopted & I could not lie…I told him about the policy & Lucy had been PTS & he was upset however he said at least she would not be starving or cold or sick or in the hands of someone cruel…so we must first learn the stories of the ‘Jean’s’ & ‘Tom’s’ of the world before we judge…

  19. animals really do have the sixth sense, Rumpy. This shows perception that’s Buddha-like, and resolution that’s doable. It’s important to walk in another’s shoes, and no one on earth is fit to judge their fellow human. It’s hard not to, but as one of ’em, it’s invariably subjectively skewed by one’s own experience, psyche, intelligence and environment.

    It really struck a chord.

  20. Got an update on the situation of the people with the 5 dogs. On Monday they found a house for rent. They get out of the mess. I really envy them now.

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