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What it's really like to run a rabbit and rodent rescue

It may be a dream to many, to open up their hearts and homes to unwanted, neglected and abandoned animals. Offering them shelter, love, and protection until the perfect new home is found, before starting the process with the next animal needing help. It's obviously a very worthwhile and important job and it really does make a huge difference to the lives of animals urgently in need of help. But what is it really like? What does it really entail to bring about these happy endings?

It's hard!

There is a big difference between working or volunteering for a rescue and actually running one. Staff and volunteers get to go home at the end of the day, but for those running a rescue it's a 24/7 job which we never escape from. The last thought before we fall asleep will be related to the rescue, as will be the first thought when we wake up. There are always problems, worries and challenges which need to be dealt with. It's a never ending cycle of 'how the hell will we pull this off?' and a constant battle to keep the centre open.

No one opens a rescue with their heads, it's always a decision made by the heart. You see the suffering and all you want to do is make a difference. You know it's possible as others are doing it, but what you don't see is the suffering it brings to those responsible for the rescue. It's a very lonely and isolating job.

The Frustration

I cannot put into words the level of frustration that I feel on a daily basis. It becomes completely consuming to the point where I regularly want to scream. It comes from all aspects of running the rescue. People wanting to hand in animals who don't want to, or can't seem to, understand that space, time and funding isn't infinite. That we can't just say yes to every animal, even if we want to. It comes from people wanting to adopt, but refuse to meet our minimum requirements and then blame us for forcing them to buy an animal from a pet shop or breeder. It comes from people asking questions which have already been answered or simply because they don't want to or are unable to read the information on our website. It comes from the failed appeals to fund the rescue and constant fear that we'll have to close and leave the animals stranded. It comes from dealing with volunteer shortages and volunteers not being able to come in, even if it's for a very genuine reason and figuring out how you'll find an extra 4 hours in a day which is already seriously over booked. It comes from the complete disregard for the welfare of animals who arrive in urgent need of veterinary care and how suddenly, this little life is totally your responsibility and somehow you will have to find the funding to make things right. It comes from the people who 'rescue' animals from one bad situation to only put them directly into another bad situation and we have no option but to do something. It comes from the long list of jobs that you couldn't complete today because you simply ran out of time and that will only complicate tomorrow. It comes from the knowledge that nothing will ever get any better and this is your life on a permanent basis.

The Depression

Once you've accepted that life won't get any better, you get depressed. So depressed that getting out of bed and facing a new day is such a huge effort and battle that you walk through the day crying on the inside. What is the point? You feel like the only person who genuinely cares about these animals and you feel so alone. That's when you reach for the medication, just so you can get through the day and ensure that the animals receive the care and attention they need. You are no longer a person, an individual, your an automaton, going through the motions just so you can sleep at the end of the day. Because, you're so incredibly tired, not just physically or emotionally but a deep exhaustion that affects your soul. Anything that brought you a little contentment is lost and there is no joy to be found in anything and you just want to sleep. But you can't sleep because you're too worried about a million other things. You give up on anything which would be of benefit to yourself, you don't want to interact with family or friends, because they will inevitably ask you for something and you have nothing left to give. You want a day off, just one day, go out for a coffee or even just a walk by a river or through some woods. But you can't, because you don't have the time and you never will and you are just so tired. So, you just get through the day, you clean, you feed, you reply to emails, you book vet appointments, and allocate funding, you worry about funding, you process adoption applications and waiting list forms and you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, because you died on the inside a long time ago.

The U-Turn

After a while the medication will kick in, you start to feel a little better. You start to enjoy something again and then one day your passion and determination will slowly creep back. You'll wake up with a great idea, or a magical solution to a problem. You'll give it your all and you'll make it work and for a while it does, but then the frustration will begin to build again. You'll solve one thing only to have 3 other problems take its place, usually within the space of a day. You convince yourself that it'll get better when you've dealt with this or when you finish that. But you never finish as a new problem just raises its ugly head and the frustration builds and the cycle starts once again. Before you know it you're back on the medication just to get through a day and feeling utterly helpless while you're swept up in a storm of problems after problems.

The Reality

That's when you really understand what you've signed up for. This never ending cycle of long periods of downs and short bursts of ups. But you accept that, you accept it because without you the animals have nowhere to go. You consider what would have happened if you hadn't said yes to an animal that really needed you, to the life that was saved simply because you are the driving force behind the rescue and without you it wouldn't exist. Your happiness isn't as important as all the lives you've changed, the ones you've saved. It pales in comparison to the positive changes you bring about because you are willing to suffer in this cycle so that they can live. That feeling dead on the inside brings life and happiness to the animals you help and that is a sacrifice worth making. That's why we do it, why we find the will to get up each and every day, why we struggle on regardless and how we continue to find the strength to get through one more day. Because the animals need us, they need us to give everything and then still find a little more to give. We are their hope and their futures and it's all worth it.

So please be kind to us rescue owners, you never know where we will be in that cycle, we don't talk about it, we just get on with things with a fake smile. If we haven't replied to your email, we aren't ignoring you, we just haven't got there yet. Yours won't be the only email waiting for a reply. Please read our websites and guidelines, it's not that we don't want to answer your questions, it's because we've had many many people ask the same questions and it takes time to reply with the same answers over and over and we simply don't have the time available. So we've put that information on the website for you to access instantly. Don't be offended when we won't bend our opening hours, we need to have time to do other really boring things like laundry or mowing the lawn. We aren't out living it up, we are just trying to cook dinner or clean the fridge. We can't always keep our phones on or be sat next to them. If a volunteer doesn't come in, we have to do their job and we can't be in two places at once. And please please please don't shout at us, or blame us, we are doing everything we can, giving everything we have, and more, to do everything we can to help and make a difference. But we are only human.

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1 Comment

That was a tear jerker. I am extremely grateful that there are people like yourselves out there doing this magnificent work for these neglected and misunderstood creatures. I wish l lived closer so l could volunteer. The rwaf are a great informative charity that do care booklets for rabbits. I wonder whether you could purchase some of these for the people that need info on these animals before adoption or after, it's a handy booklet to have. You could charge a pound or two or lend them out. I would be willing to pay for the first 30 booklets if this is something that interests you.

I'm the sponsor for ginger at your sanctuary.

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