When you think about animal rescue, what do you think of? A shelter? Taking in lost, abandoned, or unwanted pets? Caring for sick and injured animals?
It is that, and so much more.
Rescue is climbing that tree to get the cat because no one else is willing to do it. Rescue is walking into a hoarders house and grabbing as many animals as possible before the owner changes their mind. Rescue is going into an abandoned home to search for animals that have been left behind.
Rescue is getting up in the middle of the night to go look for a cat that has been hit by a car, then crawling around in the bushes looking for the cat while your belly scrapes the pavement because you are nine months pregnant.
Rescue is scaling down a retaining cement wall, trying to balance on a tiny ledge so you can grab the dog that has fallen into the river, and is now on the same ledge as you, shaking from shock and hypothermia. Then trying to hoist that dog up to a fellow volunteer who’s waiting above you with blankets.
Rescue is finding yourself in a garage, in complete darkness, and reaching out for kittens you can hear meowing somewhere near you. Then holding onto them for dear life, while they scratch and bite you, because you know that if you let them go, you will never get them back, and their fate will be sealed.
Rescue is going into a home that has been condemned because of asbestos, and looking for stray animals that have moved in because it’s freezing outside and they have nowhere else to go. It is crawling under dirty old cars trying to find a mama cat and her baby.
Rescue is setting traps for feral cats 20 kilometers from your home, then having to drive back and forth three times a day to check the traps. It is doing an 800-kilometre round-trip in one day to pick up and deliver animals from a shelter in a tiny community that is inundated with animals, and no one to adopt them to.
Rescue is saying no to an animal because your shelter is full, and then losing sleep for the next six months worrying and wondering whatever happened to that one animal you had to turn away.
Rescue is not showing up at parties and family gatherings because you spend most of your day trying to catch a frightened dog on a busy street while cars speed by without even attempting to slow down.
Rescue is comforting an animal in your arms while it takes its last breath, and hoping that the love you gave them in the short time they were with you was enough to erase a life of pain and abuse.
Rescue is having to make the choice of when it’s time to let an animal go, looking them in the eye and begging them to give you some sort of sign that the decision you are about to make is the right one.
Rescue is unspeakable heartache and breath-taking happiness. It defines your life, and consumes you. There are days you want to walk away, but you can’t because there is always another life to save.
– By Magdalena Romanow, a volunteer at Katie’s Place, an animal shelter in Maple Ridge.