Animal Protection >
Four phases in the career evolution of an animal rights
by Douglas Fakkema
Those of us who work on behalf of and who dedicate our
lives to animals go through four phases in our career
evolution. As we are unique, so are our individual stories,
but we all go through a similar process, and if we survive
that process go on to understand that we have achieved what
we wanted in the first place.
Red hot and raring to
go, we are out to change the world. We are high on life. We
know we can make a difference, that our efforts on behalf of
animals will ease their plight. We work what seems like
25-hour days yet are energized. Our enthusiasm overflows, our
capacity for challenges is limitless. We eat, sleep and live
in the cause for animals. Our friends don't understand our
obsession and turn away or just fade away, and we let them for
we meet new ones. Some of us though don't make new friends,
we're too busy working for animals.
Some of us become loners with only our canine or feline
companions to keep us from total isolation but we're content
because we have a cause. In our zeal, we tend to affix simple
solutions to complex problems - every animal should be
sterilized or no animal should be euthanized. We're often late
because we try to rescue animals from highways and streets. We
think we understand the problem and we know we can fix it if
only people would get out of our way.
Our phase one enthusiasm has turned sour, the bubble bursts and
we crash and burn. We see the same people coming into the shelter
with yet another litter - they haven't heard our message. We
continue to euthanize, there seems no end to it. Even our friends
- those we still have left - don't understand us. We can't seem to
Animals are still abused and neglected, their plight seems
unchanged despite all our efforts. We've lost the boundless energy
that characterizes Phase One. We no longer wish to talk about work,
don't even want to admit where we work. We're tired all the time. We
go home from work, lock the doors, turn out the lights, turn off the
answering machine and close the window blinds. We're too exhausted
to cook so we scarf fast food, pizza, potato chips or chocolate.
Some of us buy useless objects we can't afford. Some of us turn
to alcohol for it takes away our feelings of hopelessness. We ignore
our families and even our pets get less attention than we know is
right. We seem powerless to affect any of the changes that drove us
to such ecstasies of dedication in Phase One. We have become
horrified by the work we have to do. Even our dreams are filled with
the horror. Every animal we take in, every animal we euthanize is
yet another nail in our coffin of defeat. Somehow we're to blame for
all our failure and it's destroying us. Raise the shields Scotty,
the Klingons are on our tail!
Our shield gets thicker and thicker. It blocks the pain and the
sadness and makes our life somehow tolerable. We continue on because
every now and then we get a spark of Phase One energy.
Our phase two depression has turned outward
and we're mad as hell. Hopelessness turns to rage. We begin to hate
people, any people and all people unless, like our co-workers, they
dedicate their lives to animals the way we do. We even hate our
co-workers if they dare question us - especially about euthanasia.
It occurs to us, let's euthanize the owners, not the pets. Let's
take everyone who abuses an animal or even surrenders an animal and
euthanize them instead.
Our rage expands to our out-of-work life. That guy in front of us
on the highway, the one who's in our way, euthanize him too. We rage
at politicians, television, newspapers, our family. Everyone is a
target for our anger, scorn and derision. We have lost our
perspective and effectiveness.
We're unable to connect with life. Even the animals we come in
contact with seem somehow distant and unreal. Anger is the only
bridge to our humanness. It's the only thing that penetrates our
Gradually, and over time, the depression of
Phase Two and the anger of Phase Three become replaced with a new
determination and understanding of what our mission really is. It is
big picture time. We realize that we have been effective - locally
and in some cases regionally and even nationally. So we haven't
solved the problem - who could - but we have made a difference with
dozens, even hundreds and sometimes thousands of animals. We have
changed the way others around us view animals. We begin to see our
proper place in our own community and we begin to see that we are
most effective when we balance our work and out-of-work lives. We
realize that work is not our whole world and that if we pay
attention to our personal lives, we can be more effective at work.
We understand that some days we work 14 hours and some days we knock
it off after only 8. We take vacations and we enjoy our weekends. We
come back refreshed and ready to take on daily challenges. We see
that all people are not bad. We understand that ignorance is natural
and in most cases curable. Yes, there are truly awful people who
abuse and neglect animals but they are a minority. We don't hate
When we find them we do all we can to stop
them from hurting animals. We recognize that the solutions are just
as complex as the problems and bring a multitude of tools to the
problem at hand and use them any way we can and we begin to see
results - one small step at a time. We reconnect with the animals.
Our shields come down. We understand that sadness and pain are a
part of our job. We stop stuffing our feelings with drugs, food or
isolation. We begin to understand that our feelings of anger,
depression and sadness are best dealt with if we recognize them and
allow them to wash over and past us. We recognize our incredible
potential to help animals. We are changing the world.