During my yoga class the other day, I felt my mind wandering. Not to anything that was on my list of “to-dos” or to the week ahead, but to the past. Every time we would settle into a pose, and begin to aim our mind towards calmness and peace, I was brought back to a memory I don’t think of often. I was taken back to the first night out of the hospital in Thailand. I couldn’t get it out of my head. No matter how hard I tried to push the memory out of my mind, I became even more immersed in the scene. I had just checked myself out of the Thai hospital, and took a taxi to the city, not knowing exactly where I was going. I then found myself sitting at my favorite pizza restaurant in Chiang Mai, feeling almost uncomfortable in this place I had been to so many times before. Maybe it was the underlying septicemia, or the fact that I couldn’t order my usual beer with my meal. Maybe, it was that I had this sinking feeling deep down that the world I thought I knew was taking a complete 180 towards the unknown. Here I was, in a foreign country that was more “home” to me than anywhere, with only about $7 to my name after a hefty Thai Hospital bill that caused me to max out my credit cards, and an unresolved infection coursing through my body. I wasn’t uncomfortable with my financial situation. Hell, I wasn’t even bothered that I could barely sit up from exhaustion. All I could think about was the pit in my stomach of what may come next.
Maybe this memory kept creeping into my mind because it was a time of being emotionally and physically uncomfortable, much like the dove pose I was breathing through. Or, maybe it entered my mind because it was a time of happiness for me; a time I found happiness in feeling ultimately burnt out.
I would be lying if I said it was an easy transition coming home. Where I once identified as the traveling, confident vet tech who was boots on the ground saving the world, I now struggled to identify as anyone at all. I passionately have been working every day, yet have found myself at times actually feeling no passion whatsoever. I struggle to write and have to force myself to post on social media. Something clearly has been off in my world.
The late Dr. Parker often said to me,”You really have life by the balls, Alex”. Now, I feel like it has me by the balls. Where are ya at now, Dr. P?
It wasn’t until late last week, that I felt a little more like myself. I was alone at the shelter late Wednesday night. A transfer was set to arrive around 9pm, and I offered to stay and wait. I worked until about 8:45, and then did something I hadn’t done it quite some time. I made my way to one of our long term dog’s kennel, and promptly laid on the floor next to him. His eyes lit up as mine filled with tears and we laid there for what seemed like forever. I stared at the tall, metal ceiling as tears rolled down my face. I hadn’t felt more at peace since living in my jungle town of Thailand. Between helping start up an animal shelter and becoming the project manager for my dream of a mobile spay and neuter clinic, I hadn’t stopped for a second to breathe. It became clear that I was burnt out. Painfully and undoubtedly burnt out. Luckily, I had faced these demons before, and I knew all too well that when I finally come to realize my mental state, it is always the prime moment to turn it around. Ten minutes is all it took for me to feel half way like myself. Ten minutes with a geriatric boxer was all I needed to spring forward like never before.
Then, today happened.
I have the go ahead early yesterday morning to post about one of our upcoming free spay and neuter clinics in Arizona. Within minutes, calls were flooding into my phone. I was in surgery that day, and unable to answer any of the calls that lit up with the area code from Winslow, Arizona. Call after call, my heart raced as my anxiety increased. It was really happening. By the end of the day, I had 28 voicemails and 18 unopened emails. It was 9pm by the time I left the shelter, so I decided to hold off on returning my completely full inboxes until the following morning.
As I began to respond to the emails, my eyes filled with tears. The people reaching out to me were filled with such joy, it began to spark a fire within me. A fire I hadn’t seen lit in quite some time. Email after email, the people of Winslow thanked me over and over for the services we were going to bring to their community. Then, the phone calls came. I would spend the next five hours calling people back who had reached out the day before.
I sat on the phone with a woman in tears. She told me she barely had enough money to support herself, yet cared so deeply for her animals. She felt awful for having to sit back and watch her female dog get pregnant time after time again, only to have the babies pass from parvo and other diseases. Vaccines were few and far between, and sterilization wasn’t even a question.
I had one man call to schedule his one cat, only to call back four more times with pure glee as he added on pets for his family members.
I gave another woman every minute I had, as she broke down and told me about her brother’s passing. His dog was all that they had left of him, and were afraid if they didn’t neuter him they couldn’t keep him. They would have lost the only thing remaining of their brother.
And let me tell you, I can’t wait to kiss the face of that beautiful pittie that they hold so dear.
Call after call, I began to feel this deep sense of responsibility for these animals and their people. I felt as though I had made a mailbox full of new friends today, and I would do anything in my power to move mountains for them.
I ended my day with 84 animals scheduled…in 24 hours. I could only hope to get 84 more.
I have been to these areas both near and far. The areas that need the most help. I have held the paw of a puppy dying from parvo because vaccines weren’t ever provided to a community forgotten about by this world. I have seen female dogs chained to a tree with no where to run, as she becomes impregnated time after time again. I have seen that same dog have to watch litter after litter not make it through a cold desert winter, as she starves herself to ensure they live. I have seen dogs die from an infection in their uterus. Something that could have been prevented by a Spay. I have seen my director drive through blizzards to retrieve a shelter full of animals, only to have that same shelter fill up the next day. I have seen dogs thrown from cars, and dogs broken in ditches. I have seen owners cry over their pup, as it passes from distemper. I’d like to say I’ve seen it all, but sadly I’m not scratching the surface to the horrors that happen every day.
I believe people love their animals. I believe an animal should never have to suffer because of the state their human is in. I believe that no human should have to give up their pet because the resources are just not there. I believe we need to stop pointing fingers at what we don’t know, and start educating with what we do know. I believe we can do good things, every day.
I also believe it is possible to find a fire in the midst of a burnout. I sure did.