Boundaries & Guilt
I am not certain if times are changing or conversation is shifting as I am getting older; but people my age are talking a lot about boundaries, time, energy, all of those buzz words. I'll admit, I spent most of 20's not being intentional and protective of my time and spent a lot of energy doing things for the wrong reasons or for things I thought meant more then they did. Nothing has woken me up more to these concepts then animal rescue.
Before I was ankle deep in pig rescue, I followed many sanctuaries on social media platforms and one of the most common things I heard was; 'you need to know when to say no.' I glazed over this a little bit, sort of waiting for a time when this was going to become very prevelvant. WELL- we're there! It is very easy to say yes to saving a life, too easy. And sometimes all you're thinking about is that life being spared. Not, 'how many more trips with the water bucket will I need to do?' 'How much quicker will I go through that bag of feed?' 'If there's an emergency, how will I transfer this animal quickly?' 'How will we start the integration process?' A lot of these considerations came later for me. First and foremost it was, 'Do I have space?' and normally if the answer was yes, that was pretty much all the consideration it took. Without fail, a day or two before the arrival, I would be extremely anxious. Adding a new family member doesn't just effect me, it impacts our whole herd. Arguably, it impacts them more so than me. Like many things, as soon as we adopted a new routine which included our new family member, I would relax again as it blended into normalcy.
Since we've moved to our farm, as you can imagine, space is not a problem. However, there is now a plethora of other considerations. Fencing, water, time, physical demands, tools/equipment, I could go on and on. We've already faced all of those in the short time we've been here. Lately, when it has come to deciding whether I can take on a pig; (and recently it has been more 'big' pigs rather then Pot Bellies) time and labor has been on the forefront of my mind. Financially, we are right on track. Sponsorships and donations which we are SO incredibly lucky and grateful to have, has been the ultimate life line. I could not do what I am doing without them..At least not to the scale I am at now. Another pig means time and it means energy- think of it as a pie, if you will. Each pig gets a slice of my time/energy pie. When I rescue a new one, I don't receive him/her with extra time and energy, it eats at the reserve I already have. That means I have less time before work to make my lunch. I have less time to assess Hugh to make sure he's not showing more signs of neuro damage. I have less time to make Quincy feel safe. I have less energy at work. Boundaries. boundaries. boundaries. How much CAN I sacrifice from each pie slice before I start respecting my boundaries? Which leads me perfectly into 'Boundary's' fun neighbour, 'Guilt'.
The question I have been asking myself VERY recently (like, this week) is: If I don't respect my own boundaries, why in the world would someone with an animal they are trying to offload, respect them? hint: The answer is, they will not. After all, most are in a desperate position to get rid of said pig (or animal in general) "I love them SO much, but..." Is the most common sentence written about mid way through an email or message asking me to relieve them of their burden. I should be clear, the circumstances aren't always this exact way. My experience adopting Dexter was the most beautiful and I am freakin' thankful everyday that they picked me to care for him. I wish they all went this way. I wish that even once a year I heard from the past families, just a check in for the animal they 'loved so much.' However, at the end of the day, these pigs are my most precious gifts ever received.
After you put up and stand by your boundary; comes my persistent friend, guilt. Guilt is a very very treacherous slope if you are not careful. As a rescuer/sanctuary founder/animal lover, my guilt is and will continue to be used against me. That is because, if I (or another sanctuary founder) don't take said animal, who will? That animal's fate is now uncertain and my whole purpose is to protect animals from an uncertain (or certain) fate. I know many rescuers who get strapped with 'Well, if you don't take them, they're going to die/be abandoned/neglected,' etc. We (myself and other care givers) cannot carry this with us. It will lead to burn out and compassion fatigue. You can see how this thought spiral can be very toxic. Only a few more progressions downward before you're agreeing to take an animal that you genuinely cannot support properly because you felt guiltly. Unfortunately the people in the opposing position will not cease using these tactics so it is up to me to learn to navigate. There is always going to be more pigs and more animals to rescue. Where one person has one pig they need to rehome, I have 3 emails in my inbox. This isn't the easiest life to lead but it's certainly the best one I could have imagined for myself!
All that being said, I am learning on the fly, sometimes the hard way and sometimes just from having supportive people help guide me. This is one of the harshest realities of rescue. I cannot protect them all.