Would you believe me if I told you I don’t look at 99 percent of the animal Facebook posts that are in my newsfeed? Or that I don’t turn around to drive by a “lost pet” sign a second time and call the phone number to get a status update on the animal they lost? Does my chest still tighten as I scroll quickly past those posts and drive past those signs? Of course it does! And then I take a deep breath and I think, “I sure do hope people are taking care of each other.” I guess that puts me in the same useless category as those who say, “Somebody really should do something.” It shocks me as much as it does you but everything has a season, and I suppose I am in a new one.
It’s been two months since I retired from East C.A.N. and I’m still regularly asked why I left. They seem genuinely shocked that I could walk away, that I ever would — as if anyone could maintain that speed and intensity forever. Is it more shocking that I could leave something I put my heart and soul into or that I would leave the animals? I recently had an epiphany, either just before or just after retirement but this is it: There was very little I was doing to help in the grand scheme of making things better; I was simply not making someone else do it. And that was greatly appreciated and admired, apparently. Interesting. Maybe it’s your turn now.
There is still a team of people currently involved in the day-to-day business that is East C.A.N. And by day-to-day business I mean one person answers all the emails that come in during any given week, and that can be upwards of 25 emails a day. Yes, everyone has a full-time job. Not to mention they are following up with the emails that started a potentially long emotional process with another animal in an email the day before and answering or following up on the notes that come in on Facebook. Everyone on the team is the liaison for any number of dogs currently in foster homes, which includes a lot of training visits and moral support. There are still the dogs adopted that are often in need of follow-up, events that are in process or that people want to meet and plan for, supplies that need to be picked up or delivered, vetting to be coordinated and followed up with, references checked, home visits done, pictures to be coordinated. And then there is the business aspect of financials, marketing, local partnerships, etc. It is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done but also the hardest. Often made harder by the fact that so many well-meaning people approach us and still say, “You know what you guys should do?” — instead of saying, “You know what I’m gonna do?”
I imagine every rescue group has the same challenges East C.A.N. has. Continued education and legislation will help eventually but those are very, very, VERY long-term answers to a lot of really immediate community issues.
So what’s the answer? That is the million-dollar question, of course. How do you keep a community engaged when the battle seems overwhelming? How do you keep a focused, committed team of people from burning out within months of enthusiastically signing on to help? We can start with a bigger team, perhaps a team that involves an entire neighborhood of people instead of four or five or seven or 20. Maybe if 100 people committed six months to do some small, very specific part of the puzzle everything could get done, everyone would feel great about taking their turn to help, and no one would ever have to feel like it was a useless endless endeavor.
There is no job description that goes with East C.A.N., no list of qualifications or required experience. As a matter of fact, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be female, single, childless, have boundary issues and lots of free time. You don’t have to take stray dogs into your house. You don’t even have to like dogs!
Here is what you need in order to participate in this amazing big picture: a love for this neighborhood, a basic ability to communicate, a compassionate heart and the follow-through to let someone know today that you want to be part of the solution, in whatever way you can.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for forging ahead. Someone has to.