The work we do caring for homeless animals and placing them in lasting and loving homes provides us with some insights into human nature that can be shockingly disparate. We see wonderful people who dedicate their time and/or their financial resources to give so generously to animals in our care. We have volunteers who do such remarkable and tireless work and donors who give with such amazing dedication and generosity to provide the essential resources to treat and rehabilitate sick and injured homeless animals. On the other hand, we can be exposed to people whose behavior toward animals is horrifying. There are people who seem to feel little or no tenderness or caring for pets they have had in their families for many years and people who will disparage and diminish the importance of the work we do caring for animals. We even must respond to organizations in the field of animal welfare that do not prioritize the value of animals’ lives and do not use their resources to provide the care for them that a sense of integrity would demand.
One of the greatest challenges we face is to set aside our reactions to these disappointing and distasteful people in determining how we should act to look out for the best interests of the animals. For example, we can be faced with people who want to relinquish a pet to us for whom they have not provided up to date inoculations even though they have the financial means to do so. Or, we can visit a shelter where the employees are cold and hostile to our staff members when they have come to take dogs and cats out of that shelter and into our care. When this happens in a shelter where the euthanasia rate is high and we would be transferring those animals into safety, you would think that the staff members would welcome that help. But it is not always the case.
There is a quote that hung on the wall in Mother Teresa’s home for orphaned children in Calcutta that I have always loved. It says:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
The last line is the powerful one. And, in this home that we run to care for another group of orphans, something similar must guide us. In the final analysis, the decisions we make and the care that we provide are a matter between us and the animals, a matter of our conscience and our integrity about how we live up to the trust that those animals, as well as our wonderful donors and volunteers, have placed in us. It was never about us and the people who devalue animals’ lives or act selfishly with regard to their needs. Those people may be frustrating, anxiety producing, time-sucking and disappointing but, in the final analysis, they are and they must be irrelevant to our decisions. Only one thing matters – how do we use our resources and make our choices so as to save the most animals from death and suffering that we possibly can. Because, in the end, it is only between us and the animals we love.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires both your first and last name to be used as your screen name.