We hear on a regular basis the lengths animal lovers will go to in order to keep their animals. When they overhear a conversation at the surrender counter or read a plea for rehoming assistance on social media, many are quick to judge and exclaim how they themselves would never place anything else in life above an animal, a pet. They would live in their cars, turn down jobs, divorce their spouses or leave their girlfriends; pets are for life, no exceptions. I applaud those who take animal ownership so seriously, and try to understand and accommodate those that don’t. There will always be reasons that people cannot or will not keep their animals. Always.
I readily admit that I take on a lot of responsibility with my job that spills over into my personal life. I bring home foster animals, I rehabilitate wildlife and consult with concerned citizens as well as other officers around the country online and over the phone about wildlife and domestic animals in sticky situations or in need of assistance. I am passionate about helping others help animals, and doing what I can to rehabilitate and release or rehome the ones that come into my care. Based on recent events in my life it has been brought to my attention that this is the reason I am still single.
I fell very hard for the man who decided he couldn’t handle my chosen profession and hobbies last night and walked out my door. I’m a very passionate person, and develop affinities for some people relatively quickly, which I wish I had more control over as it would definitely save me some heartache. I won’t even get into how it has been proven over and over again that my “picker is busted”, but I digress. When we met the chemistry was instantaneous; we made each other laugh, enjoyed many of the same things, felt comfortable instantly. He embraced me and my animals, after meeting them once he even remembered all their names (which is no small feat), and expressed respect and admiration for the fostering and rehabilitation responsibilities I take on. I felt reassured that I had finally found someone who understood and accepted my passion and commitment to rescue, would support my endeavors wholeheartedly, and let me shower him with the same affection and devotion as I do all the creatures I surround myself with. It turned out I was misled, and that his opinions on what I do and what he was willing to tolerate was much less than I am willing to limit myself to. I guess to him the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.
So there lies the choice. It’s a choice that many have to make on a regular basis, and most outsiders don’t understand. The choice between an animal and a human companion. If I discontinued my fostering responsibilities and wildlife rehabilitation, it would definitely free up my time for things like random weekend getaways, last-minute dinner plans, and sleepovers at a significant other’s house after a late night on the town. I would have money for nicer clothes, travel, fine dining, a nicer house, and I would definitely a cleaner car. Instead of investing emotional energy into abuse and neglect cases, I would perhaps be more psychologically equipped to pour myself into another human being completely. There’s no argument that I would have more to offer another person if I wasn’t so busy offering myself to animals.
But where would that leave me? What kind of person would I become if I cut these things out of my life? What would sidelining, ignoring, or even eliminating my passion for wildlife education and rehabilitation do to me? What would turning away animals in need and instead seeing them euthanized (or having to euthanize them myself) do to me? What would rehoming or putting down a pet that a new significant other doesn’t see the worth in keeping around do to me? Would it leave me more equipped to be a better companion, lover, friend, to another? Would it make me more attractive, more loveable? Would it result in me finally having someone to wake up next to and share the day-to-day struggles of life with? Would it open up opportunities for me to give myself completely to another person instead of only partially because I need to save something for the animals? It’s possible, it’s possible… but why can’t I do both? Why does it always come down to me having to choose one over the other? And why, as a society, are we so hard on others that make a different choice than we would when placed in a similar situation?
They say that you live the life you want to live based on the choices you make. And it seems I am choosing my work and passion for animals over human companionship. The feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment I get from rehab and release on wildlife is real, even the fat hairy ones who bite me while under my care, and is what makes me the person I am. The happiness and joy I experience when I see the broken, hairless, bag of bones dog of yesterday now trotting through my backyard tossing a stuffed rabbit up in the air playfully is what makes me the person I am. Even when I don’t succeed, knowing I tried my best with each and every animal the universe brought to me and placed in my care makes me the person I am.
And right now a 41-year-old single crazy cat dog bat opossum squirrel lady is the person I am.