Keen, a 15 year old gray male cat, was depressed and in desperate need of a foster home. Arthur and Guenevere were playful, sweet, and happy at my apartment but not meeting enough people to get adopted. The logical choice was to agree to exchange the kittens for Keen. It was the right choice but it was the most difficult choice I’ve made in my 25 years of living. I love those 8 month old cuddle-monster cats. Love them. I’ve raised them since June to be comfortable with people, unafraid, happy, and healthy. My maternal instincts were poured into them.
People ask me again and again how I can volunteer at an animal shelter or how I can foster. They ask “doesn’t it hurt?” as though that’s a reason not to do something good. Yes, it hurts. Jarrod can attest to how much I’ve cried since making the decision and giving up Arthur and Guenevere. I’ve felt a physical pain in my chest that I’m certain is the guilt I feel over the kittens being in the shelter right now. I haven’t gotten a full night sleep the past few days because I read until I pass out because I can’t stand the quiet worry that creeps in at night.
Fostering and volunteering with animals pulls your heartstrings, makes you wonder if you can take anymore, makes you curse people for what they do to their animals, makes you curse your income for not allowing you to take them all, and yeah, fostering and volunteering at a shelter brings you pain and makes you cry.
“But pain… seems to me an insufficient reason not to embrace life. Being dead is quite painless. Pain, like time, is going to come on regardless. Question is, what glorious moments can you win from life in addition to the pain?”
Lois McMaster Bujold, “Barrayar”, 1991
That’s one of my favorite quotes. I was an epeeist in college and my coach told me to not be afraid of getting hit. You’ll get hit, but you need to deal and decide what’s more important–pain or doing good. I know that I do good when I foster, when I give attention to a sad and lonely animal, when I exercise a dog who is so excited to leave her cage she jumps for ten minutes, when I play with a bored rabbit whose owner won him at a fair and didn’t realize he needed stimulation and love. I did good by bringing home Keen for some foster love. I’m hurting right now. There’s a lot of pain.
But, pain is an insufficient reason to not try to help an animal. If you don’t get your heart pulled by that animal, some person will screw you over or you’ll do something stupid that causes physical pain. We will all experience pain in life. I want my pain to have meaning. I want my pain to come from doing the right things and making the tough choices. Bring it. I’ll cry, but I’ll deal and go back to doing the right thing again. Saving a life is glorious enough to be worth this pain.