As animal lovers, it’s easy to get so immersed in caring for our cats and dogs that sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves. It’s happened to me—and I’ve seen it happen to those I love. But what happens when our animals become sick or elderly, and taking care of them suddenly requires a near-24/7 level of dedication and commitment? What happens if we get sick during this time? (Learn more about compassion fatigue here.)
I recently gave a Reiki treatment to one such person, a man whose family recently said goodbye to their elderly dog and is currently coping with a senior cat suffering from kidney failure and other serious issues. This man had always been open to my Reiki treatments for the animals, but never thought of them for himself. But I learned this past weekend that he had been very sick for many weeks—the prescriptions weren’t working, he wasn’t sleeping, and he was in near desperation for some comfort. I asked if he wanted Reiki, and was happy to hear him say yes.
Here are some sobering statistics for you: In companion animals, about 50 percent of all disease-related deaths are attributed to cancer. One in four dogs will develop cancer. And cancer strikes about 30 to 40 percent of all cats.
Some of you may be struggling with this issue right now. Know that you are not alone. In fact, May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness and funds in hopes of one day curing this terrible disease.
Last year, I wrote “How to Transform Skeptics Into Believers,” an article about my five best tips for breaking down barriers when bringing Reiki and meditation to shelters and sanctuaries. Though holistic approaches are starting to gain wider acceptance in recent years, many of us still encounter pushback from critics when attempting to share Reiki with animals in need.
But as the article points out, don’t let that stop you! As Reiki practitioners and firm believers in the healing effects of meditation, we must be bold. We must rise above skepticism so that we may offer Reiki, a form of meditation that creates a healing space for animals, to the homeless and the suffering. And in case you need some really bold examples to jumpstart your inspiration, here are three:
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to start your own animal rescue or sanctuary? I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this would be a dream come true. It’s so inspiring to read about others who’ve gone before and turned their ideas for rescues into realities—for instance, Farm Sanctuary, The Gentle Barn, Bat World Sanctuary, Center for Great Apes and The Wild Animal Sanctuary (just to name a few). If starting an animal rescue sounds like your true calling in life, here are four questions to ask before you take the leap:
What kinds of animals do you want to save?
There’s a big difference between establishing a small shelter to save a handful of cats and dogs vs. exotic big cats, elephants or horses. Think ahead about what size and type of facility or acreage you’ll need, and if you’ll have access to the resources and space necessary to manage it. Start small in the beginning so you can work out all the kinks and stay on top of what comes—you’ll have the ability to expand later once your rescue takes off.
How comfortable are you with the business side?
At the end of the day, a nonprofit is a business just like any other. You’ll need a team of people you trust and critical business skills to ensure success. Yes, you’ll be helping animals—but you’ll also spend your nights and weekends writing a business plan, filling out paperwork to obtain nonprofit status, managing people and zoning issues, fundraising, handling legal issues and more. If you’re sure starting an animal rescue is for you, learn all you can before you launch. You can take an informative workshop on the topic from Best Friends Animal Society, read books such as How to Start and Run a Rescue by Jennifer Williams, and interview the founders of other rescues for their best tips for success.
Is it really viable in the long term?
An animal rescue can quickly grow out of control if not managed and funded properly. How will you pay for rent, vet bills and so on? Will you be able to raise money, grow membership and pay salaries in the long term? There are also emotional issues such as burnout and compassion fatigue to deal with, which are real risks for those spending their lives helping homeless and abused animals. It’s a lot to think about, but don’t lost hope: Look around at all the animal rescues that inspire you, and keep in mind that they, too, faced challenges such as these in order to start and grow to where they are today.
What’s your ultimate goal?
I’m guessing that your goal is, in general terms, to help animals in need. But sometimes, starting a rescue isn’t the best way to serve those animals. Perhaps your animal rescue idea is already successfully established in your local community, and simply volunteering there might be a better use of your time and resources. Or, instead of a shelter, brainstorm alternative nonprofits you can start to help animals. For instance, my Shelter Animal Reiki Association isn’t an animal rescue, but we do bring Reiki programs into shelters and sanctuaries worldwide—and that work supports hundreds and thousands of animals in a different way.
Do you dream of opening an animal rescue? I’d love to hear about it.
I recently wrote about random acts of kindness—which got me thinking, what about random acts of kindness toward the animals of this world, specifically? Here are 10 easy and inspiring ways we can all be kind to the beautiful creatures sharing our world. Remember, kindness is contagious, so pass it on …
1. Choose cruelty-free products. Each year, 100,000-200,000 animals around the world suffer and die in laboratories due to cosmetics testing. Choosing to spend your hard-earned dollars on products from compassionate companies is one small act of kindness we can all do to support the rats, bunnies and guinea pigs commonly used in testing. Use PETA’s search function on its website to determine if the products you use are animal-friendly or not and find alternatives. (LUSH, a cruelty-free business with amazing beauty products, is a favorite of mine!)