Thursday, December 8, 2011

let it go

I don't know how people who have outside cats are able to sleep at night. Taking care of BK has been very emotionally overwhelming for me. Every day I fear that I will find him dead or seriously injured in the street, or one of thousands of other horrific fates my mind conjures up. Each night before I go to bed, I peak inside BK's home hoping to find him safe and sound for the night, but usually he's not there.

Discovering the kittens and Mama Kitty the other day really added a new dimension to my anxiety. Imaging those cute little fuzzy kittens growing up without human contact, or dying from the cold, or trying to survive on the street breaks my heart. My imagination provides me an endless source of possible scenarios of how an outdoor cat might be suffering.

BK enjoying a rare moment of winter sun
Those that are familiar with the world of addiction recovery may be familiar with the Serenity Prayer, which is an abbreivated version of Reinhold Niebuhr's original prayer. It is now widely used in 12-step programs. I find it beautifully simple and too the point.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Being a relative newbie to the world of feline rescue, I so much want to rescue every cat (or dog) in distress and yet I keep running into my limits. BK needs to go back to the vet for his vaccine boosters, Mama Kitty needs to be spayed, her kittens need to be socialized so they can be adopted, BK needs more loves and play... The list goes on and on.

Yesterday morning, while walking to work, a collared German Shephard-mix ran out in the road near me. It was running and running, like dogs that have escaped their yards do, no destination, just enjoying their new freedom. I desperately wanted to help, so I called to it and went after it but it only ignored me. I watched helplessly as it ran full speed into traffic on an extremely busy road. Everything in me wanted to turn away and not witness the inevitable, but I felt compelled to watch, as if my watching it's last moment might somehow bring comfort to it as it died. Thankfully, the blue sedan was able to slow down enough to avoid contact - then the dog disappeared from view as it continued to run. I prayed the Serenity Prayer for me and a prayer for the dog's safety, then went on with my commute not knowing the outcome.

The list of things I cannot change seems to grow faster than the list of things I can. Somewhere there is a balance of doing what I can and recognizing when it's beyond what I can do and letting it go. This concept sounds easy enough and yet for me it is a significant struggle. Being aware of an animal in distress makes it extremely difficult for me to do anything else until the distress is resolved, "letting it go" feels cruel and heartless and yet I know that is not necessarily true. When faced with things I cannot change, I experience extreme feelings of powerlessness which immediately fuels intense anxiety. I desire to get to the place where I can do my best and then rest in knowing that I did my best regardless of the outcome. I desire serenity and acceptance when faced with things I cannot change.

BK has given me many gifts, I suppose having the opportunity to wrestle through this challenge is just another of those gifts. I know BK is much better off than he was prior to my care. He no longer worries about finding food, he has a safe, warm shelter, he enjoys playing string and being loved on and he has been neutered and vaccinated. His situation may still fall short from my ideal for him, but I can't loose sight of how much better off he really is. Now, to find that serenity...

A serene BK, napping in my arm


  1. Letting go is a difficult life lesson, one that not all of us learn (thinking of myself). It's because you have such a kind, generous heart that you care so much, worry so much. Truthfully, I don't know any human males in real life who are that concerned about the plight of homeless cats, usually it's women who rescue...and worry. It's wonderful to know that there *are* men out there who care about more than their immediate gratification. (Okay, yeah, I've mostly known really selfish and self-centered and emotionally immature men, starting with my dad.)

    Whatever happens with BK, and any other cats who come into your circle of influence, know that you are doing the best you can--whatever that is, however that is. And know that their lives are richer and easier because of YOU.

  2. I have tried to learn to let go in so many situations where I have no control and it is always hard. It is however, something that we must learn to do for our own sanity. Praying you can continue your good works with the cats and dogs and still sleep at night. You are a really wonderful person to care so much.

  3. I've been caring for feral cats for many, many years and I know exactly what you're going through. I've picked them up out of the street after they've been killed by a car in the night. I've rushed them to the vet when they turn up in my yard sick or injured and paid hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for their care only to have them have to be eunthanized in the end. If you only knew how many times a night I turn on the light in my backyard to check and see if my TNR colony is all there and accounted for. One has been missing for almost 2 weeks now and I'm heartbroken not only over the loss but over all the ugly scenarios that are going through my head over what may have happened to him and trying to reconcile with the fact I will never know what really did happen.

    I try to find peace in knowing I'm doing all I can for them but that still doesn't stop the tears or the heartbreak when one of them meets a tragic and in most cases too early end.

    I wish I could tell you it gets easier but I can't. As long as you have a tender, generous heart for the welfare of these animals you will always want to do more and worry you're not doing enough. You just have to remember you've made a difference in the lives of the ones you are able to help.

  4. You are doing the best you can for BK and all the other animals you help. You cannot do better than your best. It has helped me to adopt the motto, "My best is good enough," and to let it go at that. Bless you.

  5. I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if my kitties were outdoors either! How stressful. But you are doing such a good thing, I hope it doesn't strain ou too much!

  6. You are doing all you can to help BK and the others. I know that you will probably always wish that you could do more, but try to accept that your best is all you can do.

  7. It really is about doing the best you can. We have a thing here "help that animal that is right here right now". We worry about our community cats too....but we know we have gotten most of them fixed. We know that we caught the kittens this spring and found them home. We know that we put up shelters to keep them warm and dry. And we know that mom helps at the shelter to find those kitties home. You can't do EVERYTHING - but you ARE doing something!!!

  8. I think that caring will always be accompanied with some sorrow. I guess this is one of the paradoxes of living. The sorrow motivates us to keep trying to alleviate the suffering of other creatures. The blessing is that in offering all of that loving care to other beings, we may balance the scales a bit...make the world a more compassionate place. Do your part. I will do mine. Be comforted in knowing that you are not working alone...we are right along side you. I think that good stewardship is growing...everywhere there are people who are rescuing and coming to the aid of others. I know up close, the nitty gritty of fearing for another creatures safety is hard, but be comforted by the fact that you do make a difference.

  9. I volunteer at a no kill shelter. One has to keep a measured level of detachment. We're doing what we can to make a difference in the lives of a few lucky animals. You are doing the best you can and I know your little colony appreciates it.

  10. I found you through a comment you made on Kim's blog, and I just wanted to say what a lovely man you are.
    I look forward to keeping in touch.
    BK is so lucky to have you - can't you feel your Max's approval? I think I can... XO

  11. You can only do what you can do. I've got about eight or ten regular cat visitors, about half each strays and ferals. A couple will hang around, one even lets me snuggle her(?) a little, but none will come in the house, no matter how cold it is outside. All I can do is make sure they have water, food, and some shelters (they likely won't use).


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