Honesty is rarely ever the best policy
One of the hardest parts of this work is that I am an obscenely honest person who has almost no filter and while some people call this “authentic”, most people think I am just a whiney bitch. I can’t disagree with either sentiment. But the realities of this job are hard to convey to people who look and sound like me. Most people do not live this kind of life and they have an image in their head of what an animal rescue is like where they are and think it applies to every other place on the planet. For people who do not get out of their home country, this is impossible to explain away. The reality is very bleak and it has gotten bleaker since we became more outspoken against speciesism and stopped sucking up to the dog meat people who were funding most of our work. That all happened because I got tired of racist, ignorant meat eaters on their high horses telling me how to do my job from across oceans they’ve never crossed. Everything is harder when you have a shred of integrity and cannot bear to sell out to people who would eat half the species in our shelter. Having the clinic was hard and having it with a partner was the worst idea I’ve ever had, but being honest about that would mean discussing my personal relationship with my fiancé that I had to constantly build up publicly to make him feel special enough to do any damn work at all. No one wanted that story, but it was eating me alive, so I have written a list of other horrible parts of this work no one wants to hear about to just get that all out there at once. None of this experience has been a walk in the park and all of it has been worth it. I wish people could really face the reality of daily life in this organization and have some measure of sympathy for the struggle.
Here is a list of topics that are really important to our work, but which absolutely no one wants us to be upfront about:
How unbelievably hard this job is on a daily basis and often that is because of humans, not animals, and most of those people call themselves “animal lovers” who constantly kill animals 3 times a day for a meal.
How gory rescue work is rather than cute even though people only want to see the adorable parts rather than the blood, guts, suffering of many kinds, or the psychological rehabilitation for animals coming from neglect and abuse. People want fluff and we only have pus and blood and nightmares for months or years before there is success stories people want to see on their Facebook feed.
How INSANELY slow progress can be if there is any progress at all, at least in the eyes of donors. We sometimes have minutes a day that aren’t a raging failure and if we seem a bit dark about that, tough shit.
How we are heroes when we save a dog and extremists when we save a chicken in spite of the fact that both are worthy of our protection in the field of animal protection even if the corporate welfare organizations can’t be bothered to say that.
How each and ever failure breaks you and most days feel like failures because of the overwhelming caseload, the people pulling at you from every direction, the nonstop bills, the endless pressure to be someone people actually like in front of the screen. This isn’t a happy job and we shouldn’t be expected to be robots while doing it. This breaks you irreparably.
How loss is an integral part of rescue. Most of the animals in need we cannot get to and even the ones we get to often never heal or never get adopted. Even when they are adopted, you lose them. This little family member you watched heal and grow is now someone else’s baby. It’s not easy even if there is that reward for them.
How rescue ultimately is not a solution but is often the only thing donors will fund because organizations do not bother being honest about this. People love before and after shots but they do not gave a damn about what comes in between and who is making that happen behind the scenes. The number of animals saved by going vegan and through mass sterilization outweighs any rescue by millions and yet donors run like hell from either of those ideas.
How my struggle is predominantly not with criminally abusive people who do illegal things to animals, but to the 98% of the human population that is not vegan, most of whom will declare up and down that they are animal lovers when I am just not buying it because the corpse on their plate looks exactly like the one I buried from the clinic who did not want to die either.
How 90% of working with animals never involves touching an animal. It is on a computer. This means ADMIN staff. Competent professionals with experience in design, website management, SEO, and fundraising who are all able to read and write fluent English to reach our main donors is not something we can live without, and certainly not something we can manage with one single person who is also responsible for EVERYTHING else! But yeah, no one want to acknowledge that this is not just a job for snuggling kittens and taking selfies for Instagram. It’s legal BS in multiple countries, taxes, endless bookkeeping, media, media, media and hours of emailing a day. There is unsexy overhead related to all of this that donors are terrified of.
How marketing is never, ever free and paid ads are the only reason any of you know anything about any organization anywhere in the world. Duh…. The idea that we organically able to get all our posts to the amount of people necessary without sponsoring some ads is incredibly ignorant. Big orgs have tons of paid ads and hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in professional fundraising tools and staff, yet fans shit a brick when they see that we dropped $20 on an Instagram ad.
How it is virtually impossible it is to be successful at our mission to end animal suffering and we have to wake up to that reality of continuous failure every day.
How little money we have and how EVERYTHING would change is this was no longer a problem, but too so would mean having no integrity and selling out half our species so that doggie lovers who murder chickens can feel better about themselves. There are definitely less funds available when you do not focus on nonsense welfare reform and extend your circle of compassion to non-pet species, but there is simply no other way to do this ethically and if it means changing our business model, then that’s an infinitely better idea than lying to people that there is some humane way to kill pigs but not dogs.
How the only time I have ever slept during the 8 years of running this organization is when I was addicted to Xanex and Valium which I took every night in order to shut my brain off from the fucked up shit I dealt with during the day. Since getting off benzos, I get 2-4 hours if I am lucky.
How NOT cute kittens are because kittens not being born at all are the only solution to ending cat suffering, as dog sterilization is the only way to prevent dog suffering. Every other option is expensive, time consuming, and resource intensive while mostly contributing to the ongoing suffering of animals anyway.
How fucking horrible Vietnamese vets are at understanding basic medical science and how the most torture you see is at vet clinics, not on the streets or in dog meat restaurants. If you had any idea just how bad it really was here going to a locally trained vet, you all would actually bother funding the clinic rather than telling us rescue is more important that veterinary care. Heaven forbid solutions attract donors.
How much preventable death you see, mostly by people eating animals rather than neglect and cruelty
How having a 24/7 job which requires you to sacrifice every element of normalcy in your life for years on end but no one thinks you should be paid for it or get time off from it. Our job continues to be classed as unskilled labor and nothing could be farther from the truth.
How most donors are so fucking ignorant that they will only pay for crises, never long term solutions, and NEVER for preventative care or overhead even though this is actually what saves animals.
How much you want to kill yourself and others for the amount of preventable death you see because when you are honest about your reality everyone sticks their head in the sand.
How volunteers are useless for the most part and make running an organization properly totally impossible even if they tend to mean well and think animal rescue is adorable.
How human resources recruitment is less fun than slowly removing your own fingernails and then lighting your hair on fire, watching your scalp melt down your face. The lack of competent animal caretakers who are trustworthy and hard working who can also live and survive in an environment surrounded by constant suffering makes our work much harder than you think it is.
How finding good, long term staff who are not drug dealers, alcoholics, or raging morons who can also actually take care of animals and keep things clean (never mind being able to read and write) is as close to impossible as it gets.
How MOST humans do not love animals at all because they murder them unnecessarily for dumb shit like a burger or a leather bag
How the dog meat trade does not define Vietnam or the Vietnamese people (shocking, right?) but the bacon industry in the US definitely defines Americans and how backwards we are towards animals. Putting a tutu on your chihuahua while eating a burger does not make you an animal lover. It makes you a moron and hypocrite, dear Americans.
How the dog meat trade is responsible for less than 1% of dead animals in the country (math, that’s a real thing we do…) and that every organization claiming to end the dmt are full of shit and say it to capitalize on your sympathy for one species and your racism against anyone where we live and work.
How fish have feelings and we shouldn’t eat them, and yeah, shrimp too…. (“but I eat dolphin safe tuna!” fuckwit…)
How animal caretakers and managers especially deserve a living wage and life with real breaks, not just starvation, endless hard work, and misery watching suffering we cannot fix day in and day out.
How tourists who see sad puppies and dump them at our gate or backpackers that get drunk and steal kittens at 3am make us homicidal.
How when we have to say no to someone trying to dump animal on us they are then absolutely HORRIBLE to us because we do not own an island or a billion dollar trust fund to manage the thousands of animals people want us to take every year.
How we do not at all have the same job as someone working in a shelter in London, LA, or even middle of nowhere Missouri or Queensland- literally nothing is the same. Not a shred of similarity.
How anyone who drops a $10 donation thinks they just bought your time to listen to their insanity in the form of unsolicited advice any time they please. The ignorant peanut gallery can shove it where the sun don’t shine.
How Julian the giant pig is my actual son that I did not give birth to and that when you talk shit about eating animals, I see his face, not a piece of food on a plate and that makes me want to slice your throat wide open while I smile sadistically. That does not make for a friendly Facebook post, but it is very true.
People who meet me in person know well that these topics never end. I am honest to a fault to anyone who will listen and I would love any chance I can get to speak publicly about what our work in Vietnam really is like on a day to day basis because all I find globally is blank stares. This is not a dream job, something I will throttle anyone for saying about what I do, and ideally a lot of things would be different if I had the time, the staff, and the money to fix them. What remains for me is a diehard passion for the mission which I cannot shake and I regret that about me. Everything about this work is against my self-interest and I cannot quit. I tried again and again to get away and to do something else and I just cannot get rid of this drive to do what I do regardless of the daily nightmare it is. Hopefully one day we can make the change we have hoped for since the beginning and I look forward to that day when I have less to bitch about.