Grab Mane: Pushing forward in the absence of hope

We have made some changes as we always do and it has had mixed results. Our social media has changed, our image has made some adjustments in response to some friendly advice by followers, and the result has been very damaging.

You wanted positive?  We give you positive.  You want cute? You got it.  We got cute coming out our ears here.  You want my rants off Facebook?  Done.  I stepped away from social media.  Rants down, cute up.  And much to my non-surprise, donations dropped by ¾.  Engagement dropped.  We are starving here and all we did was what everyone wanted us to do, but the only thing that has ever worked in the history of this organization is CRISIS.  Donors are crisis addicts. Don’t get me wrong: I am insanely grateful for all those incredible people around the world who have come to our aid in these crises because there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that we’d ever have managed this long without those truly generous individuals who jumped in when we needed them. But relying 100% on crises to keep going is one hell of a stress and it destroys not only our ability to plan for any programs, but it keeps us terrified and distracted while we need to be doing rescue and adoption and doing our best to NOT burnout.

Let me quickly remind everyone I have a Masters in Disaster.  I clearly dig disaster and crisis or I would not have spent oodles of student loans learning how to manage them internationally.  But for f***’s sake, this is not my kind of disaster.  This is daily stress of wondering if we get to feed the animals, myself, or the staff.  This is me dropping to my bloody knees every morning to pray to whatever deaf spiritual force or imaginary friend will keep our rescues healthy for one more day.   All this while I continue to wrack my brain for how to once again start a vet clinic in central Vietnam without a penny or a shred of international or local interest.

The reason I am particularly attracted to disasters myself is because I am an addict for the reconstruction and rebirth.  I live for the rainbow following the storm.  I swoon over stories of resilience of human spirit and nature.  This is my love of crisis.  I just am here to see what will rise from the ashes.  It’s exhausting here under the ashes, but I keep getting up and dusting myself off just to have our plans and hope burned to the ground again and again.

Here we are trying our hardest to rise again, to pick ourselves up from the bootstraps and get on with the real work.  I will not sugar coat what this is like, much to the chagrin of the happy, fluffy kitty lovers who criticize my negativity from the comfort of their sofa with their regular salaries, competent vets, and from a country not trying to eat their furry family.  Without the support here of some truly amazing women who inspire me every day for their dedication and resilience, I would stop believing in the rainbow after the storm.  Having a team like we do now is a gift I am not taking for granted as we press on to make real change here in the way we know how and without burning everyone out.  We need to pay staff salaries so that we can do this work and eat at the same time.  It seems that is a shocking request unfortunately.  As a nonprofit working with animals in Vietnam, sadly we have to employ internationals with fluent English and extensive experience with rescues who can navigate the complex world of Vietnamese traffic, international fundraising, social media marketing, and opening a brand new medical facility in a country where this is a massive pain in the ass. I dare you to find volunteers to pull this off.  Go ahead.  I’m more than happy to support anyone who can run on a trust fund or savings and also have these abilities, but this is what we have now with our combined animal experience and work in communications and veterinary work here.  Having a team like this one is not negotiable, but we have to be able to keep them fed or we lose them and all the work we can do here disappears with them.

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Once Upon a Dream, love of my life for 18 years whose mane I grabbed again and again for so long

When I used to ride horses, mostly a lot of young and goofy ones, often doing things we should probably not have done out in fields and over jumps, sometimes you get in situations where you have exactly one option to save your ass: put all your weight in your heels, grab as big of a handful of mane as your hands can hold, put your leg on, and hope gravity combined with the brain and feet of the horse under you work things out in your favor.  It can get you through a lot of sticky situations, if not scare the ever living shit out of you.  We also learned that when you get bucked off, you get back on.  Unless you are being taken away in a helicopter with massive brain trauma and multiple spine fractures, your butt better be back on that horse to work things out in a few minutes.  Dust your bum off, wipe the mud and tears off your bruised face, pick the grass out of your teeth, and solve the problem that got your ass on the ground.

While I no longer ride horses after spending the majority of my youth on the back of so many before going vegan and discontinuing my exploitation of other species, I have carried on these lessons of resilience for the rest of my life.  Horse women are batshit crazy, no doubt about that, but you learn a lot from being pushed around by massive animals who you are desperate to create some measure of partnership with.  You work through problems, you make friends with pain, you get your ego beaten to hell and back, you learn that rain or shine and in sickness and in health, those animals need you for absolutely everything.  Quitting is never an option. 

So I don’t quit… and not because I like this work and the insane emails and comments I have to face from the peanut gallery, much less the day to day contact with preventable suffering and death.   I know why do what I do.  I see the reason every single day and look them in the eyes promising to do better for them because humanity has seriously screwed them.  The passion has never left me, but sometimes the only thing holding this together is the long-developed muscle memory of getting my broken butt back up on a horse again and again until I got it right, soaking and drinking the bruises away later.   

The fact is that we are not going anywhere.  These animals are not going anywhere.  I have tried again and again to close and move away to save myself and our remaining animals because this shit is trying to kill me.  The pigs and chickens are stuck here because of African Swine Fever and Avian Influenza that prevents them from being exported to the EU or US, and if my family is stuck here, so I am.  And if we are here, we are going to do what I know how to do best which is save animals by addressing the ROOT of animal suffering, not being part of a mass movement of rescues selling cute bullshit that “saves” a handful of animals in overcrowded virus factories while badly burning out employees and never ever even breeching the actual cause of the problem because that could potentially ruffle some feathers and scare donors away. 

We ruffle feathers and get lots of panties in a bunch because lying to the general public and creating hype that is not reflective of the reality of the situation is morally abhorrent.  We ask for money because our animals need it and we tell the truth about animal agriculture, the fishing industry, and animals used for every other asinine reason humans can come up with because you deserve the truth.  When we face that truth and acknowledge our part in it, then we can solve problems.  Until then, we are just being fed lies by those with the fat marketing budgets to get you to believe whatever they spew at you. 

All we want to do is solve problems and we are not going to do it with lies and selling fluff just because the animal loving public cannot face up to the reality of the root causes and true solutions to ending animal suffering. We do our best to get by on less than $200 a week as we pile up endless debt, but this is not working.  It never has and never will, unless burnout and starvation are the goals.  I have chosen to close the shelter slowly and not have new intakes because the project is never going to be financially sustainable, nor is it even possible with the HORRENDOUS vet care available locally. Without significant separate income not dependent on the whims of the public to donate, this will never work because we are spending 80% of our time trying to raise funds to just keep the damn lights on rather than doing the work that actually solves the problem of animal suffering.  This is a huge waste of our time and combined experience, so now we have 3 people working on a solution and simultaneously trying to get our clinic open ASAP.  We are busting our butts and we have plans, but can’t get there fast enough to feed the animals and pay all our bills. 

I don’t like having to get back on this horse that bucks me off daily, but the animals deserve better than the lot they’ve been given and we are going to get back on as many times as it takes to make this work.  The clinic will open and mass sterilization will commence immediately, but we cannot keep going like this on a few $10 donations every couple of days. Please help us by sharing and donating and offering up any advice you have, but ONLY if you are a professional fundraiser with PROVEN success in this field, because if one more person tells me to stop being negative and put cute pictures up of happy stories or quit talking about veganism, I am going to scream so loud my head will pop off.  It hasn’t worked and I have the proof. There is a reason why fundraising is a profession and it is well paid.  The peanut gallery knows diddly about this, so thanks but no thanks for the advice.  You will still get your cute pictures, but we cannot stop asking for donations because frankly, they aren’t coming and we have no other financial support than what individual donors provide us.  Nonprofits run on donations and they have salaried professional staff and admin costs like every other business in the history of the planet.  Let’s all accept that and move on. 

Jamie, a terminally ill patient we were unable to save at our old clinic

The question is can you support the solutions?  Can you consider that you don’t know anything about the piss poor standards of veterinary care in Vietnam and accept that we do and we have the ability to change it?  Do you want to slap Bandaids on bone cancer or do you want to build the vital infrastructure necessary to end animal cruelty?  Maybe I didn’t wake up in a good enough mood to believe the answer will be positive for any of these, but I am going to keep on trying anyway.  I have worked to hard along side dozens of others along the years on this path and we will not give up because there is no other option than to kick on.  Here we are grabbing mane one more time…

To donate to our shelter and the new clinic, go to:

Paypal: donate@vietnampetsandvets.com⁣⁣⁣⁣
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gofundme.com/vietnamrescueshelter⁣⁣⁣⁣
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𝐁𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐚 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐡𝐥𝐲 𝐬𝐩𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐨𝐫:⁣⁣⁣⁣
http://patreon.com/vietnamanimalaid⁣⁣⁣⁣
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Norwegian donations:⁣⁣⁣⁣
Vipps: 97750737⁣⁣⁣⁣
(Reference: VAAR) ⁣⁣⁣⁣
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Account name: Tran Tuyet Mai⁣⁣⁣⁣
Account No.: 0400 4638 4034 ⁣⁣⁣⁣
Bank name: Sacombank- chi nhánh Đà Nẵng.⁣⁣⁣⁣
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Thank You 💜🌱⁣⁣⁣⁣