Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Compassion Fatigue

At the book club meeting, the topic turned to the feral cats and dogs. I saw one yesterday, a beautiful little dog, long haired. He still looked pretty good, but a little frantic, running along a busy road. I worried – and I couldn’t stop.

One member was telling us her experience with a local animal rescue group – “I called, and asked them to come get a group of cats. I’ve been feeding them for months. They asked if I could touch them and when I said ‘no’, they told me to taper off feeding them, that if they were going to survive, they needed to learn how to forage for themselves! Can you believe it? They are there to HELP the animals!”

Another, quieter member of the group chimed in “But they only have so many people, so many hours in the day, and so many resources. They can’t save them all.”

The group fell into a silence for a short while as we all thought about that.

I have worked most of my life with people who need help. It made a religious person out of me – I had to pray all the time against hardness of heart. When you work for a charitable organization, there are people who know your system even better that you do, who come in with all the right information and get help that they may – or may not – really need. There are people who will lie to your face without blinking an eye. To survive, you have to focus on the successes, not the failures.

To survive, charitable organizations have to define what they want to accomplish narrowly. For example finding homes for abandoned pets is a limited, manageable goal. It doesn’t help all the the starving feral cats and dogs, etc., but it helps a small segment of the animal population, those least able to care for themselves – animals who have been dependent on human beings. Tackling the larger problem really needs the resources of a nation, state or city – and a professional Animal Control Unit. When I hear of police trying to track down a lion escaped from a private citizen’s collection (and that really happened in Fintas!) I shudder in horror – how would YOU like to corner a lion in a dark cement basement somewhere? Do they have any training in animal behavior/ animal control?

I worked for a year with the homeless, as part of a transitional housing program. We coordinated with state and local agencies, got single mothers into school, found babysitting, gave them the tools to become employed and have a better life. You would be amazed at the women who wanted the freebies – the nice housing, the babysitting, etc – but didn’t want the skills that would enable them to provide for themselves, or, more heartbreakingly, for their children.

I worked for a foundation providing scholarships and educational benefits for needy children – many of whom had parents who sabotaged their success. We opened a door of opportunity, and some parents were jealous or resentful – and slammed it shut.

In every case, we had to focus on the successes, and there were many. The successes kept us going on dark days, when we lost a client we had hoped would make it.

But here is also what happens. When organizations exist to help with a problem or situation, then we call them and expect them to solve the problem. We complain about them when they explain their limitations. Sometimes, it may even be a big donor who wants a favor – a favor that just can’t be done. “After all I’ve done for you!” they exclaim, not understanding that there has to be a line, and that the boundary protects the organization from going under because they try to solve too many problems at once. They can’t come out to pick up the outdoor cat who has been in a fight – they ask YOU to care. They ask YOU to take that cat to the vet and pay for it’s repair. They are doing all that they can do already; your request is outside the limits of what they can do.

When you know people are in trouble – step up to the plate – don’t just say “someone ought to do something”, BE that someone.

Find your talent – packing up bags for Operation Hope – Kuwait, or finding donations of coats, socks, shoes, scarves to keep the poorest of the poor warm through winters that can be bone-chilling here in Kuwait. Organize meals from your local mosque – what better way to teach the goodness of God than by feeding the hungry?

Help organize a fundraiser for the blind, or the autistic, or the charity that pulls at your heartstrings. Work to have a bad law changed. Find one small way, like blogger 3baid’s PaperDump to reduce paper usage in Kuwait. Organize a beach clean-up. Set the example by throwing your trash in the trash bin. Organize a re-use program for eyeglasses. Walk a dog. Socialize a cat. Feed and clothe the poor. Trust me, it will do you at least as much good than it does the recipient.

Back to the problem of abandoned and unwanted pets in Kuwait. No one wants to see animals in pain, abused. No one wants to see suffering. You can help there, too.

There are two animal welfare organizations in Kuwait, PAWS and AWL. Both have passionate and committed supporters, and they could also use your help.

The organizations can’t do it alone. They need YOU. Next time you find yourself about to criticize an organization for not being helpful, please, ask yourself “how can I make a difference here?” Inconvenience yourself a little. Take that first step. You’ll be happy you did.

Photo of a very content rescued cat:

September 24, 2008 - Posted by | Community, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues


  1. I was surprised to know that most of my friends don’t know about those animal organizations! I think more should be posted and published about them. Ok. I should “be that someone” 🙂 i should post about them.

    Comment by L's Brain | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  2. Sometimes it is not really possible for those charity animal organizations to take care of every case.

    Many times it is up to us to give an injured or needy animal a temporary home whether it is a bird, cat or dog (or any other kind of pet). As a family we have done this innumerable times over the years.

    Because I cannot keep them as indoor pets, I don’t get too familiar with my feral cats just in case they get too trusting of the wrong kinds of people. They know me, they go roaming, and come back often looking for me to give them food.

    Having said that, there is not too much one can do on a personal basis about the millions of feral cats. There is a limit to how many we can capture and have neutered or spayed before going bankrupt.

    However, if one keeps pedigreed pets, one should be very responsible about looking after them. I can’t tell you the times I have rescued beautiful cats and puppies who were abandoned by their owners just because they couldn’t be bothered anymore once they are past the cute stage.

    It is easy to blame the charity pet organizations but in truth it is a gargantuan task and everyone who can and who cares should pitch in to help.

    Comment by jewaira | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  3. Feed The Purg Charity is always there.

    Comment by Purgatory | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  4. WWoooooo Hoooo, L’s Brain! You totally got it! 🙂 Now go and blog it!

    You are exactly right, Jewaira. And why am I not surprised that you have fostered many animals waiting for homes? 🙂 It’s easy to feel compassion. It’s hard to be that someone who steps up to the plate and helps in one small way. If we all help in small ways, it eats away at the bigger problems. Thank you for being a part of the solution in Kuwait.

    LLOOLL, Purg, now it’s time for you to pass it along!

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 24, 2008 | Reply

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