Monday, May 3, 2010

Eddy Gilmore: True confessions of a former animal hoarder

By: Eddy Gilmore

When I walk near the chicken coop it is as if God is walking through the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day in the mind of my hens. Such is the combination of expectation, awe and fear and trembling that is inspired in the girls by my mere presence.

It’s a good feeling, to be honest, and I usually try to bring treats for them in the form of tomatoes, greens and various fruits that would otherwise be thrown away. It is good to feel needed and appreciated by God’s creatures. Everyone needs to be needed and loved.

I have family and friends that help with that now, but vestiges of the past remain. Recently I was reading one of the many animal hoarder articles in the daily paper, and it occurred to me that I used to be one of those! I didn’t have the illness to the same degree, but any of those folks suffering in silence behind closed curtains could be me.

I was raised in a home where hoarding of the non-animal variety was a constant issue, and — in my quest for love and companionship — I turned to the animal kingdom because they never turn on you. In addition to a trusted dog, at one time in my bedroom I had more than 40 birds across a variety of species flying loose and breeding....

...I hope that many people who have struggled with this issue for years will be encouraged to seek help when they realize that they are not alone. I had never seen anybody else that lived like we did, so I naturally assumed we were the only people in the world that struggled with this.

Now I’m married to someone who helps keep these tendencies in check. I do still hold on to things like old T-shirts (due to all the memories), paper and any scrap of wood from a 2-by-4 that is 6 inches or longer. If I could only get rid of them more easily.

Anyhow, I suppose I’ll always have to battle this thing, but it does enable me to relate to these people who are living with unsanitary conditions, a general lack of self-esteem and the awful loneliness that this disorder brings.

Coming out of that lifestyle, I can tell you that it feels so good to have the windows open and a fresh breeze blowing through! I’d truly like to help just one person that has this problem in the upcoming year, and I encourage you to help someone in your own life who struggles with this. Rather than judging them, or acting condescendingly toward them, do your best to love and respect them.

We also shouldn’t make them into a spectacle in society on the front page of the newspaper, and, my goodness, how could we even think of possibly bringing charges against people who struggle with animal hoarding as is happening in the recent case in Two Harbors? This is a mental illness, and the strong arm of the law is never useful for this.

Rather, the gentle love of a thoughtful society that cares for its own is needed here.

People need to be left with their dignity as they are ushered into a more fulfilling way of life..." More