In keeping with the new format of this blog, below is my first original article. I look forward to your feedback and comments.
Recently I was asked, "How many animals do you have?"
Four. Four dogs.
They jokingly responded, "Then you're a hoarder!"
Oh, it is so easy to judge others when you don't know the reality.
The simple facts are I have two other people in the house that physically help, and I can financially afford (and do) take care of them. I love animals and I know my limits.
Right now I "want" a cat. Having a cat in our small house with our existing pack would be an emotional mistake.
Why emotional but not financial? Financially there is enough money coming in, but emotionally it would take a toll on the family. First we would have to find a cat that is comfortable around dogs, but considering the amount of adult cats available that is the least of our worries. The big emotional toll on the family would come from acclimating the dogs to a new member.
Here is the condensed version of adding a foster dog to the home: off-property we introduce each dog to the new one, and about an hour later the new dog is brought inside and placed in a kennel. This process allows the existing dogs to realize the new dog is not a threat and the new dog is allowed to learn the rhythms of the home without fear of attack. These are dogs; you can't exactly talk them thru the process. At the end of two weeks the new dog can begin to interact with the others.
Now imagine doing that with a cat that can climb, jump and scratch they heck out of you, your house and your dogs. Then let's consider the daily stress of running, barking, hissing, peeing and separating the house into cat and dog areas. The amount of time alone is a huge investment, and the emotional toll of all this juggling is too much for me to put upon myself or my family.
No cat. Not now.
Hoarders don't have such limits, they are driven by compulsions. They can't say no and they don't see what is so very clear to others e.g. the smell, the insect infestation, fecal and urine build-up and most of all unaddressed medical issues. They will often answer ads for free animals, go to their local shelter, pick up strays, or even steal a dog from someone else.
So what does someone do when your heartstrings are being pulled to "save just one more"? I network, I promote animal adoption, I physically volunteer during my free time with rescues as well as an organization that offers free spay/neuter services.
I can't help anyone or anything if I'm physically, emotionally or financially drained. And I can't expect my family or my pack to bear that burden either. I am not willing to sacrifice the level of care and the quality of their care to "save one more."
I want to save them all too. But I can't and you can't either.
Any good rescuer knows how and when to say "no." They don't want to; they may cry and be depressed for days on end. But they know they can't save them all, no matter how much they want to. I have one friend who transports hundreds of dogs every year from high-kill shelters to no-kill shelters. I recently asked her, "How do you stand going into the shelter every week?" She replied, "I learned long ago that I couldn't handle it. Now I have the volunteers take the animals to my truck." She knows her emotional limits, and works around them. Imagine if she didn't: hundreds of animals would be killed because she was unable to emotionally handle going to the kill-shelters.
If you can accept that and the pain that goes along with it, you are not a hoarder. A hoarder will try to save them all; they are willing to suffer, and allow those around them to also suffer for that "one more." I accept my limitations; a hoarder cannot, possibly because of underlying mental issues.
I'm not cruel. I'm just honest: honest with my reality and how it could easily be affected by bad choices.
What is your reality?
For more information on hoarding and its related mental illnesses please visit:
Animal Hoarding: Alone in a Crowded Room
Animal Hoarding News & Info
Hoarding Animal Research Consortium
A personal account of how animal hoarding broke up a marriage: here
Dogged Writer: A story of a rescue hoarder