Photograph shows Francois Hugo of Seal-Alert South Africa with rescued cape fur seals


By Douglas Fakkema

Those of us who work on behalf of and who dedicate our lives to animals, go through four phases in our career evolution. As we are unique, so are our individual stories, but we all go through a similar process, and if we survive that process, go on to understand that we have achieved what we wanted in the first place.


Red hot and raring to go, we are out to change the world. We are high on life. We know we can make a difference, that our efforts on behalf of animals will ease their plight. We work what seems like 25 hour days, yet remain energised. Our enthusiasm overflows, our capacity for challenges is limitless. We eat, sleep and live in the cause for animals. Our friends don't understand our obsession and turn away or just fade away, and we let them for we meet new ones. Some of us though don't make new friends, we’re too busy working for animals.

Some of us become loners with only our canine or feline companions to keep up from total isolation but we're content, because we have a cause. In our zeal, we tend to affix simple solutions to complex problems - every animal should be sterilised or no animals should be euthanised.

We're often late because we try to rescue animals from highways and streets. We think we understand the problem and we know we can fix it, if only people would get out of our way.


Our phase one enthusiasm has turned sour. The bubble bursts and we crash and burn. We see the same people coming into the shelter with yet another litter! They haven't heard our messag . . . .

We continue to euthanise, there seems no end to it. Even our friends, those we still have left, don't understand us. We can’t seem to reach anyone.

Animals are still abused and neglected, their plight seems unchanged despite all our efforts. We’ve lost the boundless energy that characterises Phase1. We no longer wish to talk about work, don't even want to admit where we work. We're tired all the time. We go home from work, lock the doors, turn out the lights, turn off the answering machine and close the window blinds. We're too exhausted to cook, and go for fast food, pizza, potato chips or chocolate.

Some of us buy useless objects we can't afford. Some of us turn to alcohol, for it takes away our feelings of hopelessness. We ignore our families and even our pets get less attention than we know is right. We seem powerless to affect any of the changes that drove us to such ecstasies of dedication in Phase1. We have become horrified by the work we have to do.

Even our dreams are filled with the horror. Every animal we take in, every animals we euthanise is yet another nail in our coffin of defeat. Somehow we're to blame for our failure and it's destroying us.

Raise the shields Scotty, the Klingons are on our tail!

Our shield gets thicker and thicker. It blocks the pain and the sadness and makes our life somehow tolerable. We continue on because every now and then we get a spark of Phase 1 energy.



Our Phase 2 depression has turned outward and we're mad as hell!

Hopelessness turns to rage. We begin to hate people, any people and all people, unless, like our co-workers, they dedicate their lives to animals the way we do. We even hate our co-workers if they dare question us - especially about euthanasia.

It occurs to us: let's euthanise the owners, not the pets. Let's take everyone who abuses an animal or even surrenders an animal and euthanise them instead.

Our rage expands to our out-of-work life. That guy in front of us on the highway, the one who's in our way, euthanise him too. We rage at politicians, television, newspapers, our family. Everyone is a target for our anger, scorn and derision. We have lost our perspective and effectiveness.

We're unable to connect with life. Even the animals we come in contact with seem somehow distant and unreal. Anger is the only bridge to our humaneness. It's the only thing that penetrates our shield.


Gradually, and over time, the depression of Phase 2 and the anger of Phase 3 become replaced with a new determination and understanding of what our mission really is. It is big picture time.

We realise that we have been effective locally and in some cases regionally and even nationally so we haven't solved the problem - who could - but we have made a difference with dozens, even hundreds and sometimes thousands of animals. We have changed the way others around us view animals. We begin to see our proper place in our own community and we begin to see that we are most effective when we balance our work and out-of-work lives. We realise that work is not our whole world and that if we pay attention to our personal lives, we can be more effective at work.

We understand that some days we work 14 hours and some days we knock it off after only 8. We take vacations and we enjoy our weekends. We come back refreshed and ready to take on daily challenges.

We see that all people are not bad. We understand that ignorance is natural and in most cases curable. Yes, there are truly awful people who abuse and neglect animals but they are a minority. We don't hate them.

When we find them we do all we can to stop them from hurting animals. We recognise that the solutions are just as complex as the problems and bring a multitude of tools to the problem at hand, and use them any way we can and begin to see results - one small step at a time.

We reconnect with the animals. Our shields come down. We understand that sadness and pain are a part of our job. We stop stuffing our feelings with drugs, food or isolation. We begin to understand that our feelings of anger, depression and sadness are best dealt with if we recognise them and allow them to wash over and past us. We recognise our incredible potential to help animals. We are changing the world.

I've noticed that some people get frozen in Phase 1 (the zealots) or 2 (the zombies), or 3 (the misanthropes). Some shift back and forth between 2 and 3 and even between 4 and 3 or 4 and 2. Many leave animal work during Phase 2 or 3, never to return. Some seem to move rapidly to Phase 4, while for others it takes years and years. Some never get a sense of peace to go along with our purpose, they work their entire lives on the frantic pink cloud of Phase1 or depressed and angry. I know, I've been in all four phases in 25 years in animal protection. Can the journey from Phase1 to 4 be speeded up? Can we avoid the pain, discomfort and agony that goes with the journey?

I wish I knew!~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Do get involved in animal rights, YES... BUT: pace yourself! Don't assume you will end these atrocities tomorrow! Lots of people with lots of more knowledge before have been working over hundred years to end this obscenity. Do take time to play! Celebrate frequently the beauty that does exist despite the world's brutality. Do unite with others who share your views. Every individual who gets involved takes a single stone from the enslaving wall until one day the wall must inevitably crumble and fall! While many animals and many of us will not live to see that day, we are working to help build the foundation for the activists of tomorrow who'll continue our work. Our torch must not be allowed to fall to the ground, but passed from generation to generation without a stop until that glorious day of animal liberation arrives! Tomorrow's activists will remember the early animal soldiers with respect and affection.

Mary McDonald-Lewis, Dir. (Last Chance for Animals)

So keep at it animal rights fight and keep cool. We are not trying to achieve the impossible. We are trying to accelerate the inevitable. Steven Tiger, Physician Assistant-Certified (The Anti-Vivisection Society)

"Tips for Preventing Burnout", by Joan Zacharias


Set your own pace........When someone is pushing you, it's OK to tell them they're pushing.

Take nothing for granted........Watch water flow, the corn grow, the leaves blow, your neighbors mow.

Allow yourself time to be lazy and unproductive.......Rest isn't a luxury, it's a necessity.

Listen to the wind blow........It carries a message of yesterday and tomorrow........And now.........Now counts.

Rest on your laurels........They bring comfort whatever their size, age or condition.

Talk slower. Talk less. Don't talk. Communication isn't measured by words.

Give yourself permission to be late sometimes........Life is for living, not scheduling.

Listen to the song of a bird........The complete song.

Music and nature are gifts, but only if you are willing to receive them.

S! low down. God is still in heaven........

You are not responsible for doing it all...yourself... right now.

Remember a happy, peaceful time in your past........

Rest there. Each moment has a richness that takes a lifetime to savor.

When you walk with someone, don't think about what you'll say next........

Thoughts will spring up naturally if you let them.

Talk and play with children.......It will bring out the unhurried little person inside you.

Create a place in your home...At your your heart...

where you can go for quiet and recollection. You deserve it.

Take time to think........Action is good and necessary, but it's fruitful only if we muse, ponder and mull.

Make time for play........The things you like to do.

Whatever your age, your inner child needs re-creation.

Watch and listen to the night sky........It speaks.

Listen to the words you speak........Especially in prayer.

Learn to stand back and let others take their turn as leaders........

There will always be new opportunities for you to step out in front again.

Direct your life with purposeful choices, not with speed and efficiency........

The best musician is one who plays with expression and meaning, not the one who finishes first.

Take a day off alone........Make a retreat. You can learn from monks and hermits without becoming one.

Pet a furry friend........You will give and get the gift of now.

Work with your hands........It frees the mind.

Take time to wonder........Without wonder, life is merely an existence

Sit in the dark........It will treach you to see and hear, taste and smell.

Once in a while........Turn down the lights, the throttle, the invitations. Less really can be more.

Let go........Nothing is usually the hardest thing to do...but often it is the best.

Notice the sun and the moon as they rise and set........They are remarkable for their steady pattern of movement, not their speed.

And as you ramble on thru life my dearest friend........Keep your eye upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole.



When your mind is troubled

and you don't know what to do,

Remember, the sun will rise tomorrow

love will bring you through.

When your heart is heavy

and you see the darkest hues,

Envision the beautiful rainbow

your eyes have often viewed.

When your spirit is broken

but you're forced to start anew,

Believe in new beginnings

for someone believed in you.

Life is never easy

with all its twists and turns,

But hardship has a value

if you allow yourself to learn.

It's not the destination

that makes the spirit soar,

It's the challenge of the journey

that enriches to the core.

Put the goal in sight

Though the marathon runner may be completely exhausted from the effort, when the finish line is in view her pace will quicken.

When the goal is in sight, things change dramatically. Those who can clearly visualize the goal from the farthest away are the ones who will surely reach that goal. When the goal is clearly in sight, you are drawn to it by a force that is nearly unstoppable. You cannot help but make whatever effort is necessary to reach it.

When the goal is in sight, so is the path which will get you there. The more precisely you can visualize your ultimate goal, the more clearly you will understand how to achieve it. What are you working to accomplish? Precisely, exactly, specifically, what is it? What color is it? How does it feel when you touch it? What does it smell like? How does it sound? Make it real in your mind. See all the rich details. Clearly visualize where you're going and you will find a way to get there.