“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” — Maya Angelou
When you are an innovator, entrepreneur and a leader, you have to find a way to be self-motivating. After all, YOU are the one with the vision, the idea and the fortitude to make things happen. Nobody else has taken the leap and therefore your idea has never been done. You will encounter defeat and you will encounter struggle. But how will you handle it? Every person in animal rescue is an entrepreneur even if they do not realize it. You had the idea to save animals and your talents and strengths fuel the movement.
Animal rescuers often encounter defeat
In the world of animal rescue, defeat is unfortunately commonplace. I have spoken with many people over the years that joined the animal rescue movement with great ideas as to how they were going to save animals. They had visions for the impact they could make and lofty goals for the numbers they would save. Sadly, many of them ended up leaving the profession after encountering defeats where they thought they would be met with open arms. Their naivety about the challenges of the profession were squashed by those with a hardened view of how things are when it comes to animal welfare.
Like many others before me in animal rescue, I had to experience defeat, take it in stride, and then push ahead only to experience it again. Many people may not know but in the first year that I launched Doobert, I don’t think I signed up 100 people or 5 organizations during the entire year. I tried and tried to explain to people and get them to sign-up but I encountered the classic chicken and egg problem. I needed volunteers to get organizations to sign-up and I needed organizations to post transports for volunteers to help with. It was heartbreaking to know how hard I worked to make this tool a reality, so when it was not widely accepted at first glance it felt like I had been defeated. I just wanted to climb to the top of the mountain and scream as loud as I could. I wanted to scream to be heard, recognized and listened to. Why wouldn’t people give me a chance? Why wouldn’t they see my vision?
Revisit your inspiration for rescuing animals
During the first couple of years I was running Doobert, more than once I had to dig down deep for the inspiration to keep going through the nights and weekends that I had time to work on the Doobert system. I had to constantly remind myself why I was doing this and who inspired me to take this on. Why was I spending all of my time and money building these tools if nobody else could see the value and vision I had?
Every person in animal rescue has their story about why they started rescuing animals. For some, the journey of how their rescue animal came to be their forever family member was enough to light the flame. For others, a friend or work colleague introduced them to animal welfare through volunteering as a rescue transporter or animal foster home. For me, it was a death of a family friend that inspired the animal rescue passion in me. It was the memory of someone I did not know all that well at the time, but who I still remember in my thoughts today in order to inspire me on those most difficult days.
Terri Tinsley was a family friend and passionate animal advocate in the movement for all animals. Sadly she was tragically killed in a car accident years 10 years before I started Doobert. Terri was on her way back from a rescue of 5 German Shepherd puppies and crashed head-on into semi-truck coming from the opposite direction. She was a selfless person who gave her life to helping animals. She was fearless when it came to helping animals, putting herself in harm’s way to save them on more than one occasion. Yet the memory of Terri and the vision she had for infusing technology to help bring the animal rescue community together became the inspiration and fuel for me to push ahead despite the defeatist attitudes I encountered.
Replenish your passion fuel
Reflecting on my inspiration helped me to keep pushing ahead, and to look for new ways to build out Doobert to help animal rescue. I took the defeats that I encountered and turned them into pivots in my approach learning as I went. I continued to refine my approach, to grow my knowledge about animal rescue, and to focus on those interested in collaboration and working together as opposed to the way “things have always been done.”
Whether you’re new to animal rescue, or a seasoned pro with many years under your belt, it’s important to remember your inspiration on those darkest days when you’re ready to throw in the towel. Reflect back on what the triggers were that prompted you to give up so much to help animals. Face those defeats and turn them into pivots in your approach. Remember the inspirational people that supported you along the way, refilling your passion canister with the fuel you needed to keep going. Then become the one that others will reflect on saying, “You inspired me.”