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the 4 phases

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
I don't know if you saw this before or not. But I wanted to share it anyways.

The Four Phases
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 are energized. 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 us 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 sterilized or no animal should be
euthanized. 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 message. We continue to
euthanize, there seems no end to it. Even our friends - those we
still have left - don't understand us. We can't seem to reach

Animals are still abused and neglected, their plight seems unchanged
despite all our efforts. We've lost the boundless energy that
characterizes Phase One. 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 so we scarf 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 ecstacies of dedication in Phase One. 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 animal we euthanize is
yet another nail in our coffin of defeat. Somehow we're to blame for
all 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 One energy.


Our phase two 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
euthanize the owners, not the pets. Let's take everyone who abuses
an animal or even surrenders an animal and euthanize 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, euthanize 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 humanness. It's the only thing that penetrates our


Gradually, and over time, the depression of Phase Two and the anger
of Phase Three become replaced with a new determination and
understanding of what our mission really is. It is big picture
time. We realize 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 realize 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 recognize 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 we 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 recognize
them and allow them to wash over and past us. We recognize our
incredible potential to help animals. We are changing the world.

I've noticed that some people get frozen in Phase One (the zealots),
or Two (the zombies), or Three (the misanthropes). Some shift back
and forth between Two and Three and even between Four and Three or
Four and Two. Many leave animal work during Phase Two or Three,
never to return. Some seem to move rapidly to Phase Four, 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 phase one or depressed or angry. I know I've
been in all four phases in 25 years in animal protection. Can the
journey from Phase One to Four be speeded up? Can we avoid the pain,
discomfort and agony that goes with the journey? I wish I knew.
post #2 of 3
That is so incredable! I'm sure this can overlap other jobs..social work..public defenders..game wardens..mental health workers..homeless shelter workers and many more. I wish there was a way to bypass 2 and 3 and just settle into 4. Life is too short to waste it on such saddness and anger.
Thank you for sharing this!
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 
DragonLady, you are absolutely right.I think we can generalize this to other types of people who are trying to change somethings and help people or animals.

Although I am new at helping animals, I must say that I constantly switch back and forth between each phases. As you say, life is too short to waste on phases 2 and 3. But hey, we are just humans, not some types of androids who are programmed to always do perfect things; aren't we
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