Comfort for Critters

~ Celebrating 12 Years & 88,000+ Blankets ~

Compassion Fatigue

I’ve always regarded animal shelter workers as some of the best people around. It’s one of the many reasons I’m so thrilled to send blankets out to shelters. These individuals love seeing our creations and then “matching” them to the best pet. They truly care for the cats and dogs as if they were their own. For most of these people it really is a “calling,” more than just a job or volunteer opportunity. Unfortunately, the downside of this level of caring, can be emotional exhaustion or compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue is caused by the stress of caring for people, or pets, who have been traumatized or are suffering and in need. It’s also known as STSD, or secondary-traumatic stress disorder, which is similar to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

I was saddened to learn that animal rescue workers have a suicide rate, on par with firefighters and police officers, at 5.3 per 1 million workers. This is one of the highest rates among American workers, according the Journal of Preventative Medicine.

Caring for creatures that are constantly in need, can take its toll. This is especially true for the many shelter volunteers who often have other jobs they must also manage. Workers may be inclined to focus on the one they couldn’t save, despite the dozens that were adopted into families during the month.

Most shelters do encourage their employees and volunteers to practice stress management and self-care. They remind their staff that saving even one life is important, and to accept that they may not be able to save them all. Maintaining such a high level of sympathy and empathy for the pets, while maintaining a healthy, positive attitude, can be a challenge. I think one of the best ways to meet this challenge is by experiencing gratitude.

It’s in this area, that I think Comfort for Critters can help. Beginning with July blanket shipments I plan to put the following card into each box, to express our gratitude and thank the shelter staff for all they do. A couple 

of wonderful CFC volunteers have made these beautiful angels, which will be attached to each card. It's a small gesture, but if CFC has taught me anything, it’s that small gestures can have the biggest impact. If you plan to send blankets directly to a shelter, consider adding a simple card or note as well. Your expression of gratitude just might “make their day!”


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