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tinyfaery's avatar

How do I know when to say, "it's not my responsibility"?

Asked by tinyfaery (42587points) September 17th, 2008

I have saved 7 kittens this year. I found homes for all of them, took them to the vet, gave them medicine, etc. Today my wife found a baby squirrel at the school where she works. I picked it up from her school. I called around town for about an hour until I found someone to help me. I then drove 30 minutes to this wonderful woman’s house, and I gave her $100 dollars as a donation to her cause. And I was late to work because of it.

This is not self-aggrandizement. This is a serious question.

Why is it that whenever I see an animal in need, I feel like it’s my responsibility to help that animal? I feel as though the universe put the animal in my path for a reason, and thus I must do something about it. If I walk away, I feel sooo guilty. It’s like this is my own personal sin. If I added it all together, I’ve probably spent close to $1000 dollars this year providing for animals that are not my own. The money isn’t really the issue. (Even though my wife and I live on a new teacher’s salary, and my meager pittance.) My in-laws (for instance) look at my wife and I like we are insane.

I guess I’m just feeling overwhelmed by all of this at the moment. Help!

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25 Answers

Harp's avatar

You’re my hero. Being a hero’s never easy

scamp's avatar

Look at it this way. You are storing up some really good karma. Your good deeds will all come back to you in time.

trudacia's avatar

I get the same guilt. As a matter of fact, I was almost eaten by a vicious stray dog when I tried to get it in my car… I can’t walk away from a stray.

I’m afraid you may never have the ability to say “it’s not my responsibility”.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Thinking about it, I realize I do feel it’s my responsibility. Human, animal, whatever.. if I can help, I should do what’s in my means. But spending a grand in a year isn’t something I could come close to doing, financially.. so maybe that’s why these animals are put in your path? I mean, I know it’s not easy and not fun to pay it out, but you’re able to do it. (I hope that sounds better than how I think it came out)

Ditto on what Harp said. My hero, too. :)

Bri_L's avatar

Buddy, you, quite simply rule. I admire what you do. I don’t know how you do it. You have that switch. The one that very few people have that flips over into decency when the moment calls. And not just the lower level. Your the 3rd level of the 3 way bulb.

Is this typical of the frequency you have burdened yourself with in the past? Is it possible that it will die down?

If not, and you need a break but can’t pull out of it, my advice is to talk to your wife again, tell her you feel so responsible and maybe she can help you hold back a bit. See if she can sort of “talk you down”.

And again, let me say how much I admire your efforts.

Nimis's avatar

I don’t think it’s your responsibility.
But I am glad that you do.

I never feel like its my responsibility.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t do it.
It just means I’m hung up about semantics.

marinelife's avatar

Having picked up a baby bird (it was on the ground in a dog park)and taken it to rescue and made a donation, plus had the last five cats I had rescues of one sort or another, plus have a rescue dog, and pick up every loose dog on the street we see, I hear you.

I try to say that I cannot save them all to limit the numbers as much as possible.

tinyfaery's avatar

For some reason this year has been exceptionally busy. Almost every year I find myself in some sort of animal rescue situation, but this year has been a furry landslide. Thanks for your well wishes. I just wish there was some way I could just shut my conscience up. Any suggestions?

Harp's avatar


trudacia's avatar

Nope. No suggestions. You’re doing good work. Think of it as a donation to charity and I’m sure it will come back to you someday, one way or another.

nikipedia's avatar

Maybe the Universe is telling you to quit your job and start some kind of rescue organization? I don’t know exactly what you do for a living—but don’t you kind of do this for human beings, too?

Oh, and I am also completely impressed—and thrilled that the world has people like you in it. I hope you get back every bit of the goodness and kindness that you put out there.

trudacia's avatar

Tiny, maybe you could write it off on your taxes? Every little bit helps.

drhat77's avatar

not to rain on anyone’s parade (good job, tiny), but tiny has pointed out a suspicion that something may be wrong with his behavior. it sounds like the burden someone with OCD faces when they need to come home to make sure their doors and windows are locked – they do not feel joy from this, just misery. Tiny, you shouldn’t do something because you feel like you HAVE to do it. Although you feel “responsible”, this mindset actually removes responsibility from you. You should do something because you WANT to do it. If you keep giving like you do because you feel you HAVE to, you will burn out eventually, and you will be unable to care for yourslf and your family.

I’m not saying so you should leave kittens to their own devices. If you WANT to help them, do, but say to yourself “I am doing this because I want to. I know it will make me late for work, but to me, this kitten is more important than my boss.” This will mentally put YOU in control of the decisions in your life, and then they won’t feel like burdens.

But if you are doing it because, oh, just shot in the dark, you need to prove to yourself that you a human being who is worthy of love because “look at all the good I do” then every good thing you do will feel like a burden. (BTW I just picked something at random, I don’t mean to insinuate anything)

tWrex's avatar

I think it’s awesome that you do what you do. I wish I could do it too. I do agree with the Doctor, though. If you do have some type of OCD you should check that out. But that you can afford to and do take the time out of your day to care for these animals is absolutely amazing. Brilliant. Absolutely.

drhat77's avatar

yikes, i was making a comparsion – helping animals is NOT OCD

tinyfaery's avatar

@drhat Good point. I do WANT to, but also feel I HAVE to. The idea that I could have done something and didn’t is sometimes overwhelming. For instance, if I had done nothing about the squirrel I would have been asking Fluther if I was a horrible person and if I had just condemned a living thing to certain death. I don’t have OCD, and I don’t collect the animals. When I see an animal in need I just have to do something to ease my conscience.

@niki I’ve thought the same thing myself. I have even considered going back to school to become a vet. But I’m in my mid-30s, and I feel to old to completely start over. The only things that brings me more joy than my wife are animals.

marinelife's avatar

@DocHat Pssst, Tiny is a she.

tWrex's avatar

I didn’t mean that you were saying that helping animals was OCD. I was seconding your point that an activity like that can be OCD. For instance, my wife has to have all her arm hairs facing the same way. (When she makes me mad I mess them up.)

trudacia's avatar

@tiny, Im not a doctor but it sounds to me like you’re simply a serious animal lover. I am the same. So much that I gave up eating meat (that I freakin LOVE)!! I have so much compassion for animals because they are helpless and rely on us to treat them fairly and with kindness. It is our fault that so many are homeless and in desperate need for care. We are making up for all the people who don’t care.

drhat77's avatar

marina, you know i thought Tiny was female for a while, and then i thought i saw some posts where male references were made. i’m sorry, tiny

tinyfaery's avatar

Good point Trudacia. Though I do not believe in any god or any religion, I believe we are the stewards of the earth and every living thing on it. If the earth and the animals suffer, we all suffer.

marinelife's avatar

@tf So true. I have a theory that reincarnationists have it backwards. We start out as humans and when we finally evolve enough we get to become animals. We move backwards through the chain of life until we are smaller and smaller particles living more and more interconnectedly and in the present. I can’t wait to be a dragonfly!

tinyfaery's avatar

@marina That makes so much sense. Humans are so disconnected from every living thing, it makes sense that we would be the low rung on the totem pole. Maybe when I get to be a cat, someone will spoil and love me as much as I do my cats.

syz's avatar

You feel obligated because you are a good person.

The way to protect yourself is to have a protocol in place. Collect a list of wildlife rescue organizations, wildlife rehabilitators, pet rescue organizations, and shelter numbers in advance. Set a realist limit for money spent on individual cases and money spent per year – budget yourself. And set guidelines for yourself so that you don’t have to make decisions in the heat of the moment (do you get involved with owned pets? do you get involved if surgery is required? ) You can’t foresee every situation, but you can delineate broad categories for yourself.

Of course, the only way that this will work is if you stick to your own rules. But you have to realize that you can’t save everything. The unhealthy extreme of caring is exemplified by “hoarders”, those people that cannot pass on anything. The animals in their care wind up worse off than when they started.

You must find a balance for yourself.

tinyfaery's avatar

Thank you syz. That’s a great idea! I can set up my own little foundation that only has so much money to give. I’m bad with rules though.

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