Compassion: A Curse and a Blessing

I believe I have an overactive compassion gene. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that’s a particularly bad trait, depending on how you look at it. For one thing, it means I’m not a psychopath since they tend not to have an ounce of compassion, let alone a conscience. So yay for me!

The reason I even brought this up is because I’m in animal rescue, specifically cats. Not that I don’t rescue other creatures. I’m what you would call an equal opportunity savior. Wait. That sounds pompous. Let me rephrase that. How about equal opportunity rescuer? Yeah, that’s better.

Now you’re going to think I’m a bit looney. And you wouldn’t be far off, especially when I tell you what I did the other day…So I’m having lunch at home when I reach for my glass of water and notice a fly inside, swimming frantically in circles. I’m not entirely certain flies swim but whatever it was doing, it looked frantic.

Anyway, I admit I felt sorry for it, watching it struggle like that. So I scooped it out of the glass, walked into the backyard and placed the soaked fly on the patio table to rest before flying off to wherever flies go when they’ve just had a near-death experience.

That’s not all; I save spiders too. They aren’t the prettiest things to look at and I don’t particularly welcome them crawling on me when I’m asleep, but who am I to dislike something because of its looks? I’m no prize myself. Besides, they must be more afraid of us than we of them. Why else do they bolt when we approach?

Even less appealing up close

Then there are the lizards my cats play with in the backyard. Poor little reptiles pretend to be dead but my cats aren’t total idiots. They know when they’re faking. Whenever I catch them staring at the same spot for more than a few seconds, I take action.

I grab my reptile Tupperware and run into the backyard yelling, “Leave the lizard alone!” But do they listen? Nope. So I shoo them away while talking sweetly to the terrified pretending-to-be-dead lizard. I scoop it into the container and once again cross the street to the place I call rodent knoll for the abundance of crawly things my cats torment but, thankfully, don’t kill. Could my felines simply be pacifists who happen to also be bullies?

I’m guessing my compassion for animals and other critters comes from my dad. When I was a kid, our neighbor had a Collie they always kept in the backyard. Pretty much ignored the poor guy. So my dad used to sneak him treats over the fence and talk to him while the dog paced back and forth. I didn’t realize at the time I was witnessing compassion in action. But I suppose I’m a hypocrite because I do kill fleas, ticks and ants. What can I say? My compassion only goes so far.

I have to admit, working in cat rescue is often emotionally trying. In fact, I blame my gray hair on the stress. Not being able to help everyone who calls is heartbreaking.

I realize we can’t save them all but I want to. I really do. And caring so much is exhausting. Life would be simpler if I didn’t give a damn. But I can’t change where my heart leads me. And for some reason it usually takes me to hungry, unaltered feral cats living next to a freeway, or to a mom cat keeping her kittens safe from predators by hiding them in a drainage pipe, or to a domestic cat left behind when his guardians moved.

Abandoned cats we helped re-home from this parking lot

So all things considered, I suppose having compassion is both a curse and a blessing.

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