Animal care for therapy, who is the better for it?
Many people who are psychologically confused and have been seeing
psychiatrists or social workers for a while, are advised
to become active in animal care, or themselves indicate
that they would enjoy this.
The object is that caring for animals will gradually
bring structure back into the lives of these people.
Step by step they will learn to bear responsibility again.
This may be the case, but in practice it costs more than it yields.
To give you an idea of what goes on in this voluntary,
extra assistance, we present a number of real life cases.
Of course, names have been changed.
A solution to this situation would be if these voluntary
animal caregivers were to receive a reasonable compensation
for this "therapy" of for example 30 Euro per hour.
This is a relatively high amount, but at least all three parties will gain something, because extra
staff can be employed, either to give attention to people or to care for the animals.
Caring for animals is usually the work of volunteers.
When these volunteers also have to support psychologically confused people, than three parties suffer:
the psychological patient who cannot concentrate
and needs a lot of attention, is supported by a non-professional;
the volunteers who in their own time have to look
out for the interests of animals as well as of their
confused fellow man;
the animals that should be cared for by people who
are psychologically strong, and independent enough
to care for them so that they can return to their
own lives in the wild as soon as possible. Psychologically
disturbed people are not well equipped for this.
Real life cases. John is 40 years old and a schizophrenic.
John hears voices. John wants to drive animals to other
shelters. But someone has to go with him, because on the
way John always receives commands to drive straight on
when he approaches a turnoff. But going with him doesn't
help either, the voices in his head are stronger than
my voice. John is now driving straight on so often that
it takes us the entire day to get animals to the shelter.
The animals have to stay in the car way too long, they
are ill. John also wants to pick up animals from caller's
homes. He then takes them to me for first aid. He absently
stares at me when I try to explain that small animals
go in small cages and large animals go in large cages.
That the cages or boxes need to be lined with newspapers
or hay and that the animals should be firmly fixed to
prevent further injury. John nods and nods but repeatedly
arrives at our door with dead animals, or without any
animals at all. John still puts small animals in large
cages with widely spaced bars and without newspapers.
The small animals have literally slipped or been slung
across the slippery cage floors and out between the bars.
Dead or gone.
Real life cases.
Nadine is a fashion addict. Made a mess
of her life and ended up in a psychiatric clinic. Once
outside, she wants to work with animals. On high heels
and in a short skirt she turns up for her shift in animal
care. Nadine first smokes a cigarette, and a second and
a third. Then Nadine wants to call her therapist and then
her partner because she thinks he has cheated on her.
She thinks she may be pregnant, she says, and cries. Then
she opens her patent leather bag and out come various
perfume bottles. The four otherwise well-groomed animal
keepers are constantly and literally followed around and
sprayed with perfume, endlessly. Nadine is hungry and
disappears to the kitchen. She ends with a final cigarette.
Talks about her problems and smokes. The animal emergency
phone rings and she doesn't notice. On her next shift
Nadine turns up right on time, and the entire ritual is
Urging, kind requests, brief problem discussions, nothing
moves Nadine. But Nadine loves to come to us.
Nico is 45 years old. Has permanent brain
damage caused by an accident. Does other light work for
a children's farm and the water management. Cleaning out
cages, changing hay and taking water samples from the
river for research. After a call, Nico goes out to pick
up wounded animals. Nico poses as a vet or an ecologist,
as an animal psychologist, a biologist and an anthropologist.
He examines animals at caller's homes and makes diagnoses.
During one of these he accidentally squeezes a turtledove
to death. He becomes conceited and knows no limits. We
have to constantly go with him or rectify his titles with
callers. He orders the other volunteers around and claims
he is the best.
Jack is 38. He takes medication for psychoses.
He frees an entire flock of geese in his van and transports
them. Busted wings, bleeding beaks, the van full of bird-do.
Jack leaves a duck and a parrot in a hot van with the
windows rolled up and goes for a cup of coffee somewhere.
Forgets about the animals in his car and forgets we are
waiting for him. Animals dead.
Jack frees a mother duck and her ducklings in a tiny fountain
in a city center without any greenery and in the middle
of busy traffic. He doesn't understand our anger and our
desperation. He gives us an absent look and asks what
else he can do for us?
Marja is a nymphomaniac. Daycare
psychiatry. worked in the sex industry. Obsessed with
her body. Obviously an animal lover. But she doesn't get
round to it. Works out all day to keep her body in shape.
While she takes care of the animals, which she does nicely,
she also works out. That doesn't work, the time schedule
doesn't allow it. But she cannot help it, something in
her mind tells her that she just has to work out. Constantly
washes her hands, every minute. Otherwise she gets contaminated,
she says. After her shift, we do the chores she hasn't
been able to finish. She always arrives on time. She carries
on affairs with everyone she meets and wants to sleep
with them even on her shift. She has had quite a few.
This causes tensions between the volunteers.
Theo is 32 and chronically unemployed. Psychiatric problems, he says, he can't work.
Goes into disability. The administrative office sends
him to us. Wants to do anything for the animals.
After a report about a wounded animal Theo is called to
go to the scene. Theo hasn't shaved. The animal is in
the middle of the road and has been hit by a car. Theo
thinks shaving is more important, because he cannot go
outside like this. Theo shaves. A second car has run over
the animal before Theo arrives. At the next call Theo
wants to finish watching his video first because it is
thrilling. A third time Theo places a dangerously wounded small animal openly on the exit to its final destination:
the shelter, and leaves it there. A cat finds the animal
in its box and kills it.