When I started Every Feather and I thought about costs it was always money. How will we afford the food bills? Where do we find a reasonably priced vet? How much will it be for medications? Operations? Accommodations?
It felt like an endless list of financial implications so I didn’t once consider the other costs that come hand in hand with rescuing. The emotional and physical costs. The lost friendships and critics you didn’t even realise you had. You can forget going on holiday – and taking a day out is like organising a military operation. If you have any babies they tend to have to come along with you for regular feeds, which means plugging the incubator into your car to keep them warm and sacrificing the sat nav.
The physical costs have been sometimes extreme – but worth it. It’s hard to take a sick day when there are cages to clean, medications to give and feeding to do. Since opening the rescue I’ve had ruptured discs, borderline sepsis and a broken foot. I’d take those costs every time because the rescue has always been worth so much more.
The emotional costs have been varied and desperately painful. Every death feels like a failure. You try so hard to save every live that comes into your hands and yet sometimes you lose them and it never gets easier. Sure – you start to recognise the ones that are most likely not to make it but finding out you were right still feels like a kick in the stomach.
You bond with permanent residents and when they inevitably pass away it’s like losing a loved on. My first taste of that was Skywalker, my beautiful unreleasable magpie. He came everywhere with me for the first few months of his life. My sister made him little cardboard shoes so he could walk instead of shuffle. He shouted my dog’s name “ARWEN” thinking it meant No. Have a bath Skywalker? ARWEN. He passed away when I was in hospital with suspected sepsis. I found him on the floor when I got home and the grief was soul-destroying.
Then there’s lost friendships. People come and go in rescue. Running a rescue from our home meant inviting new people into our lives in a more intimate way than running a large rescue. We had people who wanted to help coming for a cup of tea and a chat. We made friends we thought would last for a lifetime. Inevitably they disappeared – their interests changed, or they decided it was too hard being friends with someone who can be free one minute and off on a rescue the next.
There are the critics – and these come from absolutely nowhere and have a huge impact on your life. Last year when I was in the middle of cleaning out the hospital room a lady turned up with a pigeon. I had pulled out all the cages to clean underneath and had a pile of rubbish in the middle of the floor ready to be bagged up and binned. It was just at the end of Baby Bird Season so there were corvids and gulls still in the cages and their carnivorous diet can be an assault on the senses. The lady walked in with her perfect hair and immaculate clothes, sniffed up at the pungent meat odour, looked at the rubbish swept up on the floor and immediately judged us. I remember reading a post on Facebook the next day where she had declared us “squalor”. She said she had spent the entire day looking for someone to report us to. These typed out and inconsidered comments have a huge impact on people who dedicate their life to rescue. Had she turned up an hour later she’d have been able to eat her dinner off the floor.
Every second of this journey has been a learning curve for me. I make mistakes – usually because I have a big mouth and an opinion on just about everything. I am always learning because that part of rescue is never done – you can never know enough.
The cost is great in rescue. The cost is soul-destroying sacrifice. Is it worth it? Yes. For me it is. Other people decide the cost is too great and I don’t judge them at all for that