I have heard many people say they love their animals more than they do most people.
I feel that is a problem, because I don’t think we’re going to find solutions to our animal welfare problems until we begin to care more about people.
A recent blog post circulating the animal loving blogosphere was an open letter to a person who “dumped” a 12-year-old dog at an animal shelter. Perhaps you read it. The writer was blaming the dog’s former owner, Jean, for not trying hard enough, for not being a good dog owner like the writer is. See? Why can’t you be like me?
What I saw was a frustrated animal welfare worker who is doing what most of us do when we’re in pain- we lash out. But in that moment of frustration, the writer also made judgments about a person s/he doesn’t know anything about.
And because we lack clear focus and strong leadership in our movement, we have no one to tell us how to handle the pain, and how to channel it into good.
So today, let me tell you that if you work in animal welfare and you hurt, that’s a good thing. It means you are alive and that you have a conscience.
How do you deal with it? First thing you have to do is own it. Your pain is not caused by the Jeans of the world. Your pain is your own. In my case, when I look at my pain I see a little girl who felt powerless and that as an adult is now trying to save the world because back then she couldn’t save herself.
Only when you own your pain can you look upon others with compassion instead of disdain. Maybe Jean did have other options, but she wasn’t aware of them. We don’t really know.
Let us change the way we look at folks like Jean. She could not keep her dog because of her situation. But she didn’t give him up to the first person who answered a “free to a good home” ad on Craigslist. She didn’t drive down a deserted road in the middle of the night and dump him. She didn’t just move and leave him behind. I don’t know about where you live, but I’ve tried placing animals with local no-kill shelters. Those volunteers were also frustrated, and they looked down on me the way our writer did Jean without even knowing the animal’s story.
So from what I see, Jean acted responsibly toward her beloved dog of 12 years.
Instead of lashing out at Jean for doing what may have been the best she could, how about we focus our anger on a society that does not honor our relationships with pets, and that forces people to make such difficult decisions in order to take care of themselves.
In that state of mind we can find ways to help both animals and people.