Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When compassion doesn't lead the way

Gosh is it ever raining!  After stacking wood in yesterday's heat, it offers a welcome excuse to pick something a little less strenuous from the to do list for today.
Rain or shine, we still go for our morning hike.  Admittedly, two years ago when Henry first came here he wanted to be a fair weather friend for any outdoor activity.  It took a little time, but he now understands that in this house, wet dogs can always look forward to being towel dried and that if it is really chilly there is always the bonus of a cozy fire.
Henry's old life is a mystery.  We know by his behavior that he had been a hobo for a while, but where he came from before that is anyone's guess.  He was more than just a pretty face .. in true pitty style he is such an approval junkie that even an amateur like myself has been able to help him become his best self.
Right now he's laying on his favourite window seat - my grandfathers old sea chest.  Henry loves watching the birds in the bushes out front ... even more so because he is comfy and dry.  Warm and safe.  Loved and cherished.
Think I'm being sentimental?  Not the slightest.   In my books, everything we do in life is connected.   One cannot cherry pick compassion ... its either there or its not.  Compassion is a core value that is not subject to perception.
Just as the body knows when we cheat on a diet, deep down our hearts and minds know when we give short measures of kindness.   As the Dalai Lama says, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion"
We cannot say we are being kind to our children and then take the family pet into be killed because we are going on vacation / moving / having a new baby/ etc.   Society expects us to be kind to children and there are both social and legal penalties to be paid when that line is crossed.    
Are we teaching children to be compassionate to animals this way?  No .. we are teaching them that they only need to be kind when there are consequences. 
Compassion without commitment is meaningless.   Just as children cannot pick their parents, pets cannot pick their humans.   Its such a lottery to be a pet ... and not all of them get to win.  
Why?  Doesn't everybody understand the need to be kind to animals?  You bet .. right up until it:
  • is inconvenient,
  • costs too much,
  • goes against what their parents always did,
  • clashes with what they are willing to do to please the new partner
  • or is just too darned inconvenient
As with so many other things in life ... education is the key to changing perceptions.  In the long term, getting humane education in the public school system will be part of the solution.  But right here, right now, how to effect meaningful change? 
This morning there were 88 dogs listed on Petfinder for our province.  Its important to remember that, outside of CAPS ... who proudly list all 140 cats in their care, those numbers only represent the tip of the iceberg.  Why?  For some groups, 80 percent of their adoptables are already 'spoken for' by waiting lists of preapproved adopters.  
To be perfectly honest, it would be sheer speculation on my part to try to tally up the actual number of pets who are in care at this moment.  Nor would that number include the countless other pets who are either on rescue waiting lists or meet a wide variety of Unhappy Tails when the infatuation is over.   I call it infatuation because love means never having to say you're sorry, eh?
The good news is that the message doesn't have to reach everybody.  This is a province with 350,000 households, of which at least half are estimated to pet owners.
Of those, many are already wonderful "Love our pets for life" homes.   By my best guestimates of the numbers I've seen coming through the homeless pet site, along with the understanding that these only represent the tip of the iceberg, if ten percent of the pet owning households could be inspired to make love last forever it would be a much better world for the animals.
What is the most effective way to send any message?  Legislation.  People are generally kind to children because of compassion.  But when that's not enough, the legal repercussions do act as a deterrent.  It doesn't stop everyone, but its definitely made the world a safer place for children.
Legislation clearly states what is and is not acceptable.  It is then, and only then, that the social values catch up.  Its the only meaningful way to effect any change.  Its the best education tool around for those already finished with school.
What time is it?  Its always time to understand that legislation is the only effective deterrent when compassion doesn't lead the way.

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