I just read this perfect little post on Chookooloonks and I couldn’t help but be inspired. Karen Walrond has exactly the kind of spirit I most envy. Her website is the place I instantly turn when I need a moment of peace. This afternoon, she did not disappoint. Instead of just reading and then going on with my day, which is what I usually do, I decided to take her words to heart and have performed some of the small kindnesses she suggested already.
As I was doing so, it got me thinking about dogs. What doesn’t? I contemplated all the easy things we dog people can do for each other to make life a little more pleasant and a little less stressful. If only for a moment. Below is a list of what I came up with. Please feel free to add your own in the comments.
1. Re-leash – When walking off-leash on a trail, it’s always polite to re-leash your dog when you see another dog coming, especially if that dog is on a leash. I can’t think of one instance where this act hasn’t made me grateful and I try to practice it as much as possible.
2. Ask Before Approaching – We all love dogs and we all love to touch them even more. Even if a dog is dancing around in excitement to get to your waiting hands, the owner may be less than thrilled. A brief “is it okay if I say hello?” will often go a long way to a more positive interaction. Even if the person says no, they will probably be happy you asked. This goes double if you have a dog by your side.
3. Encourage – If you see someone struggling, either in a class or in the park or out on the street, offer words of praise or support. I’ll never forget the day a police officer pulled over to tell me how impressed she was with my training skills, especially since at the same time Shiva was barking and lunging at the car. It gave me the confidence to keep trying.
4. Compliment – Everyone likes to hear their furry family member is cute, even if that same dog is currently snarling at the end of the leash. I spent the first six months thinking my dog was a monster. If someone actually seemed to like her, it blew my mind.
5. Walk away – Sometimes the kindest thing to do is to leave a dog entirely alone. I can’t tell you how many times I praised every deity in the pantheon when the person approaching us on the sidewalk turned a corner. If I could have bought each one of those people a beer, I would have.
6. Share* – It’s a little silly but I get annoyed at the dog park when someone brings a whole bag of treats and doesn’t seem interested in doling them out. I have a dog who doesn’t give up easily. If she smells doggy biscuits, she won’t leave a person alone until she gets one. Perhaps it’s a bit rude (okay, it’s very rude) but I am always touched when someone not only gives her a treat but makes sure she sits first before doing so. The same goes for toys.
7. Water – Dogs are always in need of it, especially after a run around the agility course or the ball field. There is always someone who has forgotten to bring a bowl in the pre-outing rush. Why not offer to share yours?
8. Withhold judgment and unsolicited advice – This is another area in which I think not doing something is kinder than doing something. If you see someone having difficulty with a particular behavioural issue, sympathy is always more appreciated than book or collar recommendations.
9. Scoop – I don’t think this one needs further elaboration.
10. Laugh - When a dog is misbehaving, no doubt the human feels utterly mortified. Haven’t we all been there? Laughter assures them it really is no big deal that Brutus just puked all over your $300 pair of one-of-a-kind handmade shoes.
*Of course, if you are going to do this, it’s probably good to check in with the human first, in case of allergies.