Stop. Just Stop.

We all could show a little more kindness, I think.

Last week you all proved my point about the generosity inherent in the pet-blogging world, by leaving some of the nicest comments ever on an awkward post I’d written. It’s true. So far, everyone I’ve met in this online community has been wonderfully supportive. Even people I was completely intimidated by. Pet bloggers are an amazing group.

Offline, however, is a different matter.

I’m guilty of it, too. I’m no saint. The judgments, the snark, the sidelong glances, and the muttered admonishments we all make in regards to others. It all needs to stop. Now. Because it’s not helpful to anyone.

A long time ago in a land far, far away, Shiva had some serious human-reactivity issues. (Okay, she still does but it’s much easier to prevent now, thank you.) It took me a long time, though, to learn how to fix the problem because instead of understanding, all I received from other dog owners was shock and horror.

One day, as I was heading home from a walk, we came upon a situation. Those with reactive dogs will know what I mean by that. In front of me was a herd of children and a loose border collie puppy. They were all over the street chasing after their dog and there was no way I was going to keep a steady distance from them if I kept moving forward. The smart thing to do would have been to turn around. But I was stressed from barely restraining Shiva for an hour and I just wanted to go home. Thus, I stopped and decided to wait until the children and their puppy moved away.

Major mistake. As soon as I got Shiva into a sit, which wasn’t easy with all the excitement, the woman who lived in the nearest house got out of her car and headed toward us. Smashing. Before she could reach out her hand to pet Shiva, I told her that we’d just adopted her from the SPCA and she was frightened of strangers. I explained to her how high-energy she was and how she might bark.

The woman did not listen to my warnings and moved closer to pet Shiva on the top of her head.

Shiva barked. Loudly. Very loudly. Since I had little experience at that point, I didn’t really know how to distract my dog other than to shove a treat in her mouth. Meanwhile, the woman looked at me like my dog was a monster.

“Are you sure you can handle her?” She asked. “I’ve had dogs all my life and I’ve never seen one like that. Sheesh.”

Sheesh.

After that, I went home to bawl my eyes out for the next three days.

If that woman had shown kindness, instead of judgment, if she had recommended I call a trainer, instead of acted like I had the chupacapra at the end of the leash, then I bet my night would have ended a lot differently. I bet the next few months would have gone a lot differently. But she didn’t because it was easier to shake her finger and scowl.

The thing is, when we see other people and their dogs, we don’t know them. We don’t know what their experience is or what they have been through. It’s easy to forget that there was a time we didn’t know anything either. Raising an eyebrow and calling someone an idiot is not helpful. Nor is offering unsolicited advice the person has probably heard a hundred times before. At best, it’s rude and obnoxious. At worst, it’s hurtful.

I’ve recently made a pact with myself. I’m going to try very hard not to make blanket judgments any more. Rather than inwardly calling someone an idiot, I’m going to assume they are acting in good faith. It seems human nature’s way to assume a negative instead of a positive. So I’m going to work very hard to do the latter.

For the most part, I truly believe people have good intentions. They may be a little misguided but I think they are doing their best with what resources they have. Can we not all just start working from there?

And, frankly, most of the time it’s none of our business anyway. Unless an animal is being abused – and there is a difference – it’s probably best just to keep our mouths shut and our hands to ourselves.

31 thoughts on “Stop. Just Stop.

  1. I agree with you 100% and have been in similar situations when I walk my 75-lb lab/great dane mix. I’m super proud of you for having the motivation to do something about it, though! I, on the otherhand, have not taken the poor pooch to training when he’d probably really love it. If only because I have had bad past experiences and can’t find a trainer/training class I like. 😦 No excuses though! I should make a resolution to sign up for training by the end of the year! Whoa! I just did that!

    I will jump on your train of not making blanket judgments because I think we could all benefit from it, including the non-judger.

    One of my favorite quotes from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, by Kurt Vonnegut:
    “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'”

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    • Love this quote.

      People just need to learn to be more kind. I think the world would be much more bearable.

      On the flip side, I think that’s why we hold nice people so close, because they are few and far between.

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      • That’s an interesting thought but a sad one. I think most people are nice inside, they just don’t always let that part of them out for whatever reason. I think thinking a little, just hesitating a second, before blurting out the first thing that comes into our heads, would go a long way.

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I wasn’t sure how this post would be received.

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    • I love this quote as well, thank you for sharing it! I can never find the whole thing, so now I’m glad I have it here to reference later.

      It is tough finding a trainer you can work with. Luckily I hit the jackpot on my first try. Which I’m starting to realise is rare, so that sucks. There are lots of great online resources but it’s not the same thing as one-on-one. Our group class was great but it wasn’t until a trainer came to our house that things really changed for the better. Best desicion of my life. Good luck with your search!

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  2. Wonderful post that speaks directly to me. I was recently advised that I come across as harsh and unfriendly, which shocked me to no end. Therefore, I, too, have made a vow to be kind and thankful to those I meet, to intentionally reach out to help others, most particularly at my work. I love the idea of incorporating non-judgment into our lives. No one knows the burdens another bears. Hear, hear, for random (and not so random) acts of kindness.

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    • Harsh and unfriendly? I just don’t see it. You seem like one of the nicest people in the world, to me.

      But that’s the thing, I guess. You’ve made me think. We don’t always take the time to think about how others will perceive our words. Life is busy with a lot of stressful things going on. We don’t always watch our tone of voice and others may perceive intentions as more negative than we meant.

      Just thinking aloud… I do that too much.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  3. Thanks so much for stopping by and sending good marathon wishes! It’s also nice to meet another human with a “special” rescue dog! Good for you for making the no judgment pact. It can be so hard for me not to hand out mean glances and head shakes to folks who don’t know how to be around my fearful dog. It’s a tough balance to protect our dogs and not appear rude to others. It is true that blanket judgments don’t get us too far tough.

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    • It is a tough balance. I don’t think we should always be worried about being rude, not when it comes to protecting our dogs. If you have to be curt when telling someone to back off then so be it!

      But that person should be keeping their hands to themselves in the first place. Unless they know you and your dog, why do they feel the need to approach?

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  4. People do seem to speak before they think these days.

    There is a lady in the village who keeps telling me Song’s nails arfe too long. Well Greyhounds have longer nails as their quicks are longer. This same lady says I should let Song off to have a good run. I was told to definitely not let her off by the Greyhound Rescue kennel. If she had a Greyhound it would be bad enough, but she doesn’t.

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    • That’s exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about! What do Song’s nails have to do with her? Honestly, it’s none of her business how you train or groom your dog. None.

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  5. Before I adopted Lucas, I’d be out with Emmett, and I’d see people struggling with a dog who was reacting at something. I’d think, “Wow. Those people must not know what they’re doing.” Then I got Lucas. I quickly realized that those owners were probably doing their very best, and probably going home to cry after a particularly bad walk… just like I was! Now, four+ years later, I can spot a “situation” a mile away, and I take the steps to avoid it. But the unexpected still occurs. Like two weeks ago. We were walking down a wooded path, John with Emmett in the front, me with Lucas in the back. Around the corner comes this dog who starts lunging at Emmett – not aggressively, but Lucas went into his snarling, lunging, snapping mode. The guy didn’t say anything, just kept going. For that small kindness, I was really grateful!

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    • That is definitely a kindness. Yay for all the understanding people out there!

      It’s impossible to avoid every situation – there are just too many people in the world. It’s how you deal with it that counts.

      It’s so crazy that I used to feel so alone, like the worst dog owner in the world. I wish I’d starting blogging a long time ago.

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  6. It is just ignorance Kristine. Kenzo and Viva are big dogs and that also seems to set people off in a frenzy, even if they have not done anything, people like better to be able to use “I told you so”, then to see Kenzo and Viva them for what they really are. There are a lot of prejudices against big dogs.
    They are not worth of my, and yours, attention. Forget it, block it and keep doing the best for your dogs as your are doing today. No time to waste on losers. We have to pick up their dogs from the shelter anyway … the lady probably forgot about that.

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    • There are indeed. I’ve noticed that a lot myself and ranted about it before on here. 😛 The same woman that flipped out at me owns two small dogs that go into a barking frenzy every time we walk by. I’m not judging her for that but I think it’s rather hypocritical of her to judge me for my barking dog.

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I value your opinion greatly. I’m learning not to care so much about what other people think but it’s a lot of mental training to undo.

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  7. Boy, do I completely agree with you. I’ve always had ‘special’ dogs and try to make everyone I come in contact with understand that before they make contact. You would expect other pet owners to be sympathetic, but instead you find many that are so judgemental. I don’t know how many times people scolded me for taking such poor care of my skinny Italian Greyhound (don’t you FEED HER??) and I would go home crying. My girl had a liver condition that caused her frail look and I loved her and cared for her with all my heart. To think someone thought I would cause her pain on purpose was heart-breaking.

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    • I have encountered the same questions! Shiva is pretty skinny as well. You can see her ribs poking out. But she eats a ton. In fact, she doesn’t really stop eating. It’s just how she is – an active dog with a high metabolism. I don’t need people in my face looking at me like I’m starving my dog.

      I’m so sorry you have to go through that. It’s one of the worst feelings in the world. We love our pets as family members and it’s a shame others feel the need to trod all over that.

      For what it’s worth, you’re not alone.

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  8. i am so glad to read this post because it is exactly what i go through with georgia [also a rescue and somewhat temperamental though improving by leaps and bounds]. years ago, we went through the same thing with rufus, our other now too-old-to-be-iffy dog.

    we live in a small suburb and it is IMPOSSIBLE not to run into other dogs of all types on the street and parks. many of them are tiny and fearful and often with owners who don’t seem to notice or care that their little ones are barking and lunging at 2 really big dogs. i am always on the alert when walking which can be tiring, and not just physically!

    last week, i had the misfortune to meet a judgemental woman as georgia was having a fight with her doggie FRIEND. like you, i went home, seething, bawling and duly blogged about it. i have never blogged before but am finding it incredibly cathartic when dealing with doggie issues that might otherwise make me weep with frustration.

    as awful as it sounds, it’s great to know that there are so many dog owners out there who have the same problems! :p

    georgia’s human 🙂

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    • You are definitely not alone. I think that’s one of the best things about this community. All the support out there is just so heart-warming. All of a sudden you don’t feel so isolated from the world because your dog has “issues.”

      Thanks so much for your comments!

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  9. I know what you mean. Sometimes I just have to make a conscious effort to be positive, despite the negativity others send my way. Like you said, it’s not helpful to anyone and just makes me miserable if I let it get to me. I have no tolerance for rude or inconsiderate people. Life’s too short for that, so I try to let it roll off my back. Hang in there!

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  10. Hear, hear. I always try to keep in mind that I don’t know what kind of day that person has had, but sometimes it’s impossible to keep strangers from hurting us, which is crazy when they have no business doing so because we’ll never see them again. And yet we all go through that! I’ve had things said to me before and feel the same way – you don’t know my dog, sir/lady! But yes, people definitely need to learn to keep their hands to themselves. 🙂

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    • I know. My husband tells me that all the time, how ridiculous I’m being to let other people’s words bother me so much. But we all want to belong and feel liked. It’s only natural.

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  11. It’s a good thing to remember, but sometimes my anger gets the best of me. I don’t like our dogs to play on leash because then they get all excited, and pull, and it ruins their training; it’s just frustrating when people won’t listen to me. Especially on repeat occasions. We have some neighbors who think it’s cool to let their dogs run off leash down the block; which I think is absolutely crazy because we are in the middle of the city and flanked by 2 very busy streets. I’m constantly yelling at these people not to let their dog charge our dogs; I try and explain it’s a dangerous situation for an offleash dog to run at an onleash dog. They still don’t listen. But on the positive side, I think it says something positive about the image of pitbulls, that they’re not afraid to have their dog play with 2 pitbulls being walked by a tiny girl.

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    • Yikes. I hear you. That is incredibly dangerous! I truly hope those dogs don’t get hit by a passing car.

      One of my trainers told me once that unless the dogs know each other there is never a reason for two on-leash dogs to meet. It just leads to trouble.

      Good on you for looking on the positive side! That’s the kind of thing I’m trying to do more.

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  12. The best part about learning about positive reinforcement training (and having reactive dogs and or fosters) was the fact that there are always two sides (or more) of the picture.
    As with everything in life, I now think of it as, there’s the feel good stuff you should always stop to enjoy and take in the moment, and then the flipside where there’s one more thing to add to your how to make lemonade out of lemons list.
    I always find comfort with the kiboshed moments, in the fact that once I go back to the drawing board and come up with something that helps either myself or my dogs think or react differently to a challenging situation, I remember that this is one more thing I get to share with others who may need a fresh idea to try. Not that I’m ever looking for one more thing to add to our list…but thinking about the big picture, and just with your post, reminding people about what it means to be compassionate, is something that the world can use to hear more of.

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    • So very true. Thanks for weighing in with your thoughts. I really admire your attitude. Everything can be a “teaching moment”, it’s all in altering one’s perspective.

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  13. this was such an amazing post… I think we are all guilty to some extent. I know many times, I have judged someone, and then I learned some about their situation, or something that they were dealing with, and I have felt so horrible for judging….

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  15. Ugh, I hate when people are so judgmental! I’ve learned recently that it is my responsibility to say FORCEFULLY, “Please don’t try to pet my dog.” Once, a somewhat drunken guy kept trying to pet her, and she kept trying to get away, and finally I told him that she WOULD bite him (though she hadn’t bitten anyone yet at that point…hah, “yet”) so that he would leave her alone. Up utnil then, I had been saying, “Please don’t pet her. Please don’t bet her.” Sometimes I find I have to resort to more threatening remarks, because people seem to think that all dogs are cuddly. Stupid people.

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