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.”
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.