A friend of mine has written several blog posts about kindness. Here's a couple of them, but if you haven't checked out her blog for yourself, I highly recommend it.
Her words about kindness, along with her most recent post in which she talks about kindness to the self
have made me start thinking about that concept, and the role that it plays in all of our lives. In our human lives, and certainly in the lives of the animals under our care.
And here is my thought about kindness. We are all pre-disposed to expect it from others. Our animals are the same. We want to be treated kindly. We can really only react to others with kindness when we ourselves have been shown kindness, at least at some point in our lives. And we react with hurt, anger, or even rage when it is withheld from us, or when we are treated unkindly. We all have different threshholds, but I do know this much, even if the threshhold is different for each and every one of us, there is HELL to pay once it is crossed.
Because being treated unkindly isn't something that can easily be shrugged off. It can break someone, human or animal. How many broken people lash out and do serious emotional damage (or worse) to themselves and those around them because they were treated poorly for so long that they finally just gave up on others? How many animals do the same?
Every time I hear about a dog attack, or a vicious dog, or hear the rage-filled screech of a cat lashing out at her handlers, I wonder what that animal's story is. How badly did that dog have to be treated to be unable to bear the sight of a human being any longer? Dogs aren't so good at generalizing (as anyone who has only trained their hound to "sit" in one room will learn - the dog might not realize that she has to sit anywhere else but that room.) So how badly do they have to be treated before they ARE able to generalize that all humans are bad? How many individual people have to fail them, either by offering them abuse and neglect, or by looking the other way when others do? Dogs especially are very forgiving - I am always humbled when I read stories of so-called "vicious" fighting dogs gently wagging their tails and licking the hands of their human rescuers. Or dogs like Patrick the Dog, who was starved, neglected, and eventually disposed of down the trash chute by his former owner. If anyone has the right to be angry at the world, it's him. But by all reports, he is gentle and kind, and still expects good things from humans. These dogs are better than I would be in the same situation.
Many members of the pet blogosphere are dealing with the consequences of someone else's unkindness to an animal. They are the ones who come in and try to pick up the pieces when an animal simply has no hope left. I know that I read some of your blogs, in which you are rehabilitating an animal who has been abused, or neglected, or starved, and I am in awe. Some of your stories bring me to tears, they are so filled with hope, love, fear that it will never be enough, and above all, kindness. You know who you are. May your kindness overshadow these animals' pasts, and drown out all of the unkind treatment that they have received.
And here is my second, sentimental wish (blame the holiday season, I guess.) My wish for all of us is that we learn to treat those in our lives, both human and animal, with utmost kindness. But most of all, that we learn to treat ourselves with that same kindness.