Put Yourself in Their Shoes

(This blog entry was originally posted in April of 2011 when I headed Let’s Adopt Canada, a position I resigned from in July of 2011 due to difference of belief in proper rescue protocol. I am reposting it today because it still holds true.)

This past week, a young girl whom I greatly admire for her efforts to promote awareness of animal welfare issues, became frustrated by the number of times she heard someone say “It’s just a dog.” She believes, as do we all that all living creatures deserve the same measure of care and compassion. She is young (17) so she has not had to bat her head against the stone wall of ignorance and stupidity for as long as most of us have. She is young, so I do not want her to be discouraged, because I know she is destined to do great things for the animal rights movement.

That got me thinking, how do I convince these people that a dog is not “just a dog”? The answer came to me as answers so often do, while I watched my dogs go about the daily business of being dogs. We are always saying things like “put yourself in his shoes!” and “oh boy! I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes right now!” So today we are going to put ourselves in the proverbial “shoes” of a stray dog.

Take away those opposable thumbs that give the gift of delicate manual dexterity. Take away that golden gift of voice that allows us to verbally communicate our needs. Take away our ability to walk upright. Take away our homes, our bank accounts, and our families. We have no home to go to, no one who cares about us, and we can not speak to others to tell them what we need. We are helpless and vulnerable, at the mercy of humans, we ARE stray dogs.

Where will we go? Will we find shelter? Will we find food enough to sustain us? We will certainly try, but whom will we meet along the way? Perhaps we will be lucky and a kind person will take us into their home and care for us. Perhaps pigs fly? No, sadly our journey is likely to be vastly different from that of the dog who is found by a kind and caring person. If a stray dog could write a journal it might go something like this:

It is dark night, we are in a back alley rooting through a garbage can for the food we can smell. We find it but after wolfing it down hunger still nags at us. It has been days since we found any real food. Yesterday some children threw rocks at us, and the day before that one of us was hit by a car and left to die by the side of the road. The puppies will be coming soon, and I am afraid. I can not feed myself, how will I feed them?

When you look at it through their eyes, maybe some of you are rethinking the way you view animals. Perhaps there is one less person in the world who will say “it’s just a dog.” Perhaps you now understand that every living creature has basic needs, and basic fears. They feel pain, anxiety, love. They suffer, they are not inanimate objects, not “just a dog.”  Hmmm, now that you have “put yourself in their shoes” do you still think “It’s just a dog”?

(Written for my friend and fellow animal advocate Carmen Rose-Locke, London, England who is light years ahead of most her age when it comes to animal advocacy and understanding. I know this girl is destined to make great things happen! NEVER give up Carmen! YOU and your generation ARE the future of animal welfare!)

Until Next Time Remember,