I seldom repeat a column, but this is such a current problem, by request, I am sharing it again (originally published in 2012).
NEEDY DOGS ARE ALL AROUND US
As Iowa weather grows colder, I would like to share an observation by Cherine Bissinger:
“As the weather turns nasty, I cannot suppress my deep feelings of desperation for the countless animals forced to endure a torturous existence with owners who willfully neglect or casually ignore the basic needs of their four-footed companions. Every day I am surrounded by humans who never extend an act of kindness toward voiceless, living creatures. Driving to work, I am horrified by the sight of helpless animals without any visible shelter. ‘What is the matter with us?’ I think to myself. ‘How can we allow such suffering?’ As I drive into town I see total disregard for decency and blatant lack of compassion for animal welfare, and as I park my car at work, my attention is drawn to the sight of a dog wagging his tail. The sun has barely risen, and the home where the dog is tied is dark. Apparently this innocent dog has spent the night outside in the blustery wind and cold, while his humans slept contentedly indoors, apparently oblivious of the painful effects of such inhumanity. I walk toward the dog, and he jumps up as much as the length of his chain will permit. He is shivering wildly, and I whisper words of comfort to the dog. I tell him how sorry I am for his predicament, and regretfully turn to walk into my workplace. Each step I take away from the dog, I imagine his desolate look of devastation for having been forgotten and ignored. I think of the thousands of animals suffering in silence. Life is unjust, and like the neglected animals, I feel helpless. When will things change? Feeble anti-cruelty laws, little enforcement of existing laws, and most of all public apathy are overwhelming. What has happened to us as human beings that we can ignore the plight of so many animals?”
We are all aware of dogs in our own neighborhoods who are not enjoying a good life. Maybe their caregivers don’t even realize that their dog is suffering. Without being judgmental, perhaps you could suggest ways to make life better. If you feel the dog is in danger, report it to the authorities, and follow up to be sure that appropriate action is taken. Each of us has a circle of compassion: the people and animals and things that we care about, that emotionally affect us. It may be our own family, our own friends, and our own pets, but not the family, friends, or pets belonging to others. It may be those just in our own comfort zone. Essentially, we all need the same things as the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion: compassion, intelligence, and the courage to make the world a better place for both humans and animals. May we all strive to expand our circle of compassion.
A PRAYER FOR THE ANIMALS
by Albert Schweitzer
Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends, the animals,
Especially for those who are suffering;
For any that are lost or deserted, or frightened, or hungry.
We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity,
And for those who deal with them, we ask hearts of compassion,
And gentle hands and kindly words.
Help us to be true friends to the animals,
And so to share the blessings of the merciful.