I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the meaning of compassion lately.  Being in rescue, I find that it’s often easy to condemn others for their actions, i.e., giving up their animals, without really putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes.   Animal advocates are a passionate bunch, with huge hearts and boundless compassion for the animals they are dedicated to saving.  BUT, I’ve been noticing lately that there is often a real lack of compassion for other people – mostly for those who are giving up their animals.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people who just don’t care about the animals that they commited to caring for – and I’m not making excuses for them.  However, I’m receiving more and more pleas from people who just have no place left to turn.  Those who are losing their homes and are forced to move – unable to take their beloved pets with them, those who are ill and can no longer care for their animals, victims of divorce, the list of reasons is never ending.  As a dedicated rescuer and dog/cat mom, it’s tempting to judge those who are giving up their animals.  I used to say, “I would NEVER do that, I’d sleep in my car before I’d give up my fur babies!”

And then one day, I asked myself “How do I know what I would do if I found myself in such dire circumstances?”  This simple question has helped me open my heart to those who need my compassion – and surprisingy, has helped me gain balance.  When we are constantly judging others and passing condemnation, it’s easy to start seeing the glass as half empty.  I’m constantly amazed by so many in rescue who say over and over, “people suck”.  And yet, these animals that we are so very dedicated to saving, know nothing but unconditional love, they have much to teach us about compassion if we only pay attention.  My life has been so enriched by the many generous, loving and caring people who have crossed my path because of rescue.  Once I decided to start having compassion for those who were surrendering their animals, this too, changed my perception and my daily experiences.

I reecently received an email from a man who was in dire financial straights, moving and couldn’t keep his two 9 year old dogs.  Again, tempting to immediately pass judgement and think “why can’t he find some place to live that will allow him to keep his dogs?” – instead, I emailed him back and told him I would do all I could to help.  Unfortunately, the timing was really bad – he was moving in a matter of days and I didn’t have any open foster homes at Daisy’s Place and it was a holiday weekend so boarding was full.  With a very heavy heart I emailed him back that he’d have to take his dogs to the shelter, but that I would do everything in my power to find a place for them before they were put to sleep.  One of his dogs was a beautiful, BIG (110 lb) teddy bear – a husky/shepherd mix of some sort, and thus didn’t even fall into the parameters of being a Daisy Dog (we save Retrievers).  I began emailing other rescues to see if anyone could take Odin, the non-Retriever, but no luck – all the resues were full.  I had already determined that I would save Rheba, Odin’s 9 year old black Lab companion, but time was running out.  The man emailed me that he had taken his two beloved dogs to the shelter and that he knew it was just a matter of time before they would be killed – most likely a few days.  He told me how he cried when he said goodbye to them and he prayed that I could find a way to save them, but he understood if I couldn’t.  I broke down sobbing when I read his email and I just couldn’t get Odin out of my mind.  I emailed the shellter and told them to hold both dogs – I would come and get them within the next few days.  I had no plan, other than to save these two precious souls who had obviously been so very loved.

Odin

Once I met Odin there was no way that I could send him to another rescue!  He’s an adorable, sweet, happy dog and he – and his previous “dad” – touched my heart.  Both Odin and Rheba are in loving foster homes and are doing great.  I’ve emailed photos to their dad to let him know that they are safe and loved.  I know that this man needed my compassion, and I in turn, was given the gift of being able to do something to help another fellow human being – and his dogs.

Being compassionate helped me find my inner balance and that joyful place that feels so much better than judgement and condemnation!  As we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. today, let us be reminded of his words ” Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

many blessings,

Melissa

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