Who am I to think?

One of the striking things for me at the recent BlogPaws conference was not only the number of people willing to go out on limbs for animals (or swing from dangling fabric), but how young many of them were. When the pre-teen took the stage and shared her dream of helping animals I wanted to hug her mother. After passing the half century mark I am beginning to lose the voice in my head that whispered, and sometimes shouted-

“Who are you to think you can ______(fill in the blank)?”

There seems to be no shortage of other voices echoing that question and providing me with reasons why I shouldn’t think I can. Knowing that there are young people who not only ‘think’ they can, but ‘know’ they can, is heartening.

I am no longer surprised by how startling few voices there are to encourage people who want to step out, try new things, make a difference. I’ve wondered if some remain quiet because they do not realize the power the sound of their encouragement can have. Even a simple ‘Go for it!’ can fuel someone for the next step in the process and a ‘How can I help you?’ lets them know they’re not alone on the journey.

When I worked with rescue groups in Puerto Rico, bringing street dogs to Vermont to find homes, I would hear criticism of the practice.

“Aren’t these dogs taking homes away from local dogs?”

Good question, but no, they are not. We brought over small dogs, of which there were few to none available at our local shelter. The people who came into the shelter and adopted the 5 lb Chi mix were not going to go home with the 70 lb lab in the run next door if the Chi wasn’t there. In fact the Chi got them into the shelter and may prompt them to make future donations. No local dog was not accepted into the shelter or put down because of lack of space. Also of note was that many of the stray dogs in Puerto Rico could trace their ancestry back to a puppy mill in the United States, or they themselves were products of these mills. They had been flown to Puerto Rico and sold in a pet shop, information the people complaining about getting dogs from outside our area were unaware of.

There were people who were incredulous that someone would be asking for donations of time or money to rescue and feed dogs when there were so many children who needed help. They asked why wasn’t I focusing on helping these children?

To this my response was, “There is lots to be done to make the world a better place. No one of us is able to do it all but each of us can do something. Find what moves you and act on it.”

Many of the people who took issue to the energy I put into dog rescue, were not doing anything themselves for the children they felt I should be putting my efforts into instead. Some were, but most were not, and of these many did not appreciate the irony of their reaction. Apparently it was easier to find fault with the work that someone else was doing rather than do some of their own, for the recipients of their choice. I am not saying this with any rancor, knowing that I can be guilty of this kind of reaction as well. I remind myself that just because I may not be interested in saving a centuries old building, preserving habitat for a rare slug, or care if a particular intersection has a stop sign or blinking red light, doesn’t mean that someone else cannot feel strongly, even passionately about these issues.

I try to offer encouragement to anyone putting time and energy into making positive change in the world. It’s the least I can do, don’t you think?

Be the change you want to see in the world.

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11 comments so far

  1. Deborah Flick on

    You go! This is exactly what we need to do for each other!

    • fearfuldogs on

      You are very good at being supportive Deborah and it’s appreciated!

  2. Kari on

    Awesome!!! I see more and more younger kids and teens at the shelter volunteering all the time!

    • fearfuldogs on

      Shelters can provide great opportunities for kids. Many need volunteers to supervise kids if anyone out there is looking for a project! 😉

  3. thelittlebeardogblog on

    Well said! We had a case here in the UK last month where a woman was caught on CCTV throwing a young cat into a bin. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYdUZdan5i8 Although the cat was unharmed, the woman received death threats and it made prime time TV and the national press.

    Some people, including a friend of mine invoked the same argument you describe above, ‘People are dying in care homes through neglect’ he wrote ‘and our media is obsessing about a stupid cat! It’s not even as if she killed it!’ His friends then joined in to berate the ‘idiots’ who were ‘incapable of seeing the big picture.’

    The point is, if we look hard enough we can always find someone worse off. Sicker, hungrier, in more imminent danger. Help the homeless and you can be accused of neglecting the starving. Help the elderly and some may say ‘what about the children?’ It’s a depressing thought especially as we all have to live with the knowledge that we can’t help everyone we’d like to.

    The bottom line is that people have to have the freedom to follow their hearts and do what they feel is right. The last thing they need is to be belittled for showing love, compassion and generosity!

    In the case of my now Ex Facebook friend I think it comes straight from his own ego. The ‘my cause is better than your cause’ is just an opportunity to feel superior to others by passing judgement on them and their beliefs and as we know, that’s a very slippery slope.

    • fearfuldogs on

      I agree that anytime someone is willing to step outside the sphere of their own self interests we should be, at the very least, on the sidelines cheering them on.

  4. Jim Stay on

    Several excellent points again. The fact that you ARE doing is proof that you are capable. And isn’t it wonderful that there are young folks who know they can. I live near a wildlife sanctuary, the Conservators’ Center, and college students come to intern, doing hard, dirty work. When I get angry with people who dump their pets, I just think about these kids.

    • fearfuldogs on

      The negative stuff is so disturbing that it can be hard to see how much change and improvement there has been in the world of animal welfare. As much as I’d like to think otherwise there are always going to be people who don’t do the right thing by animals,but there will always be those who will work to make things right. Those young people, empowered by their own successes will have their work cut out for them in the future, but they are the hope and the change. I’ve got my pom poms out for them!

  5. Donna in VA on

    I think it’s also practicality. Do what you CAN do and it will get done. I pick up trash when I walk the dog. I know where all the community trash cans are, so I’ll pick up trash and carry it a few blocks to the next can. A small thing, but it makes my community a little nicer. I also make Snuggles (www.snugglesproject.org) and drop them off on cat adoption day at the local pet store a couple of times a year. Use up old sheets, towels, T-shirts. It costs me nothing and recycles things that would otherwise get thrown away. There’s no shame in starting small and chipping away, doing what you can do.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Sounds like your ‘small’ things make big differences though Donna!

  6. melfr99 on

    This may be my favorite post so far!

    When I decided to leave the corporate world and pursue my dream of working with animals, I fully expected people to question my decision. Who am I to think I could start a business and be successful?

    I have also had people ask me why we should spend so much on animal welfare when there are starving children in the world. Like you, I believe that everyone can do their part. I believe we all have a talent, a passion, a cause. Not all of them are the same, but that’s why it takes everyone to make the world better. My cause/passion/talent just happens to be animals. I am all for supporting someone who wants to do what they were meant to do or who want to make the world a better place!


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