child on beachI had a lovely few days visiting with family in Florida. Our seaside accommodations were fabulous and the strip of white sand beach stretching for several miles was soothing to look at. From our balcony we could look down and see pods of dolphins fishing off shore. In the morning I joined the walkers along the tideline. As the sunbathers filtered onto the beach I noticed a striking similarity between the way the beach chairs lined up facing the sun, and the flocks of terns and skimmers doing the same.

I enjoyed watching the future engineers of America building sand castles with systems of canals and moats, and the ‘seeking’ behavior of the shell gatherers along with those with sophisticated metal detectors sweeping the beach. I did however find myself furrowing my brow as the young children raced into the flocks of birds, sending them into flight. It was in fun, and the patterns the black & white skimmers with their red banded bills made as they circled, had me marveling at their grace and the artistry of their flight and there was no denying the joy in the children’s faces. Yet it bothered me. Parents or guardians sat nearby oblivious or watched on with amusement.

I was pleased that our guide during a nature walk (we saw a box turtle!) brought this up and explained why unnecessary disturbance either wasted calories or prohibited the birds from foraging to get their daily allotment. I knew I wasn’t alone in my feelings of frustration watching a new generation show no respect or consideration for the needs of another species, realizing that it was too much to expect from young children, it was their parents who allowed a teachable moment to go by.

Animals help us learn about empathy and how to care for and about the needs of others. Most of the children I’ve met want to understand what animals are trying to tell us. Dogs provide us with some of the best opportunities to be amateur ethologists and professionally compassionate human beings. Who hasn’t envied Dr. Dolittle, even just a little? When it comes to understanding animals perhaps the first message we should be clear about is the one asking to be left alone, whether it’s whispered or shouted.


13 comments so far

  1. Ettel E on

    I really love this post. As a professional dog walker/trainer I sometimes just cannot wrap my head around how people just reach down and touch, on the head, strange dogs. I wish respect was a little more rampant.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks for reading and commenting Ettel. Most dogs are so adaptable and tolerant that it’s easy to forget that some don’t appreciate hugs & kisses or head pats.

  2. Donna and the Dogs on

    Very well written post, and it is probably something most people don’t even think about. Like you said, although it appears harmless, it is at the very least an annoyance to the birds. Great that the guide brought it up, and explained how it may actually harm them. Respect starts with how children are taught to treat even the tiniest of insects. (Or, at least it should.)

  3. According to Gus on

    Sigh…it’s amazing the behaviors parents don’t notice. Of course, we have no children, so that’s easy for us to say. 😉

    Glad you enjoyed your trip!

    • fearfuldogs on

      I must confess that as a teenager I walked my dog on the beach where she routinely chased the seagulls. I enjoyed seeing her having so much fun that I didn’t give a thought about the birds.

  4. melfr99 on

    I can so resonate with this post. I wish parents would be better at sharing this message with their kids. I am still bothered (a lot) by the story my sister told me about a family who lived next to where she nannied. They caught a squirrel in a cage, spray painted it’s tail, and let it loose. Why? So their kids could watch the squirrel in it’s natural environment. And this was a nature lesson? OMG!

    • fearfuldogs on

      It’s like having puppies so kids can witness the miracle of birth, only without the paint.

  5. Lizzie on

    It’s not just children who need to learn about respect for animals, try vets! One of my elderly dogs has just endured weeks of invasive tests and finally major surgery to remove a massive tumour attached to his liver.

    My boy is a sweet and gentle dog who in all his near thirteen years has never even curled his lip or shown any aggression toward humans. He’s very scared at the vets but lets them get on with what they have to do without complaint. But I watch the vet pull him along by his collar because he’s afraid when I leave him, and as he stands there trembling, he offers no words of comfort, has no thought for his pain when he can’t find a vein in either of his legs, and I’m powerless to help him until they release him back into my care, when I try to make up for his ordeal with lots of TLC and just being there for him.

    I may be unlucky with the vet I currently have but someone said to me recently that a dog is only someone’s pet when he’s at home with his family. To a vet he’s just another animal.

    Soft gentle dogs are so open to abuse simply because they pose no threat, just like running towards a flock of birds…..

    • fearfuldogs on

      I like to think that most vets get into the field because they care about and like animals. It is always hard to leave a dog at the clinic. I suppose it’s tough for the vet as well, having to make things happen with a dog yet knowing that for many of them, no words of encouragement are going to be enough to calm their fears. I guess I am lucky in that there are several vet clinics in our area and I have been a client of all of them. I can choose which I want to use for a particular dog or ailment. I can also avoid one if I choose. Most of my dogs are resilient enough to deal with any vet, but when it comes to Sunny I am very directive and when he has needed surgery I request that whenever possible I am with him to the last possible moment, and have had him sedated while I was with him so that when he was finally handled, he was knocked out.

      • Lizzie on

        You are lucky to have such choices and to have vets who will respect your directives.

        I have yet to find a vet over here who would be willing to do that!

  6. Kristine on

    I find almost all children have an interest in animals. Somehow this interest is lost as we get older. People learn that animals are often for us to exploit, instead of respect. It’s too bad as we miss out just as much as other species do. Children need to be taught and when surrounded by parents who just don’t care, it’s not going to happen.

    Thank you for this heart-felt post. I have been guilty of letting my dog chase birds as well. It’s a poor choice and I appreciate being called on it.

  7. SNKoch on

    Thanks for the link (regarding seeking behavior) to my site:

    I hope you also saw the page that specifically relates to the FEAR system innate to all mammals:


    Again, many thanks.

    SN Koch

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thank you for sharing this link. Important information regarding fear, I hope readers check it out.

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