It’s Be Kind to Animals Week! Did you know that? You may know the American Humane Association best as the group that oversees animal use during filming and bestows the “No Animals Were Harmed” disclaimer at the end of shows and movies, but they are very involved in advocacy for not only animals, but also children- society’s most vulnerable members. Anyway, they started this special week and it’s a lovely opportunity to step back and reflect on what we are doing right, and what we could be doing better.
I know the people who read here are a self-selecting group that is already very aware of animal welfare, so this might be preaching to the choir, but it never hurts to have an official mandate to make a conscious effort to do a kind thing. Here are 5 different ways you can celebrate this week (and every week!)
Studies in mice have demonstrated that mental enrichment can actually slow down cognitive decline due to age, a finding that can have huge implications for pets as well as people. Animals whose brains are challenged, through interaction, puzzle feeders, and daily tasks may actually tolerate the aging process better than those who lay about all day with nothing to think about. So keep up that Sudoku, because it probably affects us too. Brains: use em or lose em.
2. Offer to give a presentation to a school or scout troop.
No group of humans is more receptive to a talk about animal welfare than a group of little kids. And that’s a good thing, because they’re the ones who are going to grow up and take over for us some day. From how to greet a strange dog to how to teach a cat to sit, the possibilities are endless. It doesn’t take much: we want to get them engaged, because then they care- and you would be amazed at how often kids are the ones who get a busy parent to take a dog to training or to the vet.
3. Do a shelter drive-by
I have yet to come across a shelter or rescue that said, “We’re good, thanks” when I pop my head in on the way to Petsmart and asked, “What are you low on?” It’s something small- that’s what makes it easy- a few bags of Milk-Bones, some towels, toys, that sort of thing- but it’s a habit now, and it’s easy. Best part is, my kids see me doing it and are now coming up with drives and fundraisers of their own. The indoctrination has begun!
4. Pick a wildlife or environmental issue to learn about
We suffer from over-insulation sometimes, oblivious to the big picture because it’s not something that is confronting us immediately and doesn’t have an impact on our day-to-day lives. I’m not asking you to get a PhD, or make a $10,000 donation- just pick something, and learn about it. Then report back to me, because I want to learn about it too, be it the impact of human encroachment on mountain lion habitats, the impact of overfishing, whatever floats your boat. I don’t know when being inquisitive about the world around us went out of fashion- maybe it’s just me getting crotchety with age- but I, for one, embrace being nerdy and wanting to learn, learn, learn.
5. Don’t be afraid to stand up for animals
I’ve gotten my share of eye rolls from people when I’ve waited by cars on hot days to make sure the owner came back before the car overheated. I’ve had pursed lips from parents when I, as politely as possible, told their child that the way they were handling an animal was inappropriate- and why. (P.S. I’ve also gotten really good at giving them the Mean Stranger head shake when their parents aren’t looking. Yes, I go there.) I have to conduct myself in a certain manner as a member of the veterinary profession, but I also have an obligation to advocate for those who can’t do it for themselves. And I do. Politely, of course.
Any good suggestions I’ve missed? How will you celebrate Be Kind to Animals Week?