Compassion defined simply is "a concern for others." So how do our canine friends teach the human race about compassion? As part of the 1,000 Voices for Compassion Movement, I have come up with five ways our furry companions teach compassion to a race of humans that seem to be becoming less and less concerned for one another.
Leave It!- This is a term I teach my dogs early on. When we are on walks together or out and about on our five acres of land, the command "leave it" means they are not bringing me animal parts they find, or trying to taste garbage that sits along the side of the road. They follow the command so automatically. They leave the item and move right along to enjoy the walk; enjoy our time together. They are so good at avoiding the distractions and getting focused again. I feel like as humans, we need to "leave it" sometimes. We need to practice more forgiveness and leave the negativity out of our lives. If we are truly concerned for one another, we move forward and spend time building each other up instead of tearing each other down.
Unconditional Love- Any dog owner can identify with how much a dog loves their owner. It is an unconditional love like no human could ever give to another human. A dog is ALWAYS concerned about their owner, so much so that some dogs have been able to detect cancer and other health problems that their owner has long before doctors can. Although many of us may not truly be able to give unconditional love at all times, we need to try, and try harder. Some people, at times, seem un-loveable, but if we are truly ready to be compassionate, we never stop trying to show love to others; friends, enemies, and people we don't even know.
Service- Service dogs teach us a great deal about compassion and concern for others. From helping blind people leave their house to preventing a Veteran from committing suicide, service dogs of all breeds, shapes, sizes, and abilities are showing how well they can serve and protect humans. Why don't we feel that same sense of service and protection to other humans? Technology has allowed us to be very aware of what is happening around the world and even in our own backyard, yet many times we do nothing to help. We need to be serving others with our time, talents, and our financial resources.
Love Starts at Home- Having a Collie/Lab mixed breed, I have experienced first hand how quickly an intelligent dog picks up on my good and bad habits and my everyday routine. As a parent, I have also seen how important it is to model the behaviors I want my kids to follow. Between my dogs and my kids watching me, I have to stop and think about all the things I am teaching them without even realizing it. As a teacher, I see firsthand how many parents are not modeling compassion in their home. Are you freely giving to others and helping others to the point that your child thinks this is all part of normal life? Or are you just giving to the Salvation Army can at Christmas and maybe a sending a can of food in for a food drive at school once a year. Are you teaching your children how to help others within their own house and beyond? How concerned are your family members for each other? If you don't show compassion at home, how much of it will you really show in the real world? Dogs are usually trained so well that they exhibit the same behaviors and follow the same commands at home or out and about. it should be the same for your family. You should strive to be compassionate at home and in public.
Stay- What motivates a dog to stay? Sometimes it is a treat, sometimes just complete devotion to their owner, but the idea of stay is so much more than sitting still for a moment. I think about war dogs that have stayed at their dead owner's coffin for hours, I think about Hachiku, the dog that stayed for his owner at a bus station for years. We need to learn to stay; to not give up. Even when it seems the world around us is corrupt, we need to stay hopeful, stay by the sides of those who need us, stay loyal to our values and beliefs.