I believe that all living beings respond to kindness and respect.
Shortly after rescuing a senior Great Dane, I took him for a walk around our property. I soon discovered that one of our neighbors also had a dog: a snarling, menacing Rottweiler that wasted no time in attempting to lunge for me as we walked by his fence.
Normally a “gentle giant,” I was surprised when my dog disregarded my reprimand and headed straight for the attacker. Throwing my weight to the ground, I pulled on his leash with all of my might. The two dogs were separated by mere inches, neither wanting to concede. Somehow I summoned the strength to keep my dog from engaging in a bloody battle.
After that, I avoided passing by the neighbor’s fence when I knew the Rottweiler was out, fearing it as well as my own dog’s reaction. (While Danes are not aggressive dogs, they can be fierce protectors, and I was certain that he would not take kindly to another attempted attack.)
I soon learned from another neighbor that the dog was being groomed by its absentee owners to be a junkyard dog: purposely starved and deprived of human contact, its sole purpose is to keep guard over their investment property.
I began to live in fear of the Rottweiler, and wouldn’t walk my dog unless I was armed with pepper spray. As someone who works for a wildlife conservation company, and as the adopter of many rescue animals, I couldn’t fathom the thought of harming another living creature. As the days passed, however, and the Rottweiler became more aggressive, I found myself wondering if a bar of chocolate really could kill an animal his size.
Then one night, I had a dream. In this dream, I saw that all things on this planet are all part of the same living creation. All part of what I think of as “God.” Upon awakening, I excitedly shared my dream with my husband, although it was very difficult to put into words. It was also difficult to understand: what was I supposed to do with that knowledge?
Out on a walk later that day, it came to me: the Rottweiler, too, was a living creature. According to my dream, it too was a part of God. It was not evil, it was hungry and unhappy. When I went home, I suggested to my husband that we start tossing treats to the dog each time we passed by. After only the second time, the Rottweiler stopped barking at us. The third time, he greeted my husband with a wimper. Now he comes trotting up to the fence, tail wagging, almost friendly enough to be petted.
The Rottweiler’s response to kindness and respect encourages me in all of my interactions with living beings, even human ones. I try to offer respect, not fear; kindness, not anger, and love, not hate. It makes my walk through this life much more pleasant.
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