Published in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Bulletin, Winter 2012
by Leila Grandemange
Have you ever wanted to make a difference in this world, but wondered how?
Recently I heard a story that sickened me to the core, a precious Cavalier King Charles Spaniel beaten to death by an obviously violent person. With heavy heart, whenever I hear stories of abuse and neglect I wonder, “How can I make a difference?” Humans by nature are full of faults. One peek at the evening news confirms: our world is messed up! Granted there’s “good” out there, but for many dogs, reality is a world where they are misunderstood and mistreated.
My hope is to encourage each reader to believe that by leading by example, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! We may not be able to save every neglected or abused dog, but maybe we can better the life of just one! As Mother Theresa said,
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
We don’t have to look very far to make a difference.
It all begins in our homes. How are WE treating our dogs? Even the best of dog owners can probably admit to falling short at some point with our canine-human relationships. As good a dog owner as I try to be, it’s happened to me:
The pitter pat of paws scampering across the floor and squeals of joyous barking welcomed me home… Thoughts scurried through my mind: Had she forgotten the night before? A long sleepless night, some bad news and a hectic day… Why did I raise my voice at little Grace? She didn’t do anything wrong. Yet forgiveness, love, and joy glowed in her eyes while greeting me as if I were the most wonderful person on earth! If the word “grace” could be personified for dog lovers, it would be a dog-in my case, a Cavalier. Grace is defined as “unmerited favor.” Most of us would agree our dogs think much more highly of us than we deserve. This well-loved quote by an unknown author echoes this truth: “My goal in life is to be as good a person as my dog already thinks I am.” Cavaliers give us their heart and soul in every breath and wag of the tail. No matter what side of the bed you wake up on, they extend “grace”-unmerited favor, a love not always deserved, yet so freely given. Because grace is unmerited, it can easily be taken for granted. Sadly, many do just that.
So what can we do to make a difference in our world? Three words:
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Leading by example for me means being aware that I represent one of the most loving breeds on the face of the earth! This not only compels me to change and become a better dog owner and human, it also motivates me to extend that love and grace to others. Here’s a story in which the outcome surprised even me!
Driving past the pet store, I cringed once again at the sight of a sign that proudly proclaimed, “Puppies for sale; free crate with purchase!” I toyed with the idea of boycotting the store, as some other well-intentioned folks did. Yet one day, I felt compelled to enter and speak to the owner. As I passed by the viewing windows, my heart broke at the sight of a small Tricolor Cavalier sitting alone. Bottling up my frustration, I looked away and focused on meeting the owner. I started up a friendly conversation, and found out he didn’t know much about the health issues of our breed, nor about the importance of pedigrees, longevity, etc…. I explained what I could in a courteous, diplomatic way, and I listened to his story. I discovered he was actually a well-intentioned man who loved dogs, he simply was not aware of the harm he could potentially cause to our breed. Before ending our conversation, he thanked me for not being rude or calling him names—apparently that’s how he’d been treated by some who did not agree with his selling of pups.
As I walked out, I had no idea if I made a difference, but I had a positive feeling. The next evening, I received a phone call from the pet store owner. To my shock and delight, he shared that he would no longer sell Cavaliers. Rather, he would leave it to knowledgeable breeders. He thanked me again for explaining about our breed, and we developed an open communication about our love for dogs which lasted many years. Although I couldn’t save all the pups in that store, at least for Cavaliers, this was a happy ending!
Leading by example not only means how well we treat our dogs, it also relates to how we communicate our beliefs with others who don’t see things as we do. I believe grace offers a solution. Of course there are cases where law enforcement must step in to save dogs and punish their owners, and rightly so! But there are countless others not breaking the law; they’re simply unaware or not striving to protect the breed.
What about the neighbor dog full of mats? Once I offered to shave down a Cavalier belonging to an elderly couple. By opening the doors of communication, I discovered two sweet souls whose arthritis prevented them from regularly grooming their pet. A small act of kindness, yet one dog is now living more comfortably! What about your friend’s dog left alone long hours; or that family who enjoys back yard breeding; or someone who doesn’t use good training techniques? How will we react? Why not try a little positive reinforcement! It works with our dogs, why not try it on humans we’re trying to influence?
Life Lesson from our dogs . . .
Leading by example is one of the most powerful tools we have to inspire change in our world. Our own happy, healthy dogs can reflect our beliefs! Then, with a little kindness and a lot of grace, we just might inspire a change in others. We can’t rescue every dog, but all efforts help! Together, we can make a positive difference, one dog at a time.
Making a Difference in our Next Generation!
One of the best ways to make a difference is to teach responsible dog ownership to our next generation. I had the privilege of visiting an elementary school and shared with the children the importance of a being a responsible dog owner. How to greet a dog, what to do if approached by a strange dog, how to care for dogs—all were part of the discussion. The AKC Canine Ambassador program had some great hand-outs to help me present the topic.
I also read A Story Of A Promising Puppy to the children and brought along Star, the Cavalier featured in the book, to be a live and hands-on example for the kids. It was a great experience for all and I received some letters from parents thanking me for teaching on such an important topic. I can only hope these were seeds planted in the hearts of these children—seeds which will flourish into a bright future for our dogs!
Leila is the recipient of the AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Public Service Award. She writes to inspire love, care, and compassion for dogs. About the Author.
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