There was a sad story in the news about a nine-year-old boy who poured lighter fluid on a kitten and then set it on fire. The boy and two of his friends stood nearby, laughing as they watched the kitten die. How could the boys be so cruel to a defenseless animal? How could they watch the kitten’s agony and remain so detached? Did they not realize that their actions would have such painful and permanent consequences? And what about the parents?
It is never normal for children to be deliberately cruel to animals. Extensive research has shown that the way children treat animals can be a good indicator of how they will grow up to treat people. The child who isn’t taught to treat animals with compassion and kindness often becomes the adult who is incapable of feeling or expressing any real emotions or empathy for family and friends.
Animals have always been an important part of my life and I wanted my children to love them too. Even as babies, they knew not to be rough with an animal because I had shown them how to touch and pat gently… that poking a finger in an animal’s eye hurts… and that pulling tails or otherwise deliberately hurting an animal just was not acceptable. It is so important that children learn to care… and equally important that their parents show them how.
The first time I ever saw our cherished Lhasa Apso, she was frantically trying to squeeze under a low ottoman while three small children kicked at her and pulled her tail. When they couldn’t reach her tail, they hit at her with a broom and plastic bats to force her back out into the room. None of the other adults even seemed to notice that the dog was being physically hurt. They simply did not care.
I did care. Once when the dog gave an especially loud yelp of pain, I told the mother I thought the puppy was being hurt. She assured me that the children were “just playing with her.” The prodding, tail pulling, and yelping continued. I was really hating what was happening. I have always thought that this little dog must have somehow sensed my concern for her because she suddenly darted over to me, pressed her tiny body tight against my leg and looked up at me with scared, sad eyes.
That did it for me. I found myself offering to buy the puppy. The mother had already told me that they regretted buying the dog and I was pretty sure that getting their money back would be a more appealing option to them than keeping a dog they didn’t want.
I was right. A few minutes later I was on my way home with a very traumatized… and I am convinced… very grateful little dog cuddled against me. When we got her home we could see she had visible bruises all over her body, and the vet later told us that she also had two broken ribs.
Before someone tells me that I can’t rescue all the animals that are being abused, I know that is true… but I COULD save this small treasure.
And we are so glad that I did.