By Lynda Hollenbeck
It's all about kindness.
That's at the very heart of my favorite national observance: Be Kind to Animals Week.
First off, from my point of view, the objective of this event should be that there never should be any need to have such a focus. It's a common-sense, common-decency thing.
Being kind to all of God's creatures should be second nature. Every day. Every minute of every day. On and on, ad infinitum.
Unfortunately, this utopia-like existence for those without speech isn't a reality, but many strides have been made in the movement.
American Humane Association is the founder and continued overall sponsor of the national week that focuses on kindness for all living things. The observance gets under way today with Humane Sunday and continues through next Saturday.
The celebration — which, by the way, is the oldest continuing national observance in this country — was started by the American Humane Association, the country's first national humane organization (founded in 1877) and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals.
I can't remember a time when I didn't love animals. Truth be told, I don't think that time ever existed. I was born into a family where there was a family dog — Bobby, a rat terrier already there to greet me at my birth — and there were always cats.
Somehow, from my very beginning, I knew I loved animals and had no fear of them. In spite of my mother's anxieties and her efforts to dissuade me, particularly as a toddler, at times, from approaching strange dogs, I could — and would — interact with anyone's pet.
Animals know when you instinctively care about them, and they never harmed me.
In the local area, there are several groups that promote animal kindness, not the least of which is the Humane Society of Saline County, the organization that captured my devotion years ago through the influence of the late Wanda Willliams.
I tried to resist her pleas to "join us and help us" because I knew I couldn't do it piecemeal. Eventually, I relented and in doing so opened the floodgates to take in more dogs and cats than I ever expected to meet on a personal level.
I have loved every one of them and raised my children to do the same. I'm proud to say all of them have rescued animals in their homes today.
There are so many things that individuals can do to promote animal kindness. Here are a few suggested by the organization that first drew attention to animal cruelty and continues to be the parent sponsor for Be Kind to Animals Week:
•First off, there's the obvious. Adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue group. Every year an estimated 3.7 million animals are euthanized because they could not be adopted into loving homes.
•Always treat pets with love and affection, make sure they are in safe environments at all times and have plenty of fresh food and water and exercise daily.
•Spay or neuter your pets and encourage friends and family to do the same. Many area shelters, including the Humane Society, offer assistance for low-income families.
•Keep your pets current on vaccinations and make sure they are wearing up-to-date identification tags. Take them to the veterinarian regularly.
•Report any suspected animal abuse or neglect to local authorities. Animal cruelty is not only tragic for animals, but also an indicator of other forms of abuse such as domestic violence. If you see something that looks suspicious – a dog chained in your neighbor's yard that looks underfed, a child putting a cat in a box and kicking it – don't hesitate. Let someone know.
•Teach your children that all animals are important and show them how to be kind and respectful to animals both in the home and to those they encounter in parks, zoos or in neighborhoods.
•Appreciate wildlife. Plant flowers in your yard that will attract butterflies or hummingbirds. •Drive cautiously through areas populated by wild animals such as deer.
•Some 10 billion animals are raised each year on our nation's farms and ranches and more than 90 percent of them live without the benefit of science-based welfare standards to ensure their humane treatment. If your family chooses to eat animal protein, look for products that have been humanely raised and certified by independent, third-party programs such as the American Humane certified program.
•Look for the No Animals Were Harmed certification when you see a movie or television show featuring animals and know that your favorite animal actor's welfare and safety was ensured by certified animal safety representatives who protect more than 100,000 animal actors in more than 2,000 film and television productions every year.
•Promote ways to treat animals humanely in your community by speaking out about the importance of respecting animals.
Nothing I've ever read has expressed the plea for animal kindness better than the following prayer attributed to the late Dr. Albert Schweitzer:
Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals,
especially for animals who are suffering;
for animals that are overworked, underfed and cruelly treated;
for all wistful creatures in captivity that beat their wings against bars;
for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry;
for all that must be put death.
We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity,
and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion
and gentle hands and kindly words.
Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals,
and so to share the blessings of the merciful.
Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.