Sunday, September 21, 2008

What about the humans?

Animal rescuers are frequently asked this infuriating question by people who believe our efforts aren’t important because we aren’t focused on saving human beings. It is interesting to note that this inquiry doesn’t usually come from people doing anything to help the humans. Missionaries, first responders and aid workers alike generally understand that our efforts are necessary to make this world a better place.

We’ve finally reached a point in history when it’s dawning on us that the extensive damage we’re inflicting on our environment will lead to our eventual demise if we don’t reverse the course we’re headed on. Just like the air, trees and streams, the animals are an integral part of our environment.

Besides these arguments, you only need to examine the roles played by animals in our society to recognize their value. Dogs patrol our borders and partner with police officers to take down criminals. They lead the blind, direct the deaf, and sit quietly while children with speech impediments read to them. That’s how golf great Tiger Woods learned to stop stuttering. Cats working at nursing homes are notorious for landing on the bed of the next resident who’s going to die, camping out for days to usher them into the next life. Ninety-five percent of these people won’t receive one human visitor during their stay there. Prisoners learn compassion by participating in programs that teach them to groom shelter animals. Rats are saving soldiers’ lives in Iraq by sniffing out roadside bombs. The list of animals’ contributions towards humanity is endless and grows every day.

At some point, if we’re going to ask animals to serve our needs, we need to return the favour, or the balance is all out of whack.

When someone asks me “What about the humans?” I’ve got a few choice retorts that never fail to make an impression. Here’s one example. If you were lost in the woods, would you rather have your human family members sniff you out, or a German Shepherd? I think the answer is obvious. And if there are times that you’d rather put your life in the hands of an animal than a human being, don’t we owe it to them to give something back?

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