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A Lesson in Compassion

“All the arguments to prove man's superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: In suffering, the animals are our equals.”   Peter Singer     A rather unusual overnight guest stayed at our home not that long ago, and in their infinite canine wisdom, my two dogs showed me the very essence of true compassion and understanding. We human beings would do well to follow their remarkable lead.   A rescued dog was being transported to its new home on the east coast, and I was asked to provide overnight accommodations for it en route. I readily agreed, even though I was a bit worried that my own dogs might not like this new intruder in our home.   But I should have known that I had nothing to worry about. Canines are much smarter than we often care to acknowledge.   The dog’s name was Meadow, and she was an extremely sweet old canine soul. She had been rescued from a very abusive situation, and a kind-hearted human soul had agreed to adopt her, even though she was a ‘special needs’ dog.               Poor Meadow had suffered severe head trauma before being rescued, and her acute neurological ailment was painfully obvious. She teetered precariously on four wobbly thin legs, and her aged furry brown face incessantly wobbled back and forth, as if she were suffering from a malady such as Parkinson’s Disease.               When our guest arrived at my front door that afternoon, for some reason, I immediately thought of the great and grand actress, Katherine Hepburn, who had also suffered from Parkinson’s. Katherine Hepburn had not allowed her illness to get the better of her, and obviously, neither had this sweet old female canine.               As Meadow timidly tottered into my unfamiliar living room, she suddenly heard my two mutts growling, snarling, and scratching incessantly at the closed bedroom door upstairs. She very nervously peered in that direction.               At this moment, I had little doubt that the ‘getting acquainted canine ritual’ which would soon ensue in our home might be extremely painful for our already stressed overnight visitor.               While I contemplated the best method to introduce my two dogs to our special guest, they somehow managed to pry open the bedroom door themselves, and before I could stop them, they both came charging down those steps with only one thought in their collective canine minds - the urgent need to rid our home of this unwanted intruder.               But instead of witnessing a vicious canine attack, I witnessed something truly remarkable. And, it occurred in the blink of an eye.               Both of my dogs suddenly stopped dead in their tracks on the long wooden stairway as they gazed wide-eyed at the quivering, wobbly-kneed, old stranger below.               Somehow, they both instantly knew that this new guest of ours was not a threat to anyone. Instead, they somehow instinctively knew that this new guest of ours was a creature worthy of both their friendship, and of their compassion.               My tiny female Chihuahua-Spitz mix, who can be quite mean to other female dogs at times, approached old Meadow first.               She ever so slowly walked up to our elderly visitor, sniffed her, and quickly planted an affectionate kiss of greeting on Meadow’s quivering left cheek.               Little Blanca’s gentle heartfelt greeting immediately reminded me of the kisses I had lovingly planted on my aged grandmother’s quivering cheek as a child so many years past.               My large male dog, Turbo, soon followed suit; although his wet slobbery kisses on Meadow’s chin were much more exuberant than Blanca’s had been. After all, our overnight guest was a female.               I was delighted that my dogs had so readily accepted our guest; and I suddenly wondered why I had been so worried about it.               Soon, it was afternoon nap time, and both of my dogs always find a comfortable piece of furniture to do their snoozing on. This day, however, they had other plans.               They also obviously knew that our special guest could not jump up on any comfortable bed or sofa, as they so easily could. They had both watched in silence as she had wearily plopped down on the blanket I had set out for her on our cold living room floor.               And now, to my utter amazement, my two pampered pooches immediately plopped down on the blanket right next to her; one on each side. And soon, three tired, newly acquainted, canine comrades were dog-napping and snoring away on my living room floor - together.               This was truly amazing to me, and I was extremely proud of my two lovable mutts that afternoon. And, incredibly, the utterly selfless act of canine compassion that I witnessed later that evening still captivates me when I relive it in my mind’s eye.
              Bed time had finally arrived, and my two dogs had already sped up to their cozy spots in our bedroom upstairs.               Blanca was perched in her usual favored spot next to my pillow. Turbo was in his usual spot at my wife’s feet, and he was gently fondling his beloved Teddy Bear, just as he does each and every evening before falling fast asleep.               As I was about to crawl into bed myself, I watched in both bewilderment and fascination as Turbo suddenly jumped off the bed with his treasured Teddy in his mouth. I quickly followed him out of the bedroom.               There he stood in the dark, at the top of the long bedroom staircase, silently gazing down at our overnight guest below. After several seconds, Turbo silently carried his favorite Teddy Bear down that long flight of stairs.               I watched in total disbelief as he slowly approached old Miss Meadow. And, my jaw dropped in true awe and admiration as he then gingerly dropped his prized possession next to Meadow’s head, as if to say, ‘This Teddy comforts me at night; I hope it does the same for you.’               Our canine guest, in turn, seemed to sense how grand a gesture this truly was on Turbo’s part, and she immediately snorted her thanks, and quickly placed her wobbly head on the Teddy Bear’s plush foamy softness. She also sighed a loud heavenly sigh.               As my extremely generous mutt turned away to head back upstairs to bed, he suddenly stopped, turned back around, and looked back towards Meadow once more.  He then walked back to her and plopped down on the floor at her side.               My gallant male canine spent the entire night huddled there with Meadow on the cold living room floor, and I knew that our somewhat stressed and frightened overnight visitor must have been extremely grateful for both his noble gift, and for his comforting overnight company.               I was extremely proud of both of my dogs at this point.               The next morning, as we all somewhat sadly watched Miss Meadow departing in her new owner’s car, I couldn’t help but think, Why can’t we humans be as caring and compassionate towards our feeble, elderly, and disabled fellow human beings as these canine creatures obviously were towards theirs?               My dogs truly did teach me a very valuable lesson that day; and I now wonder what they will teach me tomorrow. I also look forward to their next lesson.   ©2005, Mr. Ed
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