Posts Tagged ‘Empathy’

Little Bear the Mini Schnauzer

Sensitive Soul

Annie’s puddle diving addiction has got her into a bit of bother. During a particularly enthusiastic session in the Forest on Sunday, she leapt into what turned out to be more pond than puddle and  disappeared momentarily into the murk.

She seemed nothing more than a bit taken aback by the whole incident and continued her rampaging for the rest of the walk, but by dinnertime, it became clear that stinky pond water isn’t great for the digestion; even the digestion of a Labrador with a passion for snacking from the cat’s litter box…

Vet trip

I’ll spare you any more gory details, but needless to say we ended up at the vets where she had to have an injection to stop the vomiting and a course of antibiotics to fight off whatever bug she’s picked up.

She refused all food yesterday and moved only between her crate and the couch with the occasional detour to the garden for the necessaries.  As my gran used to say, she looked ‘proper poorly’ all day poor love.

Thankfully, she’s on the mend today and is a little brighter. She’s forced down two small bowl fulls of chicken and rice and we’ve even had a few wags out of her so I’m hoping the worst is over.

Sensitive Bear 

As you can imagine, yesterday was slightly full-on and Little Bear’s walk ended up being pathetically short, squeezed in between vet trips, supermarket dashes for chicken, copious washing of dog bedding, floor cleaning, bowl sanitising and frequent coddling of the patient  – and that was without the small matter of trying to run a business!

Amazingly though, despite having to play second fiddle to Annie all day, LB was an angel. He didn’t nag for food, (even though he had every meal late yesterday), he didn’t nag me to play (which is a nightly occurrence) and even his alert barking was considerably pared down.  When Annie ventured from her crate to lay on the sofa, he didn’t pester her to play as usual, he simply waited for her to lie down and then snuggled up next to her and slept.


When you have a reactive dog it’s all too easy to see the problem: the lunging, the barking, the hair-trigger temperament that means even a hiccupping bubble bee at forty feet can set them off; but in focussing on the problems we often miss something very special: The empathy, the sensitivity and the kindness dogs are capable of exhibiting, not just to us, but to their own kind too.

Reactive dogs are often sensitive dogs and while we work on helping them with their fears, we need to also appreciate and recognise the wonderful upside to their sensitivity.

Thanks Little Bear for reminding me of your sensitive soul.

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Why keeping the ban is more important than some might think

Last week I grudgingly bigged up the RSPCA on Twitter for prosecuting the Heythrop Hunt for flouting the ban on hunting with dogs. Being chums with the Prime Minister doesn’t make them above the law, I fumed and with more than 76% of British people wanting to keep the ban it infuriated me that our Government was actually considering repealing it.

In the midst of an economic crisis and with a thousand and one other priorities to deal with, pacifying a small minority of people who apparently enjoy seeing a living creature torn apart by a pack of dogs seemed utterly perverse. Nobody has stopped them from hunting, they just have to chase a scent and not a living creature. But that is apparently not good enough, they prefer a real fox to chase.

As a rider I can appreciate the thill of the ride especially as part of a large group, but I can’t wrap my brain around the idea that chasing a living creature and then killing it hideously is even necessary, unless of course, you enjoy seeing animals in pain. And I don’t just mean the last moments when the hounds strike and rip it limb from terrified limb, but the psychological pain of an animal fleeing for its life.  As a human being, how can you not empathise with that sort of suffering?

Animal abusers = People abusers 

There is clear evidence that animal abuse is a predictor of violence against humans.  Those who abuse animals lack empathy, not just for animals, but for people too.

According to Psychology Today, ‘nearly all violent crime perpetrators have a history of animal cruelty in their profiles’.  When asked how many mass murderers and schoolyard killers had committed acts of animal abuse, an FBI spokesperson is on record as saying “The real question should be, how many have not.”

Such is the link between animal abuse and child abuse that in the US, social services and animal welfare organisations routinely work together to identify and try to prevent abuse.

Animal abuse damages children

There is also evidence that witnessing animal abuse when young has a dramatic impact on a child’s ability to develop empathy.  According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 60% of incarcerated violent offenders saw their childhood pets taken away or experience traumatic deaths.

Animals play a vital role in helping children develop psychologically.  Anyone who’s grown up with animals will have suspected as much, but  I had no idea that there was so much evidence to measure and back this up. For example, in his book ‘The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence’  Andrew Linzey, PhD, DD, HonDD, cites research from across the globe that concludes that witnessing animal abuse can psychologically damage children.  This may seem obvious, but the process is worth noting.

Children who witness neglect, abuse and/or the killing of an animal become desensitised to it.  What’s horrific today, isn’t so bad tomorrow and too soon, the child becomes indifferent and simply doesn’t care.  Habituation to the pain and suffering they see quickly follows and you soon have a child unable to empathise – with animal or human.

So what are we teaching our children as they witness a fox hunt, either in the flesh or on TV? And for those who claim empathy for some animals e.g. cats, dogs, horses, but not others, such as foxes, what are teaching them? That empathy is selective and dependent on appearance and popularity?  Oh, that’s a slippery slope if ever I saw one.

Social issue 

Empathy is vital, not just to our own mental health and stability but to the functioning of our society.  Imagine a world in which people were  emotionally incapable of caring! If the survivalists want something to worry about now that the Myan calendar has proved blessedly inaccurate, I’d suggest that this scenario should be top of their list.

I’m not suggesting that anyone who participates in a Fox Hunt is a full-blown sociopath, but if the road to psychosis is a sliding scale, then surely the evidence suggests that they’re a lot further toward the nut house than the rest of us.


Further reading 




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