After a private lesson recently, a new client complimented me on my skills and compassion. The compassion part of the compliment threw me for a bit of a loop. It also made me incredibly happy and well, proud. Skills, yeah yeah, we can all get those, right? But compassion, hmmm, it got me thinking…

Sometimes I don’t feel very compassionate. Sometimes I feel loud and hot-headed (just ask my husband). Sometimes I get frustrated and pissed-off in traffic or at the lady behind the counter, or at the slow whomever, wherever. But when I deal with animals (and children for the most part, unless it’s been a really rough day) I never seem feel that way. There is something about defenseless creatures that has always hit me deep in my soul (as a child and still to this day, I simply cannot watch animal movies). I’m guessing this is true for a lot of folks who work with animals. I hope this is true for a lot of folks who work with animals.  But compassion isn’t only important for the dogs I work with, it is important for the humans I work with. Yes, people can be incredibly hard to deal with (!) but shouldn’t I be just as sensitive to their needs and feelings as I am to their dog’s?

I do find myself feeling especially compassionate to my clients with difficult dogs. It is really hard to have a difficult dog. I have been there. Sometimes it truly SUCKS. Sometimes you don’t want that dog anymore. And then you feel guilty. My reactive dog class is one of my favorite classes to teach because every human in that class can offer compassion to every other. These folks are all in the same boat. Part dog training/part therapy. They’ve had people look at them with a “hard eye” on the street. They’ve gotten mad at their dog out on the street. And then felt guilty.

When I worked at an animal shelter in my 20’s I don’t think I had any compassion for the people relinquishing dogs.  They were all “jerks” and “a**holes”. Trust me, a LOT of them were, but maybe they had a story too. Maybe a little compassion extended to them could have helped. Someone. Just a little. Maybe compassion towards that human could have helped that animal.

I sure hope that client who gave me the compliment found me as compassionate toward him as I was toward his dog. As I am commonly heard saying in my classes “no one is 100%.” You will make mistakes; your dog will make mistakes. None of us is perfect but I for one am going to try my hardest to extend that compassion to all the two-legged creatures I come in contact with as well as the four-legged.

Maybe I’m just getting soft in my old age. I hope so.

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