The world is full of animals in need, and far too often, their cries for help are left unanswered. Every so often, an advertisement seeking funding for needy animals will come on the television as I work on my articles and I'll turn to my rabbit, resting in her nest of cozy toys and her pastel pink blanket, and remark to her that she just does not understand how good she has it in life. Just recently, in fact, I was hit with this random, gut-wrenching feeling at the simple thought of my rabbit feeling sad, or perhaps scared. There's no doubt that I love my rabbit, just like there's no doubt that virtually all pet owners love their pets, but how often do we turn a blind eye to the sad commercials? How often do we walk past a stray cat on the street?
It's easy to feel defeatist, especially in the current climate of animal rights. Which of our victories are real victories when vivisection is still a very real experience for some of our poor fellow earthlings? It's important, however, to stop and think about how seemingly microscopic actions make an enormous difference to those that we're helping.
About two years ago, a friend of mine went to go and teach English to schoolchildren in South Korea. There is a specific breed of dog there that is bred for the purposes of consumption, and my friend was well aware of this before she left. I asked her how she felt about this before she left at the time and she shook her shoulders.
"I don't know. . ." she said. "Is it really all that different from thinking tea cup pigs are cute, and eating bacon?"
Fast forward several months. My friend has settled into her new life in a major South Korean city and uses public transportation to get to her different schools. She is happy, and posts about her adventures on social media. Late at night, however, she sends me a message. She revealed to me that her bus route takes her straight by one of the restaurants that serves dog as a meal, and that earlier that day, she had seen a shipment of dogs arrive.
"I couldn't breathe," she said to me, obviously still emotionally shaken. "It was everything I could do not to break down on the way to the kindergarten."
Later on, my friend met an old man who kept one of those dogs as a puppy, and she would walk past him and the pup daily. She would exchange pleasantries and pet the dog, and one day, she asked what his name was. The man replied with a bright laugh and the Korean word for dinner, again shaking my friend deeply.
Days later, my friend returned to that old man and offered him payment in return for the puppy.
Now, a year later and back on US soil, my animal companion and my friend's dog play together every now and then.
What my friend did did not halt the industry that so disturbed and hurt her on an emotional level. What she did, however, made a world of difference to one sweet little dog.
Think about this the next time you wonder what difference you, as an individual, can make.