Sunday, August 15, 2010

Speaking up

Do you speak up when you see another person or an animal being mistreated?  I think a lot of us want to, but it's not easy.

A friend was recently telling me about a study she read, where they set up situations with paid actors and kept track of how people responded to other's mistreatment.  They set up the study so that obese people, seemingly disabled people, children and then senior citizens were yelled at and taunted loudly in public.  Nobody spoke up for any of them, except for the seniors; and in that case almost everybody spoke up to defend them.

Maybe we're too non-confrontational, or maybe we're afraid.  Maybe we just don't care anymore.  (I hope that's not true.)  Whatever the reason, we're not getting involved.

That's true for me.  I am very uncomfortable with confrontation, and I'm hyper aware of imposing myself on others.  I wouldn't want to misinterpret a situation, and then say something inappropriate.  Most of the time, I'll stay quiet rather than step in where I'm not welcome.  Except when animals are involved.  For animals, I'll usually get involved.

I came upon a small dog that had been left in a vehicle in a parking lot today.  I was torn between deciding if it was too hot (24C, 75F) to safely leave a dog in the car or not.    It was barking nonstop and bouncing around the truck, so I decided that it wasn't likely to be in distress.  I talked about it with another lady who was there and worried about the dog, and together we decided that I'd call if the dog was still there when I came out of the store.

Ten minutes later, as I was checking out, I could see that the truck was still there in the parking lot.  I mentioned it and my concern for the dog to the cashier, and she said that staff is not supposed to get involved.

I went out to the truck again.  The dog wasn't barking anymore, but was still standing on the back seat.  I decided (hoped) that it must be OK if it was still standing.  However, the windows were too dark for me to see if the dog was panting or drooling.

I left.  I didn't want to deal with the confrontation, and I didn't want to assume the worst of the owners.   Maybe they'd had the air conditioning going on full blast until they left the truck, and maybe they'd be back momentarily.   Maybe it wasn't any of my business.  Maybe they'd yell at me if I did say something.  Plus,  I didn't have my cell with me.

So, I carried on.  I drove to the next store, and as I did so, it occurred to me that I was pretty hot.  My sun roof had been open the whole time, but the windows were closed.  It occurred to me that if I was that hot in the few moments that it took to get to the next store, the dog would be even hotter.  I decided that when I got to the next store, I'd ask to use the phone and call for help.

The next store was closed.    I couldn't do nothing, so I went back to the big box store.  Sure enough the truck and the dog were still there.  I wrote down the license plate number and went to customer service.  I explained that the dog had been there at least 15 minutes, and that it's too hot outside to leave dogs in cars.  She asked if the windows were open, and I told her just a crack.  I also told her how hot my car was, and that my sun roof had been open.  She agreed to call for help.  I asked her again.  "So if I leave this with you, you'll call?"  Yes, she said.  I reminded her that the SPCA is closed on Sundays, and that she'd have to call the police.  She said she'd call.

Figuring that I'd done all that I could do, I left.  As I left, I heard through my now-open windows as the owner of the truck was paged on the overhead.

Now I'm worried.  What if the owners didn't respond?  What if they scoffed at my concerns and went back to their shopping?  Would customer service then call the police as I'd asked?  How long would they wait?

It's been a couple of hours since I've left the store, and I'm still worried about that dog.  I'm not sure what I could have done differently, but I wish I'd done more.


  1. You did something and that's a good thing.

  2. I think you did everything humanly possible at that point to rescue the dog.

    I'm with you. I am horrible at confrontation, and I hate it. But I'd like to think I'd be brave enough to do something (at least call the sheriff) if a human or an animal were in distress.

    I always hate it when a visitor tells me they've brought their dog with them to Yosemite and want to know where they can hike with it. Almost NOWHERE! Dogs are not allowed on unpaved trails and can't be left unattended in cars. So what do the owners do? I don't know. I warn them and then usually recommend they forego Yosemite and head for the national forest where dogs are okay.

  3. I think you did just right. If I had had my cell phone, I would have called the police myself, after that amount of time. Hopefully the dog's owner came out to give him some relief.

  4. You did the right thing. I'm the same way when it come to confrontation, but when I see a child being hit in a store or a kid being picked on - I grit my teeth. We were rollerskating a few years ago and this one boy was clearly picking on another kid pushing him down. I went on over (big brave me - LOL ;-)) and told the bully to leave the other kid alone and made it clear with the ole evil eye that I'd be watching him - which I did the rest of the session. I tend to always want to step up and protect people but then my husband is more the type that he thinks someone will come after us with a gun so he'd rather not interject.