Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Responsibility or Irresponsibility?

My wife and I were recently waiting in an airport for a flight to take us home.  We always arrive earlier than we need to and have time to sit and read and watch the people go by while we are waiting.  While we were sitting there,  halfway reading and occasionally looking around, we both began to watch a young woman who was walking a dog around the airport.  The reason we became fixed on this particular person was that the dog she was walking resembled our granddog, Kiwi, that belongs to our daughter.  It was a dog that seemed to look like a Lhasa Apso which is Kiwi's breed.  Long and lank, rather furry, with a tail that arched over its back, walking briskly, its little legs trying to keep up with its owner's long strides, we both felt sorry for it.  It had its tongue out as if it were thirsty and the young woman who was holding the leash was more interested in looking at her cell phone than she was in paying attention to her little dog.  She would pause here and there to consider whatever was going on inside her phone while her dog looked up at her longingly for approval or attention.

Every once in a while, the young woman would pass the trash containers and recycling bins that were set up around the airport and immediately the dog would press its nose to the ground and begin sniffing as if it was trying to locate something.  Then, while the young woman was either oblivious to the actions of her dog or ignoring it totally, the dog would lift its leg and urinate on the side of the trashcan.  This was repeated again and again, up and down the concourse, with the dog relieving itself on the trashcans here and there and the young woman transfixed on her cell phone.  The little dog had to go a lot and once an official for one of the airlines stopped her and told her of an alternative place for her dog to go to the bathroom and the woman's response was simply a smile and a wave, which I interpreted as a gesture of nonchalance or non-caring on her part.  She began her pacing up and down the concourse after her interaction with the official, the dog stopping now and then to lift its leg and do its business.

My wife and I discussed the scene we were observing and felt sorry for the dog.  Her owner was clearly distracted and not in touch with the needs of her dog or her fellow passengers.  Who wants to sit near those trashcans (and there were seats fixed not far from many of them) and smell the urine of an animal that had soaked into the carpet?  Who wants to have to clean up after the little animal as those working in the terminal that day had to do?  Why did this young woman become hypnotized on a piece of technology to the place that she could not understand her responsibility to those around her and to the dog who was supposed to care for?

My wife's sense of justice always emerges when she sees an animal or child being neglected or mistreated.  She wanted to march over to the young woman and point out the error of her ways.  I was much more secretive with my intentions--I just wanted to turn her in to the authorities in the airport telling them about the dog soiling the carpet here and there.  I figured they would make her confine her dog in a safe place and make her pay something in restitution to the airport.  Neither of us did anything, however.  We just talked and looked and shook our heads with displeasure.

My wife did encounter the young woman in the ladies room, though, bending down to pet the dog and tell the owner how cute it was.  She said the owner smiled and said that the dog drinks too much water and she did not want to give it any more right them because it was urinating too much.  The dog's long red tongue was out much of the time they were walking indicating to my wife that the poor little thing was thirsty.

We soon boarded our plane and left the problem behind us, only to reflect upon the situation more and to ponder why some do not see their lack of responsibility to others as they live their daily lives.  This was not the only example of irresponsibility we observed while on our recent trip.  There were others that involved pets and children but again they were observed momentarily and then once out of sight were quickly forgotten.

What responsibility does one have as a private citizen when one observes others being irresponsible?  Perhaps that is the great quandary we all have to ask ourselves.  When does it become necessary for us to interfere or intercede on behalf of another who may be helpless to fend for themselves?  A dog or cat or other animal or a young child is at the mercy of a human being who owns or has in their care this helpless one.  If the human is mistreating or neglecting such a being, do other humans who observe this have a duty to step in to do something to relieve the situation?  Is it necessary to be upfront about our interference with the offender or is something of a more secretive approach just as good?  Those of us who wish to avoid conflict are more ready to use the stealthy method while many would just as soon march right up and make their opinions known, despite perhaps unpleasant circumstances that could emerge.

There is not a simple or easy solution to such problems.  One has to handle them with care.  When caring for those who cannot care for themselves, however, perhaps it is love or mercy that guides our actions.  Divine intervention may indeed be needed when dealing with others who may not easily see or admit the error of their ways, especially when a stranger points it out to them.  

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