The six paramitas, or perfections of Mahayana Buddhism provide an ideal framework or lens through which to view animal care. These sublime qualities can be taken up as tools to engage in the practical world with other beings, especially our animal friends and even perceived “enemies” (so-called pests, intruders, or those we fear: perhaps ants, spiders, snails, raccoons, or mice). In part one, we looked at generosity, discipline, and patience in relation to animal care. Below we examine a few ways in which diligence, concentration, and wisdom can be implemented in relation to all kinds of animals in various situations. Some of these examples may seem obvious, things you already do. Others may be new to folks who perhaps have not yet questioned assumptions or behaviors that we regularly employ when caring for animals. Even a shift from ambivalence to thoughtful action is a step in the right direction, toward non-violence and care for creatures.
I encourage you, dear reader, to take one or more of these tips to heart for use in your daily life, whether increasing kindness toward worms, birds, and squirrels, or educating those around you, especially children, to follow suit. Many of us love and care for pets in our homes, yet we often lack basic training on how to care for them beyond their most fundamental needs. We can also extend our good hearts toward other pets or strays in our communities and think how we can help. Enjoy the path of compassion!
Engaging practical diligence
• Ensure pets have adequate and clear systems for relieving themselves, whether indoors or outside, to maintain their dignity, health, and comfort.
• Take the time to educate yourself on the proper use of leashes, collars, harnesses, and vehicle restraints to ensure pet safety and well-being.
• Attend to vaccinations, licensing, and possible microchipping to keep pets as well as others safe and healthy.
• Report observed cases of neglect and abuse, including hoarding or exposure, to reduce occurrences of harm toward animals in our communities.
• Think of your pets’ needs before traveling with them to ensure that they are comfortable and have their basic needs met, as well as have fun!
• Before walking or hiking, be prepared to remove pet waste in a timely and hygienic manner.
• Include children in pet care, for the benefit of both.
• Plan time for initial and ongoing pet training, in some cases evolving enrichment activities for their growth and development.
Sometimes helping animal beings means extending into advocacy and educating ourselves about the ways in which animals suffer in all kinds of contexts and reaching out to support them. How we garden, shop, entertain ourselves, and travel can affect animals wild and tame.
Engaging practical concentration
• Refrain from sport hunting and fishing, and encourage others to stop.
• Discourage pets from killing smaller animals or insects.
• Teach children how to better respect and care for wild animals, insects, and pets.
• Advocate for animals who are subject to abuse, neglect, or, worse, who live under conditions of cruelty such as forced fighting.
• Help organizations that legislate for street animals to receive better care and good homes.
• Refrain from killing insects by carefully move them to safety, and refrain from using chemical sprays and insecticides.
• Engage young people, the next generation of stewards, in education, advocacy, and action to help animals.
• Use live traps to catch and release animals you want relocated.
Animals nearing their old age and dying process need specialized attention and thoughtfulness. Euthanasia is not the only answer for an elderly or sick pet. Just as we care for human life and seek to reduce pain and suffering, there are many ways to support an elder pet to live out their days in relative comfort. One of the key aspects of this is to open our minds, soften our attitudes, and to be of support to one another as a community to help with pet care, just as we might for childcare.
Engaging practical wisdom
• Question assumptions about euthanasia and end-of-life care for pets. Take the time to really understand the ramifications of your choices.
Reach out to your community of friends and family to both ask for and offer support around elderly pet care.
• Research and use simple mobility and home or travel adaptations for elderly pets.
• Research pain management techniques for pets before their pain becomes untenable.
• Recognize the end-of-life journey as natural, not something that needs to be prematurely ended. Learn about karma and varying beliefs about the death process.
• Be open to new perspectives about midwifing death for animals.
• Accept grief as a natural part of a lifelong journey and something about which we can be curious.
• Be kind to yourself and others who are making choices during a pet’s illness, injury, or aging or dying processes.
Excerpted and adapted from Kindness for All Creatures by Sarah C. Beasley. © 2019 by Sarah C. Beasley. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, Colorado.
Sarah C. Beasley (Sera Kunzang Lhamo), author of Kindness for all Creatures: Buddhist Advice for Compassionate Animal Care (Shambhala 2019), has been a Nyingma practitioner since 2000, a certified educator, and an experienced writer and artist. She has a BA in Studio Art and an MA Candidate in Educational Leadership. Sarah spent close to seven years in traditional retreat under the guidance of Lama Tharchin Rinpoche and Thinley Norbu Rinpoche. With a lifelong passion for wilderness, she has summited Mt. Kenya and Mt. Baker, among other peaks. Her book and other works can be seen at www.sarahcbeasley.com.