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When is it my job to speak up?

If I see obvious abuse or neglect, that’s easy: I find a way to diplomatically address it. The diplomacy is important, as many people will simply move their anger toward you in the direction of the poor creature who is suffering.

But where are the boundaries of speaking up?

This morning, I met a neighbor who has lived across the village green for a year. I was alone, and he was with his new puppy, Buster, who is probably a golden retriever. The little guy’s about 12 weeks old, and I play with him for a moment and do the doggy-talk thing and ask: "Is he a rescue?"

And the guy looks at me with a blank stare that only Keanu Reeves could beat. He shakes his head, looks a tad disgusted, and responds, "No, we got him from a breeder."

I said nothing, did nothing.

I wanted to school him about the tens of thousands of animals that will die in shelters this year because of people like him, but that wouldn’t fit in with my "diplomacy" requirement. But if I don’t say something, he may never get educated. Is his education my job?

A possible solution that has worked in the past for me–and it’s a long-term solution–is to develop a relationship with the person. It’s easier to have productive conversations with someone you know and like than with a stranger. I have to find parts of him that I like, have compassion for him, and realize that I was once where he is now.

Then I can make a difference.

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