Many years and several careers ago, I came across this picture in a magazine; for some reason it resonated with me, so I cut it out and put it in a thrift store frame and hung it on my wall. Something about that lonely, hungry animal overlooking the beautifully chaotic landscape spoke to me, though I couldn’t say exactly what.
The Dog in Front of the World by Franz Marc stayed with me through many moves and jobs, and when I took on the role of directing the education program at the Alberta SPCA 18 years ago it naturally took its rightful place on my office wall. I often looked at it for inspiration, just like the white dog seemed to be looking for something beyond himself (as dogs often seem to do – isn’t that why we love them so much?).
With the broad mandate of providing an education program for an animal protection agency, I set out to try to satisfy that poor dog’s longings. Drawing on the work of pioneers in the field – most notably my predecessor Elizabeth Gredley and our long-time president Joy Ripley – it was tremendously satisfying to work in this field as I saw so many teachers who willingly accepted the core values of humane education – teaching that inspires kindness to animals, people and the earth we share.
While the desire to see people treat other creatures and humans with more compassion was my inspiration, it was the dedicated teachers and enthusiastic students that sustained me. The teachers going out of their way to instill humane principles in their students, those who often take in strays or teach respect for wildlife and the environment, and those who understand that both the bully and the bullied need a compassionate response to break the cycle – all of you provide hope to others in a world that often seems less caring as the days go on. I’m sure each of you holds ideals that inspired you to start your careers in education, and are sustained by the growth (no matter how incremental) you see in your students.
Meeting with teachers from all over the province has given me a unique opportunity to hear the concerns faced by teachers in all regions of Alberta. It’s a privilege I never took for granted, and am most grateful to have enjoyed for the past 18 years. I had some amazing coworkers, met numerous incredible volunteers who always gave from the heart, and many dedicated professionals working in the veterinary, academic, public education and law enforcement fields. Of course, our own Peace Officers who head out day after day to investigate calls about animal neglect and abuse provided have always had my admiration.
As retirement looms and I step down from my position at the Alberta SPCA, I am confident that the programs I had led will not only continue, but will thrive. Under the direction of Melissa Logan, my colleague of the past ten years, the school program will continue to expand and reach new heights. With the pet safekeeping program now being led by Patricia Mamak, this too will expand in area and scope to help more domestic violence victims seek safety. Our board of directors, who have always been a source of constant support, I know will continue to support these programs.
I now have an additional piece of artwork – this original drawing of my dog Lucky in front of the city and nature (every living thing) – a thoughtful and much-appreciated gift from my coworkers. This is now at home on the wall beside the dog in front of the world, and will sustain many happy memories of my years in humane education.