So tonight I was coming home from work and there was a small, black dog running in the middle of the road, alternating between standing still in the center of the road and dodging cars, which were at least slowing down for him. I pulled over, got out of my car and picked him up, just trying to get him into a more safe situation off the main road.
I got him home and examined him; he was underfed, had some weird kind of skin nodules and was sneezing. Also old and vision-impaired, judging by his milky eyes and the condition of his teeth. But he was friendly, allowing me to pick him up and wagging his tail at me once I put him down.
We checked the "lost" ads on Craigslist. No one reported him lost. He had no tags, so we couldn't call his owners. I made a post on our community bulletin board and then pondered what to do next.
Part of me wanted to keep him for a few days, post some flyers, and see if anyone responded. But with his skin condition, putting him in with our dog would not be possible and we don't have a yard we can separate into two parts. So instead I had Groceries put him in the truck and drop him off at County Animal Control, where they can at least see if he's microchipped and get him any medical attention he needs.
But of course immediately after this I started beating myself up and telling myself I should have done better. Maybe kept him in the garage, or getting Big Ag to fence off part of the yard, or at least ameliorating whatever was done to him that led him to be running in the road, obviously neglected and/or abandoned. Maybe I should have waited and sent him to a rescue organization. Maybe maybe maybe.
Yet if my own dog went missing, I would want him to end up at Animal Control, where they could read his microchip and call us....and where, if they didn't call, I would look for him the minute they opened up after the three day weekend.
But for some reason I hold myself to impossibly high standards when it comes to our four-legged friends. And other things as well. I'm amazed how many times I catch myself saying, "you should have done x or y," to myself when at times no other action than the one I took was even possible.
I'm very forgiving with other people, so I'm not sure why I expect superhuman behavior from myself. I'm sure it's what gives me drive and motivation and keeps my life running, but I also suspect it sometimes sabotages my self-esteem and brings me down.
I'm thinking the phrase, "should have done better," is one I should use on myself sparingly and very occasionally. The fact is, we all do our best and some situations are a choice between two relatively crappy solutions. We can't beat ourselves up for choosing one of them if they're all that's available.
I know our goal as moral humans is to treat others the way we treat ourselves, but for some of us, the opposite might be a better thing -- to treat ourselves with the kindness and respect we usually treat other people. Maybe "should have done better" should be replaced with "did the best I could," and we should feel good about that.
But I still hope my dog story has a happy ending, and that even if I can't do anything else, somehow he'll end up in the right place. And I just hope that's enough.
P.S. This story has a very happy ending. Today we saw a sign with a description of the dog on a neighborhood bulletin board ... he has been missing and his owners thought he had probably been hit by a car. They will be going to pick him up at the animal shelter and bringing him home again. A great end to the tale (or tail lol).