Every now and then a child will tell me something that astounds me and makes me realize the importance of my job as a humane educator. Earlier this week I experienced one of those moments.
When giving a tour here at HAWS I have times where I'm giving the entire group information, and other times I'm allowing the kids to look at the animals on their own before we move on. Often the kids will take the opportunity during these latter moments to tell me something about an animal experience they've had, or tell me about their own pets.
One of the girls this week asked if we had any parakeets - and in particular if we had three that were green, yellow and blue. She wanted to know because she was wondering if her parakeets were here at HAWS, since her mother had "let them go" since the cat was after them.
"Let them go?" I asked. "You mean outside?"
The girl said yes -- her mother had let the birds go outside.
It was then I most likely made a mistake. "Parakeets are from Australia," I said in shock. "They can't survive in Wisconsin!"
I hadn't meant to make the girl feel bad, so I was a bit relieved when, ever the optimist, the 4th grader told me that maybe by now they were in Florida. At that point my shock had worn off and I allowed her to think this was a possibility.
As upsetting as this conversation was to me, I realize that this isn't this little girl's fault. My job allows me to reach children and adults and help them become educated about pets and how best to treat them - and hopefully put an end to the ignorance that creates inhumane actions like releasing pets into the wild.
Perhaps if I reach the child, I may allow the child to educate her mother. Even if this isn't possible I may be able to plant a seed and allow the child to make better choices than her parents.
Later in the tour I approached this same girl. "Tell your mother that if she ever has a pet that she can't keep or doesn't want any more she should bring it here. This is what HAWS is for -- we will be more than happy to help you out with pets you can't have."
Hopefully I reached two family members that day.