Deliberate acts of kindness

Over the past week I have had cause to think a lot about kindness.

It started with a friend, who is also a trainer, being treated badly by colleagues that she was training. It made me reflect on the behaviours that we sometimes accept in training that would be unacceptable in any other setting.

I re-read the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s Code of Conduct and noted that it says, “You must treat people kindly and considerately.” As trainers I don’t think we should accept that we are ‘fair game’ for unhappy and disgruntled colleagues or even ones that just want a bit of fun at the expense of the individual standing at the front of the classroom. Recently I have started asking, at the start of a course, that people behave in the training room as they would in a clinical setting. In my training today I asked this and added, that we should aim to treat each other kindly.

The past few weeks have been hard for me. I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life. For a long time I knew it was coming, I had prepared for it and had even written some fiction based on it. I finally had to make that decision last Wednesday – that I would ask my vet to euthanise my 33 year old horse.

The kindness that I received from our vet and the nurse that accompanied her made such a difficult decision, and the required process, as easy as it could be. Our vet knows us and our animals well. We have had conversations over the last few years about end of life plans for my old horse. So when we got to the day it was made easier by having talked through what should happen. Both vet and nurse were visibly moved by my dear old horse coming to the end of his long life and by my distress. The emotion shown by them was not only congruent, but itself a kindness as it made me feel I was not alone and that it was right and proper that I should grieve for my horse.

I sat in the field with our other horse, and the body, for six hours until the cremation people came. They too showed me utmost care and consideration.

Our field is close to a village and next to a road and footpath. Many people stopped to say how sorry they were for my loss. Some I knew quite well, and others I had never seen before. One lady reached out and took my hand through our field gate and held it as she talked to me. So many deliberate acts of kindness.

Friends and colleagues have been extraordinarily supportive, some crying with me when I get upset.

I had to find a companion for the other horse, who was not used to being on his own, and I asked a small, local equine charity for a companion pony on loan. I trusted them to find the right pony to fill our vacancy and they brought me a stunning welsh cob who is a lovely chap and moves beautifully but has a native, wile streak. This pony is not a replacement for my dear old horse, but rather this pony has come to distract us all and keep us on our toes. He has some small behaviours I don’t yet quite understand and he and I are learning to work together. And of course, all of this needs to be done with the utmost kindness as he has his own difficult history and the recent stress of a new home.

Some years ago the rather lovely idea of ‘random acts of kindness’ was quite fashionable. With so much kindness shown to me very recently, by so many different people, it has made me think that we need to make conscious efforts to deliberately, “treat people kindly.” And kindness should guide everything we do with animals.

Information about the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies can be found here.