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Small Steps
Viruthika, Age 14, Ashburn, VA

She looks up at me curiously and under the shade of light, I can see the golden brown flecks of her eyes. I stare straight back, with the same expression, and we hold our gaze.

My dog Madison is a pointer mix, a petite little thing. My brother was the one who wanted to get a dog. We adopted her from the D.C. animal shelter about three years ago. At first, I was hesitant to play with her because she was so hyper, but once my brother left home, the responsibility came down to me. Iíll admit it was hard to train her and get her to listen to me. Sheís like this great big ball of energy and it never seems to run out.

Every once in a while I try to see the world through her eyes. Bright reds muddle into browns and cobalt blues transform into swirls of pale hues. I see her shivering as she braves the snow coated ground and I see her frolicking on a small boat before stealing a fish from the tin bucket. I see her dressed for Halloween with a halo and I see her lapping up water after running outside. Her forehead crinkles as she observes us vacuuming the carpet and her paws cover her nose when she gets in trouble for having an Ďaccidentí in the house. I see cars whiz by on the road, leaving behind an ugly trail of black sludge. And a giant box that spews nonsensical noise for hours on end.
As I see the world she lives in, Madison peers into mine --my school, my friends, my family. The subdued colors change to bright and eye-popping. A stack of binders and textbooks are piled in a corner. A violin is propped up against a wall. The long forgotten paint set I had begged for. She sees me furiously working away on a project the morning it is due. Pens and pencils strewn across the floor and sloppily folded clothes peeking out from the gap of drawers.

Living in a large suburban area with houses and shopping complexes being piled up in a matter of months, we often forget that we share this planet with thousands of other creatures and living things. Our forefathers often wondered how the country they helped build would fare in the future just like we wonder how the generations of tomorrow will deal with pressing issues such as global warming and the rise of technology. But have we ever stopped to wonder about the future of our co-inhabitants? Sure, weíve all seen videos on the Discovery Channel of magnificent polar bears, fur slightly tinged with brown, isolated on a tiny circle of ice and desperately searching for food. Weíve seen young cubs and chicks being abandoned, the destruction of habitats due to manís insatiable need for resources, and species being wiped off the Earth. As humans, we have always felt superior to other living creatures, but we do have a conscience.

It is a humbling experience, realizing the amazing feats of nature. We canít get to the local grocery store without a GPS, while birds make journeys across the world every season relying only on their internal direction. Zebras, leopards, and snakes have remarkable skin that we can only try to emulate with tacky fur coats and boots. Insects can detect one another from miles away through pheromones while we humans rely on our cell phones and texting. So in reality, weíre not that great. Only a small piece in a giant puzzle.

Every time Iím about to throw away a soda can or spit gum on the floor, I remember Madisonís eyes brimming with compassion. I see her curled up in her bed or greeting a complete stranger and realize that there are animals all over the world minding their own business, doing completely normal things like caring for their young or gathering food. Iím not asking for people to go insane and start living in wooden huts and build fires. Iím asking for a little sense. Itís not that hard to recycle or use your older siblingís hand-me-downs. Identify a problem in your community that youíre interested in and help find a solution; you donít have to be rolling in money, you can earn grants from places like DoSomethingNow.com. The small, disparate acts of courage are what lead to a glorious revolution.

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