Creepy is as Creepy Does.

Via on Mar 6, 2012
by Jason Bache, flickr commons

“Remember, the true teacher is within.” ~ Sri Dharma Mittra.

How is your yoga practice?

Are you listening to your body? Are you listening to those around you? Maybe it’s time to stop listening to them.

Tonight was odd, yet strange. My girlfriend Maru and I were at a dinner party, not far from an artist residency where I am staying, in Akumal, Mexico. Our hosts had provided delicious veggie sopes, and awesome sauces. We were eating and laughing, exchanging ideas with artists from all over the planet, under a moon headed toward fullish. Altogether a good time.

Then the text came.

My girlfriend provides shuttle services for a pet cremation business in Cancun. I often help her. Yep. We drive dead dogs to the incinerator. Tonight’s text was a guy who had lost his full-sized dog and pet of 17 years. This is not a situation where you say, “Is tomorrow morning good for you?” Maru not only needed to leave the party, but she needed my help.

We explained to our friends what we were doing, and there were a few party-style laughs, and some good-natured jokes about a pretty awkward topic. Let’s face it, driving dead pets around is creepy, and the best way to deal with it in a party is to throw a few laughs around. Having listened to the comments, on our way to the car, we talked a little about how weird we are.

We drove the 20 clicks to the little seaside town where the man waited for us. He had two friends meet us in their car at the highway and guide us to him. We found him on his porch, with his big black doggie laying there uncovered, and some candles lit. The tone was hushed, reverential, and sad. We covered up the dog, gently wrapping him first in a sheet, and then in hefty bags.

Photo: Ali Goodwin

We had to lift the dog up to do this, of course. We walked him out to the little truck. This was a condo unit, so there were people out on their balconies. The dog was large: it took two of us to carry him, and we could be easily seen. I remember thinking “I feel like I’m carrying a dead body.” Blink, blink.

Out at the truck, knowing we were set to take his companion away, his facade broke. He cried. We said our goodbyes and drove slowly off.

To many, well to most, that is creepy. To me it is sacred. We are helping this man make a respectful farewell to the pet he loved for many years. In a land where underground lakes and rivers are the norm, we are handling the animal’s body in an ecologically-responsible way. Both services are important, and on a jaded planet, being with people who are at this crossroads is healing work.

We see people at their most vulnerable, and give what comfort we can. But this work is viewed as creepy. Yet hunters are not. And people who eat animals are not. Our culture has got it all wrong. In our culture, you can be a small or large part of careless animal execution, every day.

If you have 13,500 dollars, you can go to Texas and kill the sacred White Buffalo for fun. In places all across America, you can hunt from the safety of your car or an enclosed space, and have your prey released for you at a designated time, all within a huge cage. If you have three bucks, you can buy a piece of dead flesh, riddled with antibiotics and pesticides, stolen from an animal subjected to lifelong abuse, and put it in your own body, choking it down with whatever flavor of denial best suits you.

To me, these actions are seriously creepy.

A friend asked me at a restaurant last night if I could bring a fish dinner to her son. It was on my way home. Her son was hungry. My bike has a basket. I declined. I said, “I don’t do dead animals.”

But I do, don’t I? I bring dead animals to the furnace. And you know what? That is the only appropriate thing to do with an animal corpse. I suppose I was being a jerk. But I’m okay with that.

I was happy with my response, because while I do not have to try to sway anyone to my diet or my way of thinking, I also do not have to overlook, endorse or be part of animal abuse and slaughter, in any way.  I need to be where my heart is, and stop being “nice,” and “polite,” and buying into what our culture tells me.

I need to stay awake and be true. Anything short of that would be, well, creepy.

~

Editor: Kate Bartolotta.

About Karl Saliter

Karl is a circus artist sculptor yoga teacher writer miscreant gypsy, living in Mexico. He often feels as if he was born under a silver whale of a frisbee moon in the back of a red cartoon pickup truck, careening down route 66 at speed, that he somehow took the wheel, stuck his baby elbow out the rolled-down window, and decided to roll with it, and that though the truck had awesome chrome mirrors, he never looked back. He hopes you sometimes feel the same.

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27 Responses to “Creepy is as Creepy Does.”

  1. Andrew Gurvey agurvey says:

    Karl, this was a really cool and interesting article. I do not find what you do to be creepy. All one has to do is understand the relationship that can transpire between man/woman and his/her animal. The easiest relationship for many to understand is of that between human and dog (with, what I think is a close second…I have no statistic and I could be wrong…I'm wrong a lot…to human and cat). I think, as you so astutely pointed out, it's the extrapolation to the sacredness of other animals that many of us miss. I really enjoyed this article. Thank you.

  2. karlsaliter says:

    Hey thanks for that, Andrew. Your comment means a lot to me: I'm glad you read and posted. Seeing that very together, well-dressed and mature man standing behind the truck, looking at his dead friend, and then the tears come out of his eyes, was unexpectedly beautiful. There was no show to his grief, in fact, he took a walk just after it happened. It was a very private moment but we were allowed to be there.
    His crying said everything about the relationship between people and the animals they choose to allow into their lives. It seems that all animals are with us, but we are with so few of them. You are right: the loving idea is to extrapolate and include, ever broadening our circle of compassion.

  3. Rock star :) Loved it.

  4. Valerie Carruthers ValCarruthers says:

    Keep on bustin out, Karl. "Tonight was odd, yet strange." That's gonna stay in my head forever.

  5. greenergirl says:

    Beautiful writing. I want more please.

  6. karlsaliter says:

    Hey thanks for that Val! I love that line.
    Greenergirl, that is encouraging. I'll keep writing: gracias.

  7. maru says:

    I think helping animals to go with respect, reverence and love, and helping their owners to deal with -often- a sudden loss is a beautiful thing. No matter how much they were loved, the moment of their death and specially dealing with the body, is very hard for the owners. Loosing a loved one is alwas hard for all of us. Being there ready to help in such a heartbreaking moment is a privilege to me. I love animals, and thru them I can relate and connect with the owners, and be of service, an honorable service..

    Creepy is to me, as Karl sas, the daily abuse to animlas, the meat industry, the in vitro meat plans, the hunting and the DENIAL of it all, which keeps all of us disconnceted to the vaue of life and the pain of others…

    • oz_ says:

      So well said, Maru. Disconnection is exactly the right term – not only from others, but from our own deepest selves. To fail to appreciate and honor the pain of others is to betray our own selves, our own pain. Yet our culture incentivizes us to do just that.

      • karlsaliter says:

        Agreed. The disconnection is a bad neighborhood, where defensiveness, righteousness and rationalizations begin.
        I want to cultivate connection.

  8. Jered Morgan says:

    Karl, do you do dead plants? If you do, you might want to reconsider. Plants have feelings. Plants also eat dead animals.

    • karlsaliter says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Jared. It hasn't come up yet.

      I've read "The Vegetarian Myth" and am familiar with your line of reasoning re nitrates and soil.

      I find that while trueish, it lacks heart, and overlooks the fact that we have choices It is often used as

      argument for a rational which diminishes the role of choice and compassion. Don't you think?

  9. oz_ says:

    For once :) I'm on board with the others here – nothing creepy about this, in my view. Though for the record, I don't think there's anything 'creepy' – per se – about the way our culture treats animals. Cruel, yes, vicious, yes, worse, unthinkingly so. The reason I say this is because 'creepy' is necessarily a wholly subjective feeling, whereas cruel and vicious can be more objectively defined.

    Good for you Karl, for bringing a measure of dignity to the process that is death, loss, grieving, heartbreak. In a death phobic world, this is so worth a few awkward dinner party moments. I really admire your humanity in this endeavor, and honor you and Maru for it.

    - Oz

  10. karlsaliter says:

    Thanks Oz. It is a joy to be Maru's helper. This is her project: she is the heart. Good point on the "creepy". You have an Occam's razor intellect, and your eye for separating out the inaccurate is dead on. The pulse of the piece called for "creepy", but yes, it is subjective even in its weekday clothes.

  11. Loren says:

    I'm with OZ – thanks Karl for a wonderful read and shining a light on a topic not often discussed. I think this type of job takes utmost compassion – you're dealing with people in their toughest times – having lost not just pets ..but sometimes their best mates. These jobs need empathy and understanding and people carrying them out in respectful way – and it sounds as if that's what Maru and yourself bring to this job.
    Thanks Karl.

    Loren

  12. maru says:

    Thanks Oz and Loren :) Every time I think is a privilege to be there. Thanks Karl, for bringing this topic up.

  13. Vicky says:

    Truly beautiful thing you are doing and thank you for sharing about being authentic to your self, so very important for me to be reminded. It is hard to swim upstream at times…

  14. Valerie Carruthers ValCarruthers says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  15. G.C.Aloha says:

    Nice piece, Karl. I'm wondering if you've seen the movie Departures. It is about this on the human level. That is to say, not the killing and eating part, but how seeing people out of the world with respect for the deceased and compassion for their loved ones is some of the best work a person can do. If you haven't seen it, you really must; you will deeply appreciate the message. It's a beautiful film. I think the same applies for helping people let go of their pet companions. And why shouldn't it? They are people in our lives in every important sense.

    While I despise the factory farming complex, I do eat some types of animal flesh, but I want to say that if you are opposed to it on principle and your friends know that, they shouldn't ask you to pick up meat for them. I don't think you were in the wrong to say no to something that feels wrong to you, as long as you were polite about it. I would not ask a vegan friend to pick up meat for me. Ever.

    It sounds like you and your girlfriend are doing important, compassionate work all around. All the best to you. Namaste.

    • karlsaliter says:

      Hi GC.

      I have not seen "Departures". Sounds like I should have a look! I like that you read the article, and took the time to comment. I'll definitely watch. Sometimes it seems dumb to me, the fish is all wrapped up and what's my hangup? Then it also seems that refusing to take part in that matters.

      All the best.

  16. kiwiyogini says:

    I loved this piece Karl, and agree with what others have said here before me and better than i could! So i will just say thank you :o)

  17. karlsaliter says:

    Hi Sophia. I'm vegan with a weakness for desserts. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/01/10-things-

    Thanks for your question, and for reading and commenting. (Especially given what you said!!!) :)
    When people comment, it makes me glad I took the time to write.

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