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Yesterday, as I stood on my front porch watering my succulents, I watched a single honey bee flying from flower to flower, doing his pollinating thing.
I was deeply moved. Tears filled my eyes. I thanked him for his work. I told him I was sorry for what we humans have done to destroy his environment. I told him I loved him.
Last week, one of the playful little squirrels who live in our hedgerow ended up dead in the street. I went to pick him up and walk him out into the field across from our house. His body was still warm and supple. I was sure he had, just moments ago, been hit by a car. I couldn’t bear the thought of another passing car smashing his little body all over the road. I walked him to the middle of the field and said a few words of thanks in honor of how he had let us know him and his family. I told him I forgave him time and again for eating the endive I planted in my garden. Tears welled up as I said goodbye to our furry friend. I wondered how his family would feel when he never came home.
I always pick up the spiders I find in the corners of my home. I take them outside and place them on the lawn or in the garden. It would never cross my mind to squish them.
I love the lizards that run across the pavement and up the stucco of my house. I’m entertained by the rabbits that populate our street, and the wild burros that wander down from the surrounding foothills. I’m thrilled to happen upon the random coyote walking down our street, heading back up to the hills after foraging the neighborhood.
I guess it would be pretty redundant to tell you that I have a deep love for animals. The dogs and cats who have been my family’s companions over the years are like my children. I can’t imagine a home without them.
As I look into the eyes of any of these sentient beings, I feel a connection that validates my belief in the goodness of the soul, the gentleness of the spirit. I feel a holy communion, a sacred kinship.
How can I not feel this for the cows, the pigs, and chickens, those animals that end up in our stews and on our bar-b-que?
I’m following a story about a beautiful dog who was left, starving, near death, at the door of the Lexington, Kentucky Humane Society. This beautiful, brindle-colored Great Dane mix, should weigh 95+ pounds. He was so malnourished that he weighed a mere 38 pounds! He was rushed to the veterinary hospital for intensive care. He was put on IV fluids and fed small amounts of special food every two hours, round the clock, in an attempt to save him. He was so emaciated that he had no muscle. He was, quite literally, skin and bones. His eyes were listless and glazed over with a milky film. He couldn’t walk.
He couldn’t even hold his head up to eat and drink. One of the attendants had to hold his head up while another one fed him.
Little by little, this dog, now named Ethan, is regaining weight. He started to walk, with the assistance of a sling around his belly. And then, began walking, very gingerly, on his own. The light has come back to his eyes. His sweet personality is emerging.
Ethan will recover. Ethan will be adopted by a loving home.
We don’t know what kind of torture he went through that brought him to the brink of death, but we don’t care. We want to help. Hundreds of people who are following his story have donated thousands of dollars. The Lexington Human Society has raised close to $20,000 dollars in the name of Ethan. People care about this dog. They have fallen in love with him. They want him to become whole again and have a happy life. He deserves a happy life. We all deserve a happy life.
When I reflect on this, I can’t help but wonder why this kind of compassion isn’t extended to the animals we have named to be our food. The torture these animals go through in the factory farms, where they are being raised to sell enough burgers to McDonald’s or put bacon and eggs on our breakfast table, is ignored.
I understand how this happens. Our meat comes neatly packaged to hide the horror. We call it steak, poultry, ham. We distance ourselves from the fact that these are sentient beings just like our precious dogs and cats, just like Ethan.
I wonder how it is that we can care so deeply for Ethan, yet set our caring aside for all these other precious animals, just so we can eat our burgers.
I pray for the day that we honor all animals—not just those who live in our homes with us.