My cat has a complicated relationship with Barbie. Recently they had a falling out. A couple nights ago they made up.
I put Barbie next to Tempest, who was feeling generous and happy at that moment, and they shared a tender moment, with Tempest putting her arm around Barbie. I didn’t want to push things in their newly repaired relationship, so I took Barbie away again after a few minutes. Tempest didn’t want to let her go, but they haven’t fought again since, so I think they are back on track.
Now we just need to get Barbie to stop hitting the booze.
I am, of course, being goofy in talking about the relationship between a cat and a plastic human toy, but I think sometimes looking at the “normal” through different eyes helps us to take a look at the things we would normally pay no attention to.
Domesticated animals, for example. It is hard to look at this objectively because most of us probably have lived with a dog or cat or turtle or fish or snake or bird or whatever animal in the past, and loved them. Cared for them. Wanted to do our best for them.
Yet there is something in the dependence of that relationship that is wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I would miss having a Tempest in my life, if there were no domesticated animals. I would feel that lack, but I would also feel relieved that human intervention was not needed for the health and well-being of others. And I do love her, care for her, and do my best for her. But what if I didn’t, if I wasn’t a person like that, if I was one of the many people who didn’t care, or couldn’t care any more…if I was the type to beat her, or just neglect her, or maybe abandon her when she wasn’t a cute kitten, or when I was moving and it was too much effort to take her with me? She, and the others like her, are just as dependent on the people who don’t care enough as they are on the rest of us.
Sometimes there are even reasons why “companion animals” are neglected or abandoned. It could be money, sickness, death. It could be lack of information, education. It could be running out of options, situations I haven’t even imagined. The problem is in the dependence. None of us are perfect, we simply do our best. It is better for Tempest to live inside, with me, as imperfect as I am, as imperfect as any one and any situation would be. She has the chance to live a full, healthy, safe life instead of one of struggle. I don’t think it would be better to abandon our companions, or to stop saving those who are trying to live in the strange human concrete jungles. But what if something happens to me? Who will take her in? I’m going to set up a trust for her, so whatever is left of my savings will be used for her care, if something happens to me and I don’t outlive her. I will make sure it is known who had agreed to take her in, and I will make sure it is someone who will love her.
These are things I can do, but there are never guarantees. There are 10 million companion animals killed every year by shelters because they don’t have homes. That is just in the U.S. Clearly we are not doing enough. It is awful that we put 10 million individual lives at the mercy of our convenience, our care.
I recently met a half-grown puppy who survived a war-torn area in Israel, was saved, and has now been adopted to a loving family in the U.S., which highlights how much need there is. It is admirable, and tragic. It is tragic for the many animals that still need to be saved, tragic for the countless animals caught in the crossfire of human wars, and tragic for the animals still on death row in shelters. They could have saved someone closer to home, but how do you make choices like that? Maybe they were traveling in Israel when they saved her. I have a friend who rescued a kitten in Turkey and brought her home, across oceans and continents. There is great need everywhere, for every species, and that is a tragedy.
I don’t have a solution. It is simply something on my mind. The least any of us can do when it comes to domestic animals is explicitly not support anyone actively breeding more dependent animals into this world. There are 10 million companion animals on death row for this year. Save one of them instead. We might not be able to save them all, but to the ones we do save, it is a priceless gift we are giving them. And then make sure that if something happens to you, all of your dependents will be cared for, regardless of species.