Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

“Just an animal…”

snow on patio

I was unpacking today, and came across some pictures of a dog, Diva, who died in July of 1999. I also found a poem that I wrote, in an attempt to express and release my sadness. I’m really bad at poetry, and I doubt anyone else would be as affected by what I wrote, but in reading it, I started crying again. Hard. See, what I wrote is that powerful to me, because it expressed exactly the sadness I was feeling. And as far as I can tell, that sadness is still inside me, just waiting for the right moment to come out.

At the time, I was vegetarian, not vegan. At the time I probably thought animal rights activists were crazy. I didn’t talk to any but my closest friends about her death. Partially because who wants to cry all the time? Not me, especially not at work. But also because I’m really not sure what I would have done if someone had dared to say “she was just a dog.”

See, the people who would say that, who think that way, are wrong. You can’t be “just” a sentient being. It is everything, being alive and aware. She was my best friend, as cliche as that sounds. We’d shared a lot – a lot of growing up, a separation when I was away at college, my first apartment, the move across the country. She’d put her paw on my leg when we were anywhere in the car together, she’d wine for ice-cubes when we were home. When she died, I seriously had to figure out how to be me without her.

But this isn’t just about my dog, and my sadness, 8 years later, at her death. This is about mindsets. When someone totals their car, or it gets stolen, or ruined in some way (what is it with me and my vehicle references lately?), it is appropriate to say “it was just a car.” An unfeeling, non-sentient thing. Property.

This is not appropriate when discussing animals. Yet people use this, not only to try to make you feel like a freak for mourning the loss of a beloved companion, but as justification for the exploitation they participate in. It sucks. It is wrong. They are wrong.

tempest at judi's cabin

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3 responses to ““Just an animal…”

  1. SoCalMuchacha March 17, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Oh I TOTALLY know what you mean…totally! Yesterday would have been my dear Bailey’s 15th birthday, and since we shared the same b-day it was a bittersweet one…my first without her. And yes, I know what you mean about those feelings always being just under the surface, ready to pop out with just the right coaxing–intentional or not. But I have SO MANY fantastic memories of over 14 years with her, just as I’m sure you have fabulous memories of Diva. Aren’t we lucky? 🙂

  2. Deb March 18, 2007 at 10:08 am

    We are lucky, indeed. I wouldn’t trade my memories for anything. About a month after I lost Diva, I was camping and had a really cool conversation with a stranger who also understood. As she said, “all we can do is love them as best we can for as long as they are with us.”

    Sorry about your loss of Bailey. Their loss always hurts, but they never really leave us, as long as we remember.

  3. cherie March 19, 2007 at 10:08 am

    I think the people who minimize things in that way view themselves as “just” this or “just” that; it’s a reflection of who they are, not the “thing” they are referring to.

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