Our little dog Sally is a rescue—she’s rat terrier, mostly, although there may be some other things in there. Little bit of dachshund, maybe some Chihuahua. She was in a shelter in Venice, CA when our friend Jessica, great friend and animal rescuer, saw her, trembling at the back of her cage, Jessica knew that no one was going to adopt this little black trauma dog outside of Petco on a Saturday morning. So, she fostered her and posted her picture on Facebook.
Our dog Ruby had died several months before and Bobby and I had started talking about getting another. I had a trip to LA planned so when I saw the picture of Sally on Jessica’s feed, I showed it to Bobby.
“I think I should just go meet her while I’m out there.”
“Yes, of course, just go meet her.”
We all knew how that was going to go. I flew her back with me and brought her home where she now lives with her two doting dads. Rat Terriers are highly responsive to training and we often joke that she’d make a great competition dog except that she’d be freaked out by all the people and would either stop and tremble or just run off in the midst of the obstacle course.
Here in Woodstock, life is filled with animals. Yesterday I did some yard work and thought about all of the things I might plant and how they would get eaten by the deer.
One time I was letting Sally out in for a pee and I was standing in the door way, looking down at my phone when I got a message, it was my neighbor Ida texting. “Dude,” it read. “bear headed your way.” I looked up and yep, there he was just moseying up the driveway, over the little bridge headed toward our cottage.
“Sally!” I screamed because I didn’t know where she was. The bear stopped and stood up. He was about 4-5 feet tall. He looked at me, and appeared to have his hands out like, “Hey, cool it.”
Sally ran into the house. I closed the door, heart pounding, and watched through the glass as he walked past the front door into the yard and then gone. It’s a contradictory experience, seeing the bears—happiness that they’re around mixed with the knowledge that when they’re here, among people, they’re highly vulnerable.
Foxes scream in the woods at night. Coyotes lope up the roads. Mink live in the ravines and streams, there’s a chunky badger living in the barn next door, and a fisher king, which can be deadly, has been spotted out by the mailbox. There’ve been small snakes on the trail when I go walk with Sally and bright orange newts, with four limbs angling out from their body and a little tail trailing behind.
With all of the quiet around the world, the animals are coming back. Coyotes on the streets of Chicago, Turkeys on golf courses, wild boar in the streets of Barcelona, turtles returning to beaches in Brazil where they haven’t been in decades. It’s sort of heartbreaking, isn’t it? They’re like, wait, are they gone? Those strange two legged creatures who ride in metal machines that take so many of us down, their tractors that mow down fields, saws that level forests.
I wonder if we are more in touch with our animal nature right now? More sleeping, more staying in, more screwing, more fighting—or maybe we’re more peaceful.
Why do we treat some animals with such love and devotion and some we treat horribly, they spend their lives in factories if they get to live at all. Squeezed into cages far too small, tormented for their fur, their meat, their milk or eggs.
I don’t know—this contradictions are too big for me. Like how I think I’d like to live without so many of the modern conveniences of my daily life—and yet, I can barely get it together to rake the leaves off the patio. How would I survive, without my entertainment devices, my store bought clothes, my coconut milk being fedexed to my front door. And yet, I sometimes think of vegans, if the world really did stop functioning, how would they survive with no processed foods? If you’re starving and its winter and after days of trying, you finally trap a squirrel—wouldn’t you eat it?
Even if you’re dedicated to the ending of suffering for all creatures? I guess this is moral relativism I’m talking about.
I hope that this moment is a turning point in our consumption, that we awaken to our impact on all forms of life, that we continue to wrestle with our conscience about how to treat the creatures with whom we share the planet.
We’re the mightiest of animals but we’ve been stopped by a virus, a submicroscopic agent that has impacted every human on the planet to some degree, and stopped our progress.
We seem to be learning the commands of sit and stay. But, for all of our intelligence, are we trainable? Humility, which shares the same root as the word human, can we learn that? And, if so, who will teach us?