I'm an unabashed cat lover. It's just me. I learned to crawl by taking off after the family cat. When I was about to move into my first solo one-bedroom apartment, I went around the block to the cat rescue shelter and picked up a kitty to share the space with me. I eventually ended up with two cats, Clementine, so named because when she was a wee kitten she was so little and sweet...and Juniper (a.k.a. Junipurrrr), so named in part as a nod to the Donovan song, "Jennifer Juniper", and also because as a kitten she was a cute as a berry. I've come full circle now in that one-bedroom...about to move out and shack up with my boyfriend, another very sweet and cute companion. But because of Bryan's cat allergies, the girls aren't coming with me...for now, until I can take them back some day...they are with their foster mom, Kristal, a lovely friend kind enough to care for them on an extended basis. So the imminent move is a bittersweet one, because in essence independent me is giving up a little part of myself for this guy, which doesn't come naturally. Plus, as an animal rights person, I've been quite conflicted about putting the cats through this bewildering, stressful transition in deference to these possibly surmountable allergies. But such is life! And Bryan is VERY cute. (Photo credit: Me)
I do love dogs also. But since I've never had one of my own, I find them completely mysterious and fascinating. I've had quite a few dog encounters lately that have left impressions on me. This past Sunday, I volunteered at the NYC Pet Show for Sarah Gross' Rescue Chocolate ("the sweetest way to save a life"), handing out postcards and enticing people to try a sample of the delectable salty/sweet "Peanut Butter Pitbull" chocolate bar. There were SO MANY dogs there! It was such fun to scratch behind their ears and marvel at their antics. Big and small, some played with each other, pawing and rolling on the floor, some were carried around tucked under protective elbows, some perched themselves on tabletops in search for a treat. They kept a mindful eye on their guardians and beckoned for their approval. Amazing! Then back and forth from the subway this week I've had some incredible dog encounters. One was with a pair of black and white French bulldogs, Henry and June. Who allowed me to stroke their silky ears and stretched their paws toward my knees, while scolded gently for doing so by their guardian. I'd had a rough day and the tension just flowed out of me as I communed with them. And just yesterday, on my way into work, I ran into my friends Mariann and the highly esteemed pitbull Rose, who (Rose, that is) promptly sprung up and bounced noses with me when I cooed at her. I admitted to Mariann that I noticed Rose before I noticed her...she is incredibly eye-catching, with her creamy white and chocolate complexion. According to their other companion Jasmin, Rose was talking about how excited she was to see me, and funny enough, so was I (wink/smile). (Photo credit: Jessica Mahady)
So I got to thinking about cats and dogs, and how they share their lives with us, and trust us to protect them, and in return they give us pure magic. Which of course is not limited to their respective species, but since these are intimate relationships, there is a strident mainstream sensibility to keep them protected. Now, I've visited cows at sanctuaries, I've stroked their silky ears, have flung my arms around their massive bodies, and have been given such peace in my heart in return. So this past week, as the Mercy for Animals undercover investigation of profane abuses at an Ohio dairy farm surfaced, I've been in a controlled rage over how the overwhelming majority of these animals are treated and how the cruelty is beneath the public consciousness. I abstain from dairy, but I find it tough to do that with steadfast awareness...like, each time I choose non-dairy milk, cheese, yogurt, etc...I personally cannot bring to mind the atrocities inherent in the dairy products I'm abstaining from, cautious of draining myself of the energy I need to be a joyful vegan. (This is also an indication of easy it can be to be vegan...you just do it without thinking about it.) But the MFA investigation, video footage of which I admit I have not watched, has me boiling yet again. This morning I flinched when I saw a co-worker casually pouring 2% into her coffee...ugh. A couple of days ago I surfed into a mothering blog, since the search string I had used was something like human milk is for baby humans and cow milk is for baby cows (looking for a baby gift). Anyway, this blog entry was from 2008, written in reaction to a PETA letter asking Ben and Jerry's to use human milk instead of cow milk in their ice cream. The write-up and ensuing comments were aggravating..."I wonder how many of them have seen how irritated/painful a cow gets when it hasn't gotten milked. I don't know about you all, but I breast fed and I know how I felt when I didn't nurse.... it was not pleasant and stained a lot of bras."...um, HELLO...first of all that cow is a "she", not an "it" and you lactated because you had a baby...same for that cow. But her baby was just ripped from his momma, chained by the neck and put in a crate so his flesh stays white for fancy veal...and that cow is bellowing away for her baby. Her tender udders are hooked up to a brutal machine, and as just exposed by MFA, she's prone to being jabbed with pitchforks, beaten with crowbars, having her tail twisted until the bones snap. So I posted the MFA link to that blog and politely invited the blogger to check out the video. I doubt she'll watch it but at least I did my part. (Photo credit: Ariela Rubin)
So...to wrap this up...I got to thinking about my experiences this week of sadly bringing my kitties to auntie Kristal's and all my dog-luvins, juxtaposed with the Mercy for Animals investigation, as a profound indictment on how far we must come as a society to envelope cows and other species in not just our protection laws but in our hearts. I say this not to diminish the huge step forward this investigation brings our movement, but as a call to arms to "animal-lovers" and everyone who simply respects life and generally thinks of dignity as a pretty good thing.
This quote has been bandied about on Facebook lately..."Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight." ~ Albert Schweitzer