Monday, November 3, 2008

Liberty and Empathy

My elderly neighbor Florence just adopted a new dog, two weeks after her 16-year-old mutt Kelly finally gave up the ghost. Florence was upset as she informed me of Kelly's death, but immediately commented, "Don't worry. I won't wait. I'll get another one soon. I don't like not having a dog in the family. It's just not normal to me without a dog in the house."

True to her word, Florence brought Sweetie home yesterday. She is a one-year-old mutt, rescued from a high-kill shelter in North Carolina and adopted through a shelter in Newington. I stood in the driveway at 7:00 this morning, chilly in my socks and pajamas and happy to let Sweetie lick my hands and gain some trust in her environment. She seemed timid, but happy.

All of my animals have been rescues. With the exception of fish, I have never purchased an animal from a pet store or breeder. Even the turtle is a rescue, found injured and helpless by Ian's father on the side of the road in Milford. All of the cats I ever had "found" me; all of the dogs I've loved needed a family. Ditto for Ian. (Wait, that didn't come out right.)

As a young child, I even had a pet parakeet, Liberty, who was a rescue. Liberty was not long for this world, though. And in a way, I thought it was a good thing, since I never much liked keeping her locked behind bars. I often let her out of the cage to "be free!", and she would shit all over the curtains. Mom wasn't pleased.

But I loved the bird, and I was devastated when she had a heart attack during a thunderstorm. My mother was on the phone with the vet while pumping the little bird's chest with her index finger, using all of the techniques she could from her experience working in the ER (on people). But Liberty wouldn't revive. We cried. And then we lovingly placed her in a very pretty cookie tin, and my mom ceremoniously disposed of her in a trashcan in my grandmother's garage.

A few days later, my grandmother lugged a big bag of garbage out to the garage. Lifting the lid of the trashcan, she spotted the pretty cookie tin. "Strange," she wondered. "Why is that in there?" She had a collection of tins in the basement, and she never parted with a single one of them. She removed the tin from the heap, threw the bag of garbage into the can, and brought the tin inside. It sat in the sink for a couple of hours until she decided to wash it, at which point she discovered the dead bird, screamed, and nearly threw up.

I never had a bird after Liberty. Fish seem dumb enough to be apathetic about their watery confines, but birds? I just won't keep a bird in a cage. It doesn't seem right.

I've apparently passed on the empathy gene, too. On Friday, Sean burst into tears after watching an ASPCA commerical with Sarah McLachlan. He was SOBBING. "The animalth are THO THAD," he wailed through three missing teeth. "I want to help them!" I told him the world is a better place because of caring people like him, and he said he wanted to collect pet food and toys for the animal shelter this Christmas in addition to collecting canned goods for the hungry.

It was a great idea. And it didn't stop there.

Last night I finished a big lap quilt, which I had been working on all weekend. Sean and Nolan immediately wanted to snuggle under it while watching a movie. I told them I planned to make more, hoping to give some away as Christmas gifts.

Sean piped up, "Why don't you give them to the homeless who really need blankets?"

I guess I better buy more fabric.



Anonymous said...

I cry at that Sarah MacLachlan commercial, too. Even thinking about it--especially just as the family is walking by the dog and don't even look at him.

Milk Money said...

That part gets me, too. That commercial is certainly doing its job. :o)